Joanne grabbed a tray and plasticware and headed for the food stations. Suddenly unsure, she halted, thinking, "Burger and fries? No, never. Hot entrée — let's see, lasagna, or turkey with dressing. Yuck. Looks like the salad bar again. Boring. But at least I won't be committing suicide by arterial plaque."
The menu in Joanne's company cafeteria wasn't actively bad — but the atmosphere was Spartan, there wasn't much choice, the food wasn't particularly healthy, and the rotation was terribly repetitive. She could never imagine, for example, going home to Larry and talking about lunch. It was even less likely that she would ever be torn between two choices she really liked. Lunch had become humdrum. Maybe that's why so many people went out for food.
When a company decides that its food service must pay its own way, or at least not lose too much money, it's choosing to encourage people to go elsewhere for lunch. What happens next depends on the availability of alternatives. If restaurants are close by, people are likely to choose them over a barely-good-enough internal food service. And when they make that choice — or even if they wish they could — the company can be a loser. Here's how.
When we compel the
company food service
to pay its own way,
we're telling people
to go out to lunchLet's suppose that the company employs large numbers of skilled knowledge workers. They work with their brains — scientists, researchers, engineers, programmers, artists, attorneys, accountants, executives, health care professionals, designers, and many others. Generally, people in these categories are paid well, and they're hard to replace.
Company policies that increase productivity, improve retention, or enhance morale can therefore be good investments. If the in-house food service is truly outstanding, and subsidized (where legally possible), here's what happens:
- People eat in
- Duh — of course they eat in. And when they do, the time they save by not going out — usually a half hour, at least — can become work time.
- People consume less alcohol
- Some people who lunch out order alcoholic drinks, and some return with fuzzy brains. For knowledge workers, it's much better if they stay in.
- People network more
- Eating in-house, people can spend more time with a greater variety of people from all over the facility. This builds networks and relationships, and smoothes cross-functional collaborations.
- People are happier
- An outstanding menu and atmosphere make people feel valued, which helps them build their self-esteem. This strengthens loyalty to the company, improving retention. See "Retention," Point Lookout for February 7, 2007, for more.
How much is this worth? A good rule of thumb is one-half hour per day per employee. That covers the cost of lost time, increased turnover, impairment, low self-esteem, and so on. If the average fully loaded payroll is $25 per hour ($80 is more realistic for knowledge workers), subsidizing the food service at a level of even $10 per employee per day is still a win.
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrensPklbJHGWjdLyqjaner@ChachouobjYwgioPylLBoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Become a Tugboat Captain
- If your job responsibilities sometimes require that you tell powerful people that they must do something
differently, you could find yourself in danger from time to time. You can learn a lot from tugboat captains.
- Self-Serving Bias in Organizations
- We all want to believe that we can rely on the good judgment of decision makers when they make decisions
that affect organizational performance. But they're human, and they are therefore subject to a cognitive
bias known as self-serving bias. Here's a look at what can happen.
- Solutions as Found Art
- Examining the most innovative solutions we've developed for difficult problems, we often find that they
aren't purely new. Many contain pieces of familiar ideas and techniques combined together in new ways.
Accepting this as a starting point can change our approach to problem solving.
- How to Get Out of Firefighting Mode: I
- When new problems pop up one after the other, we describe our response as "firefighting."
We move from fire to fire, putting out flames. How can we end the madness?
- Understanding Delegation
- It's widely believed that managers delegate some of their own authority and responsibility to their
subordinates, who then use that authority and responsibility to get their work done. That view is unfortunate.
It breeds micromanagers.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 22: Dealing with Credit Appropriation
- Very little is more frustrating than having someone else claim credit for the work you do. Worse, sometimes they blame you if they get into trouble after misusing your results. Here are three tips for dealing with credit appropriation. Available here and by RSS on August 22.
- And on August 29: Please Reassure Them
- When things go wildly wrong, someone is usually designated to investigate and assess the probability of further trouble. That role can be risky. Here are three guidelines for protecting yourself if that role falls to you. Available here and by RSS on August 29.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenXPoPwwJlLIchFvjuner@ChacIToqiBmsefhLVrLKoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
- Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
- You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
- I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
- A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
- …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.