Years and years ago, when I went to work for NBC News, I thought I had died and gone to corporate heaven. Back then, before a series of mergers and buyouts, the place really was like a family. Employees rarely left - why would they? The company treated them with respect, made it clear they were valued, and loyalty was a two way street. And it wasn’t just NBC. Many good companies were run that way back then. These days, the relationship between many companies and their workers is vastly different. Many employees nationwide tell pollsters they feel undervalued, out of the loop, pressured to do more with less, with no corporate concern for their well-being.
And then there’s the New Belgium Brewing Company, America’s third largest craft brewery and a major player in their field. Spending time with the workforce here is a breath of fresh hops. The people who work here really like working here. Because how they feel, and how they are doing, is really important to their bosses.
After one year on the job, every employee gets (along with a bicycle) a share of the company. And the program has expanded to the point that New Belgium is now one hundred percent employee owned – with profit sharing. Employees told us having some skin in the game really does make a difference. And their involvement is real. Once a year there’s an all staff retreat at which everyone gets to help management formulate the company’s annual business plan. Every employee can see the company’s books - the financial information most companies would never reveal to their workers - literally, everything except co-workers salaries. Try that where you work!
And there really is an understanding here that, while caring deeply about doing a good job is expected, it shouldn't mean that's all you do in life. The company actively encourages having fun at work. In fact, New Belgium’s very first employee, Brian Callahan, now works as the company’s Director of Fun. No kidding – it’s a real job. Having fun is actually one of the company’s published core values. New Belgium offers its employees everything from yoga to foosball, volleyball, even a climbing wall – and actually wants them to use them. And everyone gets a free beer at the end of the workday.
New Belgium is one of the few companies still matching employees’ 401k contributions. They organize wellness events like mass bike rides. They encourage their folks to volunteer in the community – all employees get an hour of paid time off from work for every two hours of volunteer work they do. That totaled more than 2,500 hours in 2013. And get this one – after five years with the company, every employee gets a free trip with co-workers to Belgium. After ten years it’s a one month paid sabbatical.
We went to New Belgium because they care deeply about making terrific beer. We came away very impressed by the fact that they care just as deeply about the people who make that beer.
Check out what it's like behind the scenes at New Belgium Brewing by watching the full episode!
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.