A New Business Strategy: Treating Employees Well – The Atlantic

“NORWICH, Vt.–Call centers are not, typically, very happy places—especially around the holidays. Workers have quotas to make, and often sit in bleak cubicles, headsets on, plowing through calls from stressed shoppers, as they count down the minutes until lunch.

“But the employees in this call center in Vermont are rosy-cheeked and—can it be?—smiling. They field calls about misplaced packages and gluten-free dough, while surrounded by orange and red Thanksgiving decorations and a wall lined with baking gear that they’re allowed to borrow. They still have quotas—10 calls per hour, per agent—but they know they won’t get fired if they spend 45 minutes talking to a woman with cancer about baking, as one agent recently did.”

Read on here:


“…this used to be the standard way American companies treated their employees. In the heady, post-World War II years, companies offered free turkeys at Thanksgiving and gave employees perks, hoping to recruit and retain the most talented workers. But as the pool of available labor grew, companies figured out that they didn’t need to keep employees for life: If one person left, they could hire someone else. And as activist investors pushed companies to downsize and distribute profits back to shareholders, many employers gave up on considering the needs of their employees when deciding how to run their business.

“Now, some economists say there may be a move the other way. Just look at what happened this summer, when New England grocery chain Market Basket forced out its longtime CEO—who had treated employees and customers well—reportedly because the company wanted to give more money back to shareholders. Employees protested and customers boycotted the store until the company gave up and allowed the CEO to return.

“Economists like Robert Reich, the one-time Labor Secretary, wondered if the Market Basket saga was a sign that the country was “witnessing the beginning of a return to a form of capitalism that was taken for granted in America sixty years ago.” He wrote that he hoped it was a return to “stakeholder capitalism,” in which employees and customers are also part of a company’s decision-making, as opposed to the “shareholder capitalism” of the last few decades that has focused on maximizing shareholder value.”

Nah, it’ll never work.


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