Marisa is a Culture Coach for small and quickly growing organizations trying to establish the infrastructure required to create a company full of passionate, motivated, and engaged employees. She has held culture and engagement roles for two nationally recognized great places to work, founded the research and networking group Culture Fanatics, and is an industry recognized blogger. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and twin boys and is looking forward to the day she can bike across the country to raise money for MS research. @marisakeegan.
I’d been at my new job for three days when I got a call that my uncle had died. Now technically, he wasn’t my uncle and wouldn’t have been for another 9 days but he’d been dating my aunt for as long as I could remember. Even though most employee handbooks wouldn’t consider him a close enough relative for bereavement leave, his passing was a big deal to me. I hadn’t been at my job long enough to feel comfortable leaving for lunch without permission and here I was, stuck in the awkward position of trying to figure out if it was okay for me to take time off so I could drive 800 miles home to be with my family who was now planning a funeral and canceling a wedding.
Of course, I knew my boss would let me go but I was still nervous. After all, I’m a good employee but hadn’t had time to prove it, this wasn’t technically my uncle, and I had no time off accrued. Before I’d finished my rehearsed speech about how my family needed me, my boss was already telling me to go home. He truly didn’t mind, told me not to worry about clocking the time off, and just asked that I let him know when I was planning on coming back. The sincerity made me feel better, but it was what he did after that which sealed my loyalty to his organization for years to come.
A few minutes later I got a call from him. He said, “I know you haven’t been working long enough to get a paycheck from us, it’s too long of a drive for you to make under these circumstances, and airline tickets are expensive. We’d like to buy the ticket for you.” I was in awe. Nothing says, “my company cares about me as a person” more then something like that and years later, my family still talks about how much the gesture meant to them. Every single day after that, I volunteered my best for that company because I knew by this gesture that they cared about me and in return, I cared about them.
Each and every one of you has at least one employee going through something bad right now and the HR Bartender predicts that in 2011, with the continuation of the sandwich generation, we’re going to see even more employees facing the challenges of balancing family needs with work. If you’re treating these employees like just another number or another reason to open the handbook to point out a policy, then I think you’re missing a huge opportunity. When employees are going through a tough time personally and their company goes above and beyond to support them they don’t forget. They tell people about it, they remember it, and they use it to drive themselves to be a more dedicated employee.
Do you have a story of a time where you’ve been able to increase employee loyalty by going above and beyond?