Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Trusting Employees

Just read a great entry over at Creating Passionate Users all about trusting your employees. It tells the story of Mrs. Fields cookies and their refusal to allow employees to take home cookies at the end of the day. Instead, they’re forced to throw them all away. The thinking behind this is apparently that if you allow employees to take home cookies, they’ll probably do something terrible like bake extra cookies at the end of the day just to take home. (Say it aint so!)

So what does this do for employees of Mrs. Fields? Well, first it signals to them that they’re not trusted. The company doesn’t believe that you’re a good, honest person, it chooses to believe the worst. What kind of message is that to send? Why do I want to do a good job if I believe that I’m not trusted? How can I feel as though I have a stake in the business if you don’t even think I can handle the responsibility of not taking advantage of a “take home some cookies” system?

I can’t.

People want to work somewhere where they feel like they’re making a difference. Somewhere that they feel as though they have a say in what happens. Clearly Mrs. Fields is not that kind of place. It’s funny, because I heard a story recently about Starbucks employees. Apparently each employee has a certain amount of money that they can work with (say $500 . . . which may be completely wrong). If a customer is unhappy about something they can use that money to fix it. No questions asked. If that means an extra cup of coffee. Fine. If it means towing a car for a customer whose car won’t start in the parking lot, that’s fine too.

What a great way to show customers you care and employees that they’re part of the team. Also, how much is the word of mouth of a situation like that worth to you? If it costs $200 to tow a customer’s car, you can guarantee that person will tell well more than $200 worth of people. It seems like a no-brainer.

Every part of your business should be considered marketing. Your employees on the ground level are your most important assets. They are the ones that interact with customers directly. It’s not the CEO in his corner office, it’s the pimply-faced kid behind the counter. Prove to him that he means something and he’ll prove to your customers that you care about them.

It all seems so simple.

May 26, 2005