44 percent of employees feel there is no family-feeling in their organization.
A few months ago, I facilitated a senior management retreat for one of my clients. Managers flew in from around the country the night before to assemble at the owner's house for a homemade Italian dinner cooked by one of the senior executives. It had become an annual tradition. She cooked many of her family's cherished recipes. Several other managers brought food to the gathering as well. It was a warm, jovial event more reminiscent of a family holiday than a serious company meeting.
This company celebrates with food on a daily basis. There is candy, cookies, and other goodies provided at every company meeting at all levels of the organization. On Fridays the owner of the company treats the corporate office staff to sushi at a local restaurant. Visitors to their facilities around the country are taken to special restaurants that serve traditional local foods. (At the southern restaurant I went to when visiting one facility, the owner even sang gospel after dessert.) Employees often talk about food and share recipes in the hallways. The owner of the company bought a restaurant and holds many company meetings there. Food has become a major part of the corporate culture. Did I mention that the company is highly profitable and employees are very proud to work there?
I recently consulted to another organization where things are very different. Employees typically eat alone at their desks. Senior management and employees never eat together. When employees visit local restaurants at lunchtime they are careful to make certain they don't sit within earshot of others from their company. They cancelled the annual holiday party because employees said they would prefer a cash bonus instead.
The family feeling has been lost from most companies today. Competitive pressures, demands from stockholders, and the struggling economy have all made organizations less paternalistic, less employee-friendly, and to put it simply, less fun. In response, employees have become psychologically distant from their organizations. As a result, they are less committed and more apt to leave.
Organizations have been struggling to regain employee loyalty. For example, some have had success by providing more training and growth opportunities for employees. Others have improved the skills of their managers to strengthen the bonds between employees and their supervisors. Still others have focused on developing internal publicity campaigns to brand their organizations to their employees. Others keep their talented employees in the fold by promoting their core values and giving back to the community.
It may seem very simple, but what do families do to strengthen their bonds? They get together and eat. Eating together provides a way for everyone in the family to share, connect, and bond.
Please indulge me and take this short assessment about how food is handled in your organization.
To what extent do you agree with the following statements?
I have consistently observed that employees in healthy companies often eat together, talk about food, and even cook for each other. I would guess that if you agreed with most of the statements above, most probably it is fun to work in your organization, you feel close to many employees in your organization, and there is a strong family-feeling in your organization.
WHAT TO DO
Certainly, getting employees to eat together more often is not the sole antidote for organizational problems. However, experts agree that the practice of eating together can have many positive psychological benefits. And if you're not convinced, just like taking a spoonful of your mother's chicken soup, it can't hurt.
- Bruce L. Katcher
Bruce Katcher, PhD is President of Discovery Surveys, Inc. His firm conducts customized employee opinion and customer satisfaction surveys. Learn more at www.DiscoverySurveys.com. He can be reached at BKatcher@DiscoverySurveys.com or 888-784-4367.