Hal Rosenbluth had made a provocative decision: As CEO of Rosenbluth International, a corporate travel agency employing 6.000 people, he decided that his company would put the employees first. Where other companies aim first to satisfy customers or investors, Rosenbluth made it their first priority to make their employees happy.
The results were fantastic. Record growth, record profits and, most importantly, customers raved about the service they got from Rosenbluth’s happy employees. Hal Rosenbluth explained the company’s approach in a book whose title elegantly sums up his philosophy: “Put The Customer Second – Put Your People First And Watch’em Kick Butt”.
A company’s commitment to its values is most thoroughly tested in adversity and Rosenbluth hit its share of adversity right after 9/11. Overnight, corporate travel was reduced to a fraction of its former level and it recovered more slowly than anyone predicted.
Rosenbluth tried everything in their power to avoid layoffs. They cut expenses. Staff took pay cuts and so did managers and executives. But in the end they had to face it: Layoffs were inevitable and they decided to fire 1.000 out their 6.000 employees. How do you handle this situation in a company that puts its people first?
In his book’s most moving chapter, an epilogue written after 9/11, Hal Rosenbluth explains that though layoffs don’t make employees happy, not doing the layoffs and then going bankrupt at a later date would have made even more people even more unhappy.
Hal Rosenbluth recounts how he wrote a letter to the organization explaining the decision and the thinking behind it in detail. The result was amazing: People who’d been fired streamed into Hal’s office, many in tears, telling him they understood and thanking him for their time at the company.
Rosenbluth’s letter also contained a pledge: That those remaining at the company would do everything they could to bring the company back on track so they could rehire those who’d been fired. Six months later, they’d hired back 500 out of the 1.000 and the company was solidly on its way to recovery.
Once you’ve made yourself happy at work, it’s time to spread that good mood inside the organization and make more people there happy at work. This is obviously a bigger job but it is entirely possible and while some companies are born happy, many more are made happy somewhere along the way.
The next few chapters are for leaders at different levels, who want to spread some happiness in their team, department, division or, heck, clear across the entire business.
Continue reading Make your organization happy