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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jim Goodnight, July 22, 1999. Interview I-0073. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Perks keep employees loyal and present

Goodnight describes the good business sense of offering employees the kind of job they want to keep. He cites soft drinks as one of the perks his employees enjoy, and describes the challenge of installing a soda fountain in the building.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jim Goodnight, July 22, 1999. Interview I-0073. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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JM: How transferable is this model that you've put together here, do you think, to other industrial and business contexts? JG: I think it's transferable because you've got to realize--. I think a recent Harvard Business Review article, a guy from Stanford wrote the article, he estimated that we save fifty million dollars a year in turnover costs. The idea [is] that if we did not retain as many employees as we do, that we would have to have loss of productivity, loss of function, while a person is out or after a person has left. We would have to spend money training people, hiring people. Then that person, once they're on board, you're paying them for the first six months, and you're not getting any value out of them. If you add up all those costs that it costs to replace people, it makes very good business sense to try to set up a program that encourages people to stay. I guess I look around at some of our benefits. I think one of our best benefits, to me, that makes a reminder to people every day that SAS cares about them is our break station areas. Every floor has got a small kitchen area that's got free soft drinks in it, juices, coffee, tea, some crackers four or five types of crackers, peanut butter, things like that. People can go to any time of day to get a drink or a cup of coffee. They go down the hall and get one and go back to their desk and work. This is no charge to the employees for that, and yet it costs us less than a dollar a day to supply that, which is extremely cheap. The soft drinks we pipe in, every building has miles of pipe, plastic pipe that we actually have a large syrup room in the basement. Well it's a logistics problem, if you think about it. If we had canned or bottled drinks, it would be a logistical nightmare hauling it up the elevators into the breakrooms everyday, which is how we started. As we began to build buildings out here, we realized that that was very impractical. We used to have these big syrup containers that they would haul up and stick under the sinks to pump up. When we built Building J, we came up with the idea -- somebody came up with the idea, it certainly wasn't me – of having a syrup dispenser in the basements that just piped up syrup up the pipes and have a CO2 dispenser that pumps up CO2. That's how we do our buildings now. It's very, very inexpensive once you get to the size that we are, to be able to have a lot of cost savings that you can bring into these break stations. Those break stations are a daily reminder that SAS cares about them. JM: Ever attempt an introduction of a certain type of benefit that just didn't pan out [and] that you had to abandon? JG: Well, I can't really think of one. We have benefits like daycare. We're up to five hundred kids there. Believe it or not, there are some people that resent that. The ones that don't have children feel like the other people are getting a benefit that they aren't getting. Some of the people that don't use the gym feel like that's not fair. All these people get to go over there and work out. I never do that. They're getting a benefit that I don’t do. I think that we're at the point now [that] we've so many different varieties of benefits that anybody [that you] can think of can use. [There are] enough [benefits] to spread around where people are no longer complaining about the fact that they don't get a particular benefit.