Leading Geeks

Can they actually be led?

Valuing employees

When RecruitLoop and I were in our final stages of negotiating, we started talking about value. About how my primary concern was feeling valued by a company. Talking about value on both sides honestly is probably what got us to the point where we had an agreeable situation for both sides – we knew where we stood, and both sides could see that we considered each other valuable.

The day we got to a verbal agreement, something surprising happened. They asked for my home address (something about lawyers needing it for the docs), and then, a bit later, sent me an email that said:

Ben at the front desk should have something for you (and your husband) tonight  :)

Just to set the stage, it had been a crazy day. It was my husband’s birthday, I had a flat tire that I had to replace, I was talking to someone I knew from high school about working at Amazon, and I had just verbally accepted a job offer. When I got the email, I was sitting at my desk playing stupid computer games in order to take a much-needed mental break. I usually wasn’t home that early, but (thanks to the car) I was this time.  I looked at my computer in confusion a few times, grabbed my keys, and headed down to the front desk of my apartment building.

As I approached the front desk, Ben (our fantastic concierge) pulled out a wine bag and said, “It’s not from me.”

I may or may not have thanked him. I was shocked. Stunned. I looked in the bag and realized that there was a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir in it. This meant that they had actually listened to some of our social conversation when I mentioned that wine was one of my hobbies, and that Oregon Pinots were my favorite.  And then they had done something that seemed magical – they managed to get a bottle sent to me the very day that I verbally accepted their offer.

To put it mildly, I felt pretty darn valued at that point :).

What they don’t know, however (until now, of course), is that this gesture was beyond perfect for me…

At one of my law firms, the management team would constantly talk about what employees wanted. We wanted to figure this out, since it would help with morale and retention. Could we ask the partners to give out bonuses, or would more salary help, or whatnot. During these conversations, I’d always say this:

It would mean more to me if the partners gave me a bottle of wine than a bonus. In giving me a bottle of wine, they’d show that they knew what I valued and demonstrated that they value me in return.

Interestingly, I never got a bottle of wine from the partners. But I got a bottle of wine – my favorite kind, no less – from RecruitLoop. Demonstrate that they value me? Nailed it.

There’s a big lesson in this for me. It’s that it’s really not that costly to truly show employees that you value them. It takes attention and a little bit of time, but it’s not that hard.  And while it may not be hard, showing value goes a really long way.

3 responses to “Valuing employees

  1. Seppo Helava August 21, 2013 at 10:48 am

    I’m really interested in how this turns out in the end. Because a bottle of wine may, as you’d said, be an indicator that they’ve been listening to you & value you, or it may have been a magic trick. Recruiting is a unique process, and if you know what to listen for, I think it’s fairly easy to pull that kind of stunt one time. Valuing an employee, for real, involves *some* of those skills – listening, acting – but there are a bunch of other more difficult elements of actually *valuing* an employee. What do you do when times are hard? What do you do when it doesn’t make financial sense to accommodate someone’s needs? What do you do when someone’s opinion is not the same as your own? What do you do when you know someone’s having a shitty day and they can’t deal with it?

    Sure, all those things *may* be represented by a bottle of wine, but the bottle of wine is the simplest, baseline version of that – a clever trick on a first date. I’m curious to see, ultimately, if they also do the things that are hard.

    • Michael Overell (@mboverell) August 21, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      Michael here. I sent the wine. Jenn, wow – thanks for the post. Hope it was a good drop!

      @Seppo – it certainly wasn’t intended as a stunt. We’re not perfect, still learning a lot, but care deeply about our growing team, and hold ourselves to a pretty high standard. As you hint, time will tell :)

  2. Wes Carroll August 22, 2013 at 10:45 am

    This reinforces for me the idea that authenticity is a key part of proper valuation.

    Seppo’s questions are especially poignant to me because I have experienced his authenticity firsthand.

    Congratulations to you for your new gig, Jenn, and congratulations to RecruitLoop on their newest hire! I’m eager to keep following along. Seems like a huge win for both of you!

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