Ben Sawatzky is the founder and CEO of Spruceland Millworks, a softwood lumber remanufacturer in Spruceland, AB. Sawatzky is highly respected in the industry and his company has been ranked among Canada’s top employers.
I spoke with Sawatzky a couple of days ago and he recounted an interesting tale. He was giving a public presentation and an individual commented during the Q & A session how he benefited from having been rewarded as a top performer in his bank branch. This employee praised his employer who reward him with a hard-earned holiday as a result of reaching some performance milestones.
Sawatzky asked if anyone else from the bank branch went on the vacation with him. “No” was the reply. Sawatzky’s response was that this approach was entirely misguided. Why? Sawatzky gave a number of reasons why he didn’t agree with this approach. The net result was that only one individual is rewarded, and not a team. In addition, the person who wins the reward is often sacrificing a work-life balance in order to achieve that reward. This simply reinforces in the minds of the other employees that recognition in the company comes at too-high a personal cost. The rest of the employees, knowing that they are not in running for the baubles dangled by the company, simply put their head down and keep working at their usual pace.
By contrast, Sawatsky’s approach is to take his entire company on a vacation. They shut down the entire plant and go celebrate together. Sawatsky believes his approach has reaped great rewards in terms of employee commitment and engagement–and this surely explains why Spruceland is regularly ranked among Canada’s top employers. The great majority of Spruceland’s employees also contibute to charitable projects undertaken in various parts of the world.
There is a close link between social responsibility and employee engagement. Spruceland is a great example of how to engage employees from top to bottom in the activities of the company both when working in the shop and when doing good in various corners of the world.