There’s no place like home
Last night I was treated to dinner with the founder of RedBalloon, where I work, to celebrate five years as a RedBallooner.
My boss, his wife and my Very Important Person got to come too. It was incredibly special and for much of the evening I found myself lost for words, which as the sales guy, is unusual. I have been on the payroll for someone else for the last 18 years and never before have I experienced such acknowledgement and feeling of belonging. Never before have a been recognised by an employer like that. This afternoon I was daydreaming, thinking about why I felt such a belonging.
Technically my anniversary was back in June, but to get everyone’s diaries to work we had had to wait for a few weeks. There was a commitment to having us all there together for a start.
Secondly there has always been a real interest from the business I work for in who I am. I’ve had my job (in the trendy HR jargon) sculpted around my strengths and interests. I’ve been given the flexibility to pursue extra-curriculaur activities such as charity work and entrepreneurial endeavours. I’ve been managed in a way that keeps me honest and gives me the freedom to be myself, experiment and screw up from time to time without any fear.
Thirdly it is love and respect that I get to feel everyday being part of team of people committed a specific purpose all under one roof. It really does feel like home away from home every time I walk through the door or if working remotely when I log in a read the latest post on our internal blog. I am connected.
Feeling like I belong at work has had such an huge influence on my decision to stay in Australia. I moved here five and a bit years ago knowing about three-quarters of a person, walked into a new workplace and was living in a hotel for a month. For a long time there wasn’t a Very Important Person that gave me someone to stay for. For a long time I didn’t have a home to call my own that gave me a foundation. For a long time my social network had very little depth. Being made to feel like I belong and was valued at work gave me a reason to focus on developing the other areas of my life; a platform for growth and achievement, the impetus to buy a home, create a solid social network away from the UK, to look for something more in a date than the next fancy dinner and a bit of fun.
My feelings of cloud 9 over the last 24 hours got me to thinking about the responsibility that employers have, given we spend at least 25% of each week working, to create a foundation strong enough to hold us up when other things might not be working so well. We can’t always rely on home, friends or partners and family to be the most solid thing that we have in our lives.
Working in the employee engagement space I am often asked to quantify the value and return on investment of the programs I recommend and design. Sure we can correlate engagement to business performance, the achievement of KPIs, revenue and profit. The business case for the HRD, CFO and CEO is important and necessary to get stuff ‘over-the-line’ commercially. There is however a higher and perhaps unquantifiable outcome of having engaged employees and that is the impact on the wellbeing and greater happiness of the people that we employ. Being an employer comes with unwritten responsibilities that we can choose to step-up to and deliver or not. My reckoning is that the employers, the leaders that really get this and act on it will be the ones that attract the best people and achieve the best outcomes in the future.
We all have a choice about where we live, who we work for, who we are friends with and who we love. Who, where and what we chose depends on whether we feel at home and truly belong.