People always complain about how bad their employer is. They don’t care about me. They don’t support me. They don’t give me flexibility. I believe there is a way for a company to both instill loyalty from employees and in exchange, structure work so that employees are happier than they would be under a traditional work arrangement. I want my company to be genuine in its care for employees.
It starts with a recognition that no skier wants to work on a powder day. For those unfamiliar with the lingo, a powder day is a day on the mountain just after or during a huge storm that dumps a lot of snow, creating epic ski conditions. A powder day is foreseeable. Usually a day or two before the storm, the weather guys will predict a storm, blizzard or massive nor’easter. Timing for the day is critical. You want to be there as soon as you can to enjoy the snow before it gets all cut up. Powder days are rare. In the northeast you get maybe 4-5 per season. That makes them special. The enjoyment of a powder day, can make the whole season. They are the memories you cherish most.
A powder day is a metaphor for times when you don’t want to be at work. It’s when something awesome and unplanned happens on a weekday. Your Powder Day could be a school graduation, prom pictures, award ceremony, kid soccer game, World Cup in town, or sunny beach day. It’s whatever you hold most dear that is predictable, important, timely, and when you don’t want to be at work.
My philosophy about a powder day is that I would gladly work more on the day before, the day after and maybe even check email periodically on the day, to take a guilt-free day off to head to the mountains the night before to enjoy fresh tracks on a blue-bird day. It’s not a vacation day. It’s a choice. Hell, I would gladly work both weekend days in exchange for actually getting first chair on a powder day. Yeah it means that much.
The lesson is this, I want people working for me that know what they want in life. I admire people that have something that drives them. Something that makes work worth doing just to support your addiction. These people are your keepers. More importantly, if I give them the ability to experience the thing they love, even when they normally would be expected to be working, that drive extends onto the company that gave them that ability.
If you want employees to care about the success of your company, then your company better care about the personal success and happiness of its people. The way I will do that is by employing a simple philosophy: People know they can get work done and they will gladly get it done when it makes the most sense for them, given competing priorities in life. Priorities include more than just personal/family sickness and emergencies. It includes the stuff that makes you happy. We would gladly make trade offs for powder days.
I am always happy when I am ripping down a mountain, snow kicking up in my face, cutting fresh tracks through 2 feet of fresh pow. No company that I love, would make me miss that. I don’t work on powder days, neither should you.