When I started my third company, Fingerpaint, in 2008, I knew I wanted it to be different from my previous endeavors. Having spent a good portion of my career in the marketing and advertising world, I became accustomed to hearing about flippant layoffs, grueling hours, and making business decisions almost exclusively around the almighty profit and loss statement. These practices all center on the financial performance of a company, and while vital to its success and longevity, I wanted to take a different approach when it came to how I treated my employees.
At Fingerpaint, we like to say we put our people first. And we don’t just say it, we live it. Fingerpaint covers 100 percent of healthcare premiums for employees and their dependents, offers a one-month paid sabbatical for employees after every five years of employment, provides flexible vacation, sick, and personal time, contributes generously to 401k accounts and vests those investments immediately, and assists employees with student debt by contributing to loans monthly. We’ve also partnered with companies like Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global to help employees achieve better mental and physical wellness, and in 2020, we launched a training program to keep our people up-to-date on the latest skills and trends in our business.
While many in our industry might think it’s unwise or impossible to invest so heavily in employees, it’s a very purposeful approach to running a company. There are a few reasons for this.
First and foremost, it’s the right thing to do. People deserve to work for a company that respects them and recognizes that they have commitments and responsibilities other than their work. I believe that employees have enough to worry about outside of the office, so I want to ease those concerns I have control over (e.g., the hefty costs of healthcare) when possible. If I’m able to help an employee chip away at student loans faster or give a hard worker a break to recharge, I’m going to choose to do that every time.
Empathy and respect for employees will also create a better company culture. By showing employees through your investment in them that you care about them — not just as workers, but as people — you’ll foster a work environment that inspires them to give it their all, day in and day out. Unfortunately, in a client service business, we can have crazy deadlines and long hours. But I hope that my employees know that even though things can be stressful when they have a chance to sneak out early for a baseball game or dance recital, I want them to take it. And I’ll always keep an eye out for additional ways we can invest in them to thank them for their dedication to the company.
Finally, talent attraction and retention, something every company struggles with, is made just a little bit easier by investing in employees. People want to work for companies that are renowned for treating their staff well. Having this reputation will attract more people, increasing the competition for open roles. You’ll then be able to choose the candidates who you believe will not only do the best work for your company but who will also be loyal and maintain the positive, respectful culture you’ve built. It also doesn’t hurt that offering a competitive benefits package will cause people to think twice before jumping ship to move on to other opportunities.
I believe that although a company’s financial performance is crucial to its success, minimizing costs and maximizing profit margins are not the be-all and end-all in business. By cutting corners and offering bare-bones benefit packages, you might think you’re saving money. However, those benefits are really important to employees, who might be more likely to leave if you don’t treat them properly. Ultimately, this may cost your business more in expenses associated with frequent recruiting and onboarding. By spending money where it matters — on your people — you’ll actually save in the long run while keeping employees who do their best work, maintain your company culture, and stick around for the long haul.