Wednesday, June 03, 2015

A Corporate Culture Worth Modeling

Sunday was my last day as a merchandise processor at the American Eagle warehouse in Warrendale. We had been told a few weeks ago that July 26 would be the last day for our shift, but I decided to end early because I had two weekend trips planned for July, and because I wanted to devote myself as much as posssible to LegalShield in June. More later about what that looks like; but first, some observations about American Eagle from the warehouse floor:

When they say "safety first," they mean it. My very first experience on my first day of work was a safety orientation. I had never experienced that in a workplace before. The theme was reinforced in an ongoing way through small encouragements and corrections. For instance, I often wore a hoodie, and more than once was reminded not just to keep my hood back, but to keep the collar drawstrings tucked in, as safety measures. The consistency with which the concern for safety was expressed impressed me.

The second thing that impressed me was the courtesy and respect consistently expressed by supervisors toward line workers. They could have simply told us what to do at every turn. Instead, they said "please" and "thanks" a lot; so much that I concluded that courtesy and respect must be key parts of the company culture.

The culture also seems to value fun. In my months there, we had at least two or three potluck lunches, and in October, there was a fundraising campaign for a charitable organization that involved constructing a mock jail and employees paying to have their co-workers locked up for set periods of time. That engendered some high-spirited foolishness, all apparently with the company's blessing.

Finally, the common non-work areas were festooned with banners and signs proclaiming corporate values such as innovation and integrity, and honoring employees who had exemplified those values. Oh, and quietly reminding everyone of an impressive list of employee benefits - enough to spark a fleeting thought about applying for a permanent position, and a more abiding question of whether it would be possible for a publicly-traded company of American Eagle's size to offer LegalShield as an employee benefit, and if so, what it would take.

But I think what impressed me most was the answer that one of my supervisors gave to one of my favorite questions, which I asked her not long after starting there: "On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate this as a workplace?"

Her answer: "I wish I could give it a 20."

When Luminaria Productions grows up, that's the kind of answer I want employees to give if asked that question. I'll be thinking for a long time about how to make that likely.

It's also the kind of answer that would make me seriously consider buying shares of American Eagle if I cared more about young adult fashion. And indeed, if I had simply been thinking more as an investor - which begins with simply paying attention - I might have taken advantage of a plunge in the company's share price in early December, and could have profited nicely by now.

But doing that would have required excess capital. Which is where LegalShield comes in. More about that next time.
Post a Comment