We’ve all seen that famous old photo of the white joint. There is a group of ironworkers having lunch sitting unattached on a steel beam in the air, dozens of stories above the street during the construction of the Empire State Building. It is to receive the award for the worst equipped dining room of all time.
In recent years, however, the leaders of many companies have recognized the wisdom of providing more and more amenities. In particular, tasty lunches and comfortable environments to relax in during breaks have become important perks for maintaining employee morale and helping them stay on the payroll in times of high worker demand.
In the 70’s when I entered the workforce if there was a dining room in the office with a coffee maker and maybe a fridge with a table that’s about all you could to hope. You could also have a cup of coffee – if you had put your dollar into the monthly employee coffee fund.
Over the past two decades, when I have visited the manufacturing and R&D facilities of large and small agricultural equipment brands, one of the things I have noticed is that almost every company has become increasingly additionally geared towards providing cafeterias for workers that are more like fine restaurants and bistros than the old-fashioned employee canteen. If I remember correctly, it even had that famous picture of the Empire State Building hanging in there.
John Deere’s relatively new ISG building on the outskirts of Des Moines, Iowa even includes a Starbucks counter. Walk around Kubota’s relatively new headquarters in Grapevine, Texas, and you’ll find coffee stations next to common areas, so employees don’t even have to venture to the main cafeteria when they crave a quick cup of coffee. Of course, whether or not employees are charged for what’s behind the counters in these cafeterias depends on the company. Some provide the food for free, some don’t. But where there are costs, the prices are usually quite reasonable.
And having eaten at several of them, I can attest to the fact that the meals are generally restaurant quality and well worth paying for.
The trend of offering quality workplace meals has become so common that in Germany there is now an annual national award for the best on-site employee cafeteria. This year, AGCO’s Fendt plant in this country again stood out in this department.
For the fourth time, the Food & Health Association has selected the 50 best canteens in Germany. The staff restaurant named GenussWERK at Fendt impressed an eight-member panel in the categories “responsibility, health, pleasure and sense of well-being”. Food & Health awarded the staff restaurant four stars.
“The health of our employees is very important to us,” says Ingrid Bussjaeger-Martin, Managing Director Finance and IT at Fendt. “And for us, that includes both physical and mental health. As part of our health mission, we therefore wanted to offer our employees fresh and healthy food in a well-being atmosphere. The high standards we set for our products are also reflected in our company restaurant. In our restorer, Genuss & Harmonie, we have found a partner who understands and respects Fendt’s high quality standards. Together we are very happy that our GenussWERK was one of only 50 company restaurants in Germany to receive this award.
The new company restaurant opened its doors at the beginning of 2021. The German word “Genuss” in its name can be translated as delicious.
Three counters and a coffee bar in the large cafeteria serve a variety of dishes daily, and it’s certainly not just greasy burgers on a griddle. The menu includes fresh and regional ingredients, without additives. Lunch is served between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and allows for breaks in the day with coffee and pastry specialties available in the morning and afternoon, as well as a hot meal for the night shift until 7:15 p.m.
“The basic idea behind the concept of our canteen is the creation of a central meeting place for our employees”, explains Thomas Enghof, director of central planning, describing the concept of the company restaurant. “When it comes to our range of different dishes, we pay great attention to healthy, regional, seasonal and tasty dishes. And everything must be freshly prepared. In addition, the GenussWERK offers a friendly atmosphere for our colleagues’ lunch breaks, where they are happy to linger.
The idea that employees are encouraged to linger in a dining room may seem as foreign to many long-serving workers as the idea of a four-star restaurant to a dining room.
But even with its price, Fendt is not satisfied with the existing installation. He plans to make the canteen even more welcoming. In future, Fendt employees will be able to spend their lunch break outside on the terrace when the sun is shining. A roof terrace is being extended above the production plant. In the summer of 2022, 70 additional places will be added to “invite employees to have lunch in the open air, drink a coffee or have a snack from the pastry shop“.
So why should companies bother spending money on four-star company cafeterias or free coffee and pastries? Why not just provide an old fashioned coffee maker and a fridge for lunch bags? Are there really tangible benefits to this kind of investment?
Surveys suggest there are, and possibly more than one would expect.
According to business magazine Forbes, stock prices for Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” rose 14% annually between 1998 and 2005. That compares to just 6% for companies that weren’t on the list. .
In his book The truth about employee engagement, author Patrick Lencioni says it’s essential to make rank-and-file workers feel like they matter. Baby boomers might have been happy with a spartan dining room, but they’ve long been overtaken by millennials as the largest birth cohort in today’s workforce. And Generation Y expects more.
According to a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 66% of millennials said that treating employees respectfully was the number one driver of job satisfaction. This compares to just under 63% who said salary and compensation was the main factor and 61% said other benefits were key.
The summary of SHRM’s survey boils down to this: “Millennials generally place a high value on openness, equality, community and purpose. Creating an inclusive atmosphere within the organization will help establish an emotional connection between employee and employer. »
A four-star meal with healthy meals and snacks provided throughout the day and served in a comfortable environment can certainly help workers feel respected and at home.
The baby boomer generation (the youngest of whom are now 56) represents about 22% of the current workforce and is approaching retirement. Having so many workers on the verge of leaving the labor force is worrying enough. But the very bad news is that they outnumber the current 15 to 24-year-olds who are replacing them, according to Statistics Canada.
All of this means that finding employees will continue to be difficult for businesses. Retaining those who sign will become progressively more critical.
Employers – big or small – who think they can make today’s generation of workers happy in their jobs without heeding what research shows they want and expect are disappointed.
Success can take longer than some managers expect. It will certainly take more than before.