Treat your employees well

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had it partially right – treat your employees well and it will come back to you.[1]  Recent events convince us more than ever that this is true.  Just last week, a local small business owner (Jen Pillat of Zazie) was profiled in the SF Chronicle because she has discovered that generosity results in higher profits.  Although she is in the incredibly difficult restaurant industry, she gives her employees a regular schedule, pays them for times she sends them home when she’s not busy, and offers generous benefits.  In return, her profits have gone up.  How is this possible?  Well, happy employees are better at their job for several reasons: (1) they stay longer, and therefore the need for training is reduced; (2) they get better and better at their jobs; and (3) they want to see their employer succeed.

This week, Governor Brown signed a law ensuring that most employees with 90-days of tenure will get three paid sick days per year.  This is not enough, but it is a wonderful start.[2]  Three days per year—we can afford that as a society and as small business-owners, can’t we?  Sick employees do not perform well.  Instead, they get the rest of the office sick.  Employees with sick children often have no other options.  This seems obvious, but one of the most progressive states for employees in the country took until 2014 to pass this minimal measure.

Studies of places, such as Connecticut and San Francisco, where governments have already implemented mandatory paid sick leave, demonstrate that the costs, if any, to employers are low and there are benefits to both employers and employees.  Let us take the lesson of paid sick leave, and of Zazie restaurant, and experiment with how much goodness we can get away with, rather than the opposite.

[1] We recognize that there are bad employees out there.  But we believe that through progressive discipline and objective processes, underperforming employees can improve, and those who do not can be exited from the employment relationship in such a way as to reduce acrimony and, in turn, potential liability.

[2] Among the items on my wish list for employees are: (1) paid parental leave for all new parents; (2) additional sick leave; (3) better protections for employees with temporary and permanent disabilities; (4) guaranteed retirement benefits; and (5) single-payer health insurance.