'Head Count' Vs. 'Heart Count'
June 7, 2016
Let's be real. It's a scary time to work in the radio industry. The two biggest broadcast companies are rumored to be on the verge of bankruptcy and the third is up for sale to the highest bidder. Even the companies who are getting by are faced with the daunting challenge of declining revenue and the pressure to cut expenses.
Those reductions most commonly happen in the form of layoffs, where unfortunately, employees become a vehicle to balance the books. What's interesting is that this practice did not exist in the United States until the 1980's. Even then, it was the absolute last resort to save a dying company.
My, how times have changed!
In our industry, it has been commonplace over the last decade for employees to be pushed out the door every December as part of the annual reduction in force. But in order to avoid negative media attention, some broadcasters have opted to sprinkle the "RIF" throughout the year as opposed to doing it in one fell swoop.
You know, to give the appearance that things "aren't so bad."
But what if there were another way?
I recently watched an interview with Simon Sinek, best known for his "Start with Why" TED Talk, and the author of the book Leaders Eat Last. He tells the story of Bob Chapman, the CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, a 2-billion-dollar manufacturing company.
Chapman believes that the goal of management is not to boost the bottom line, but foster a better world.
So during the 2008 economic collapse, when orders fell by 30%, the board of directors demanded Chapman layoff 10% of the workforce. He refused.
Why? Because he believed in "heart counts" instead of "head counts." Why should an employee have to go home and tell their family that they might not keep food on the table simply because their employer wasn't meeting projections?
Instead, Chapman developed an employee furlough program. Each employee was forced to take a mandatory 4-weeks of unpaid vacation time. They could take it whenever they chose and did not have to take it consecutively.
What was remarkable is how he pitched this plan to his workers. He told them "It's better that we should all have to suffer a little, than a few of us suffer a lot."
You see, it's easy to throw people out the door when you are focused on a head count. When you think of them as hearts, you become more resourceful and eager to find another solution.
And the employees responded in kind. In fact, they began to look out for one another. People with higher salaries agreed to take off 5 weeks so that lower salary employees only had to take 3 weeks.
Morale actually improved.
And when the economy turned around, not only did Barry-Wehmiller go back to its normal policy, they backpaid all of the 401k money that was frozen during the recession.
As you can imagine, their employees are loyal and refuse to leave the company.
In Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek uses this to illustrate that we are "designed to take care of each other."
This isn't some new age, feel good, "woo-woo" nonsense. It's science.
When we commit an act of generosity, our body releases the chemical oxytocin, which is responsible for our feelings of love, friendship, and trust. That same chemical is released in the body of the person who received the generous act. Furthermore, it's been shown that people who simply witness a generous act also experience a chemical release.
When there is more oxytocin in our body, we feel inspired to be more generous.
Hence, the "pay it forward" concept is actually rooted in our biology. It's there to make us feel good so that we continue to take care of one another.
So how can you control the level of generosity that you bring to the office? What if each day, you could find small ways to look out for the people around you?
You can make a new pot of coffee after you drank the last cup.
You can clean up after the catered lunch meeting instead of waiting for someone else to do it.
Or you could actually ask someone how their day is... but be interested in knowing the answer.
If you are reading this, it's likely that you aren't a CEO who can affect the layoff policy. But maybe all you need to do to make a difference is increase the level of attention and presence you give to those around you!
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