Thursday, February 24, 2005

Wilmington Diary, Day Six

In today's climate, those of us who still believe government has a role to play in promoting fairness and equitable treatment of all Americans usually get accused by those on the Right of being socialists. In this reductionist view, our belief in government as a positive force is equated with an outright dislike of capitalist enterprise.

This wiew is way too simple. Sure, there are many private companies that, given the chance, would abuse their workers, screw their communities and cheat their customers if doing so meant they made a bigger profit, and we've seen some of the biggest of these fall into well-deserved bankruptcy during the last decade.

But there are at least as many companies that understand that profit is not an end in itself, but rather a sign that the company has done right by those who depend on it: The customers who purchase its goods or services, the people who make the enterprise work, the communities in which they do business, and finally, the investors who put up their money to finance the company's growth. The company I currently work for most emphatically falls in this latter category.

The inspirational sayings found on walls throughout the headquarters complex--including the ubiquitous "Think of yourself as a customer," found over every doorway--might strike some as bordering on the hokey. But they are meant to illustrate a mindset that the company brass instills in everyone who works here: Never lose sight of who you are working for, and treat that person the way you would want to be treated. The management then practices what it preaches by treating the workforce the way they would want to be treated. They implement policies that make juggling work and life easier. They get involved in the community and encourage their employees--oops! There are no employees here, just "people"--to do the same. They keep everyone informed about just how well the company is doing from day to day and encourage people to come up with ways it can do what it does even better. If challenges lie ahead, they keep people informed about their nature.

It's a very people-focused attitude, and from what I've been able to learn, it's served this company well. People here love what they do, and the company in turn supports them for doing what they do to the best of their ability. Given that this company has been extremely successful--a pioneer in its industry--I would think that most large companies would want to emulate its practices. Maybe they do. I would love to think so.

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