The Aeron chair is a beautiful chair - beautiful to look at; beautiful to sit in.
However, the $700 +/- AERON chair is a symbol of a startup's post-IPO indulgence. After closing their first investment round, they buy state of the art espresso machines, work from obscure artists, a foosball table and...the Aeron chair.
My story with the Aeron chair is different.
As CEO of a small company, I sat in the same wobbly chair for nearly 6 years. The arms wiggled loose. The back rests did not rest. Seat bolts poked me through the whisper thin seat cushions. Wheels regularly rolled...off.
Everyone in the company sat in these same chairs with back, shoulder and neck problems, too.
Back, neck, shoulder and head aches undermines engagement. Who wants to engage with anyone, even a loved one, when you desperately want to disconnect from your headache, back ache, shoulder and neck ache?
We knew Aeron's were the best. Our people were the best. So, recognize the best people with the best equipment. Right?
The challenges and their solutions follow.
The chair was $700-ish each. There were 7 in the company. I did not want to see the impact on the quarterly reports from purchasing all 7 at once or discover that these chairs were not all that.
- Solution: We’ll buy one per month.
Challenge: Avoiding Favoritism.
Favoritism kills engagement. We wanted each chair to be cause to celebrate, not resent.
Solution: Hold a monthly drawing.
Each month we held a drawing to determine the owner of the next chair. The winner of the previous month would determine the drawing’s criteria. They could put names in a hat, choose random numbers, favorite colors, sports teams...whatever. I, as CEO, organized the drawing for the first chair.
Challenge: Make it THEIR Chair.
We wanted each employee to own
chair, not avoid it as a company mandated policy. Aeron chairs can be customized for fit, tilt, lumbar...and even colors and materials.
Each person orders their chair, customizing it with their preferences.
One more thread, one big thread, weaving our culture of connection.
Fun. Excitement. A monthly celebration.
Ownership in the process, the decisions and the outcomes.
And...a slow erosion of physical ailments that might interfere with happy, engaged, inspired people bringing the same experience to our customers.
- fewer internal complaints and more time to grow the company
- more smiles and laughter shared with each other and our customers
- better customer service as reported with more testimonials and referrals
- more flexibility and receptivity to new ideas
- increased enthusiasm from their needs being recognized
- increased enthusiasm from being able to participate in the process to solve their needs.
A noticeable percentage of readers have expressed concern, even outrage, at this idea. I understand it; I do. On the other hand, I ask them: can you show me a better way, a cheaper way to raise employee engagement where it has a direct impact on sales conversions, customer retention and cash-flows? If you do, do that one first.