If you know anything about SAS as a workplace, you've probably heard we offer free onsite healthcare to our employees and their covered dependents, we have subsidized onsite daycare, a great big gym and a pool and personal trainers and onsite massage therapy and lots of other amenities, and we've won a bunch of awards for our commitment to work/life balance.
What do people ask me when I tell them I work for SAS?
"Is it true you get free M&Ms?"
Yes, we do get free M&Ms (in addition to fresh fruit and reduced-fat Triscuits and green tea) in a tradition that dates back to the mist-shrouded early days of the company. The story has been around so long that there are conflicting origin myths. I've heard at least three variations of the story in the eight months I've worked for SAS, but they all involve the weekly office supply run and a bag of M&Ms either purchased on impulse or given in lieu of change.
We in the PR group do not promote the free M&M message, even if journalists love to latch onto it. In fact, we've tried to discourage it - not because it's bad, but because it overshadows the larger, more important message: Treat people well and they will do a good job, and your customers will be happy.
That's why I'm glad to say the latest FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For list is out, and I don't see a single word in the SAS write-up related to anything that melts in your mouth, hand or elsewhere.
For the 11th straight year, SAS has made the list. This year we jumped 19 points to 29. SAS was also singled out as one of the 25 top-paying companies on the list, one of six with the best gyms, as well as one of the best for healthcare, childcare and work/life balance.
Treating employees well has been a key SAS attribute since the beginning. In fact, some of the companies ahead of us on the list have come to SAS to visit and find out how we do things. It's a good feeling to know our pioneering efforts have had a ripple effect on American business.
Accolades aside, the most important reason to treat your employees well is because it's good for the bottom line. SAS has a voluntary turnover rate currently below four percent. Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business figures our low turnover is worth about $100 million a year. Continuity translates directly into better customer service. And when people are happy, they do better work.
In other places I've worked, and maybe in places where you've worked, pizza was the currency in which employee incentives were paid. "Hey, we're going to be here all night. But at least we get free pizza!" It's nice to know there are at least 99 other companies in addition to SAS that recognize employee satisfaction isn't measured in slices.
Incidentally, the peanut seem to be more popular than the plain, by at least a two-to-one margin.