The extra mile

Creating memorable moments for your employees will pay off

Leadership
Leadership

Meet Bob Travis, the 57-year-old owner of InkWorks Printing, a label printer in Plymouth that employs 15 people.

Printing is a low-margin business, so providing benefits for his workers is hard to come by. Last year was good, however, and he did some thinking.

Travis can’t afford health insurance for his workers. But he wanted to do something to reduce their need for it. He told every employee he would pay for the CrossFit beginners program known as Foundations. It’s a high-intensity fitness program incorporating elements from several sports and types of exercise.

If they continued their CrossFit membership, Travis would pay 80 percent of it. A physically fit employee has a better chance of warding off illness, and thus less need for the health care system.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Travis dropped by CrossFit and saw three of his employees working out, including a supervisor who CrossFit had just convinced to stop smoking.

Travis tells of another success, “something I’ve always wanted to do.” He created a book club for his employees. But unlike most traditional book clubs that meet once a month and read books for pleasure, his employees met over four Wednesdays in March. Their first assignment was to read a few chapters each week from the 1986 classic “The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox. Six employees participated.

The story of Herbie

Within two weeks, the book club members were talking informally about Herbie, the book’s protagonist. Chubby Herbie is a member of a scout troop that creates a bottleneck when the troop goes hiking because he’s in the middle of the line and walks too slow. In other words, the group can only move as fast as Herbie.

The leader solves the problem by moving Herbie to the front of the line and lightens the boy’s backpack by redistributing all the items to the other scouts.

During a meeting at InkWorks, an employee mentioned that he had organized the work for his press so that it was more efficient. But a coworker pointed out that it didn’t speed up the entire system because it hadn’t relieved the bottleneck. It needed more Herbie!

Other employees began wondering who Herbie was and why this guy’s name kept popping up in workplace conversations.

The employees have asked Travis for another month of meetings on “The Goal” so they can learn more.

Travis is considering the next book title. Maybe he’ll assign “The Power of Moments” by Chip and Dan Heath. Or perhaps he’ll teach book club members about cash flow, profit and loss statements, and balance sheets.

The CrossFit offer and the book club are powerful moments – memorable, even. When people ask InkWorks employees what it’s like to work there, guess what they mention?

“When people assess an experience,” say the Heath coauthors, “they tend to forget or ignore its length.”

Instead, they seem to rate the experience based on two key moments:

  • The best or worst moment – the “peak.”
  • The ending.

Psychologists call it the “peak-end rule.”

Create memorable moments

While a few experiences have serendipitous “memorable moments,” in most cases you need to make them happen yourself.

The most powerful are those that involve a lot of people.  A peak moment is more powerful when it’s shared with others, whether it’s honoring someone or creating a group effort.

In “The Power of Moments,” the authors discuss a high school in a disadvantaged neighborhood that replicated the athletic “signing day” for athletes who received college scholarships. It created “Student College Signing Day.” The entire student body attended to hear the seniors announce which colleges they would attend. It encouraged students to put college within their sights, and the event became so successful that they had to move it to an arena.

What can you learn from this story? Do the wonderfully unexpected.

Remember when Midwest Express served those warm chocolate chip cookies? Remember the flights that included tablecloths and champagne?

Richard Bemis, former CEO of Bemis Manufacturing Co. in Sheboygan Falls, tells the story of the time he visited the widow of a longtime employee. As Bemis walked down a small hallway in the home, he saw four framed notes on the wall. Each note was written by him or his father, thanking the employee for a job well done.

Handwritten thank you notes can provide memorable, peak moments.

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