Seemingly Soft Initiatives provide Hard Results

Soft becomes Hard: ROI calculations require a rethink because SOFT projects do produce HARD results.

A manufacturing firm managed to: Reduce accidents, reduce absenteeism, reduce turnover and reduce customer complaints to become the single most productive assembly facility after first being considered for shut down, by implementing what can only be described as a SOFT initiative: Initiate a Be Friends at Work program.

The operations manager of a 10-year old manufacturing and assembly plant was instructed to sit with employees at lunch and on breaks and talk about community, about friendships, about bowling and baseball, about weddings and gatherings, about knowing the names of each others family members, about coming together on the baseball field or at work – about caring about each other. The early conversations were strange indeed and not well received but the manager persevered as she was instructed by head office in a CHANGE or CLOSE order.

Beyond the conversations, in plant posters and windshield reminders, the company organized a baseball team and they paid for uniforms and pizza gatherings afterward. The company served snacks in the lunchroom and celebrated birthdays; there was a design contest for job function t-shirts which the company produced and then gave 5 of each t-shirt to every employee. The cost of the program was $18,000 over six months. At around the six-month mark the employees started to treat each other as friends. Once the friendly atmosphere gathered momentum it was unstoppable.

Here is what happened:

• When one person was sick the others took up the slack.

• Customer complaints fell dramatically as quality control went up.

• When there was down-time on a shift, people stood together discussing life or baseball instead of trashing the company.

• Spirits soared.

• Turnover dramatically reduced

• The productivity of the assembly line was unequalled in the history of the company – at any plant.

• When visitors would come for a tour of the facility they heard whistling and could sense an overall positive vibration.

• Employees became a community: eating together, working together, playing together.

And so, what was called the Friendship Budget (which would never have been approved by traditional models of RETURN ON INVESTMENT) became the Happiness and Productivity Budget – a true investment.

That’s what STORYTELLING is and what monthly print newsletters are and what events are when they bring people together for a shared experience – they are soft initiatives, or so they seem, with hard tangible results.

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