Monday, March 1, 2010

Whole Grains and Happy Employees

With all the recent news about layoffs, plant shutdowns, and product recalls, it's refreshing to hear a positive story from the world of business.  Bob Moore, the 81 year-old founder of Bob's Red Mill, an Oregon-based producer of whole grains and related products, announced last week that he is turning the company over to the employees. [Story]

Apparently, Moore felt that the only way to maintain the focus that has made the company successful over the years was to give it to the employees rather than sell it to outsiders.  He credits his success to a commitment to customers and employees and does not want that to change - even when he is no longer running the company.

Employees Really Are an Asset

Many companies talk about the value of employees, but with this decision, Moore has shown that he truly believes it.  My initial thought when I read the story was how the employees must have responded when they heard that their contributions and efforts had been recognized.  After further thought, however, my guess is that they already knew that they were valued and this was just another example of the type of culture Moore has created for the company.

We all need to learn from Bob Moore.  People can do amazing things, but only if the company's leaders remove the barriers that interfere with motivation and action.  This is not a difficult concept, but it cannot happen if the leaders do not truly value the company's employees.  If respect for people is not part of the fundamental makeup of the leader, efforts to create a positive culture that motivates people will require continual effort and will never be fully achieved.  And you do not need to give the company to the employees to make it happen.  People know when they're appreciated - rewards are part of the equation, but money does not appeal to a person's intrinsic motivation.  Appreciation, being heard, having control over the work, and contributing to something worthwhile are the things that really contribute to motivation.

I've bought Bob's Red Mill grains for many years because I like their products.  From now on, though, I'll be thinking about how the product I'm buying was developed and produced directly by the company's owners.

1 comment:

dmk1 said...

I love this story--an extreme example of true, authentic recognition that highlights how superficial gestures won't get you anywhere. I think the challenge, especially in larger organizations, is to figure out how to show meaningful recognition when there are more constraints around what you can offer.

I've found that different people appreciate different forms of recognition, but agree with you that it goes far beyond money alone.