May 2, 2003
By Julie Cook, Andrew R. McIlvaine,
Christopher Cornell and Kristen B. Frasch
Peddling the Firm
A new recruitment strategy is taking hold in the legal
profession, and the word from those who've tried it is, "You don't
have to be in law to make it work." It wouldn't hurt to
be a bike enthusiast, though.
Several law firms -- including Dechert in
Philadelphia and Proskauer Rose in New York -- have engaged the
services of The Bicycle Tour Co. of Kent, Conn., for summer outings
that seem to combine all the right ingredients for summer interns
looking to possibly stay on in the fall -- sun, fun and personal
time with some senior members of the firm.
"We're talking fresh air, camaraderie and a
great way for young recruits to simply get a sense of the
organization they're thinking about becoming part of," says Sal
Lilienthal, owner of the Bicycle Tour Co. His daylong package
can be customized to fit the needs of any company looking for a
morale-boosting bonding experience. In addition to organizing,
scheduling and publicizing the event, his company will personally
deliver as many rental bikes as needed for groups of any size.
Diane Kolnik, Proskauer Rose's manager of
associate recruiting, says unlike other types of events -- such as
white-water rafting or nature hiking -- bicycling "is an easygoing
way for young people from many different backgrounds and walks of
life to get to know each other and become part of the Proskauer
An office full of employees focused intently on their computer
screens may seem great for a company's bottom line, but in reality,
a largely sedentary workforce results in skyrocketing obesity rates,
decreased productivity and rising health-care costs for an
In response to employee requests for a benefit
to help overweight people, Microsoft Corp. became one of the first
companies to offer a company-subsidized "obesity management program"
to its entire U.S.-based workforce, as well as spouses and domestic
partners. The company contracts with a network of medical providers,
who provide a multifaceted program that includes nutritional
counseling, behavioral therapy and personal training.
Rolled out companywide last summer, Microsoft's
program is not geared toward people who simply want to shed a few
pounds in preparation for bathing-suit season. On the contrary, it's
available only to employees who've been diagnosed by a doctor as
medically obese, says company spokeswoman Nicole Miller.
Microsoft reimburses participants for 80
percent of the program's cost. Miller believes the company's
investment will be paid back many times over in the form of lower
health-care costs, reduced absenteeism, improved morale and greater
productivity. In fact, she says, the company anticipates a 192
percent return on investment within the program's first five years
Because the obesity management program is
considered a medical benefit, Microsoft doesn't have any means of
tracking how many people have participated thus far. However,
there's no shortage of anecdotal evidence of the appreciation
employees feel for the new benefit.
"The folks in benefits have received the
neatest e-mails from people, saying things like, 'This has really
changed my life; I was borderline diabetic and now I'm not,' " says
Miller. "Reaction has been overwhelmingly positive."
Letting Them Live
Cosi Inc. wanted its managers to have a life. So the company
decided to offer them money to help them get one.
"This industry is notorious for having
restaurant managers work 60, 70 hours a week," says Gilbert Melott,
the New York-based restaurant chain's vice president of people.
"We'd prefer to have our managers work between 40 and 50 hours a
Two years ago, the restaurant chain, which
operates 97 "all-day caf?" shops in 11 states in the Northeast and
Midwest, implemented a quality-of-life initiative that includes an
annual $500 "Experience Life" bonus available to its store managers,
who can spend the money taking a class, joining a gym or anything
else that contributes to their personal development, says Melott.
"Managers have spent the money on Yoga classes,
scuba-diving lessons and public-speaking courses," he says. To
receive the bonus, managers must have worked for the company at
least three months and must fill out an application detailing how
they want to spend the money. The company's only restriction is that
the bonus not be spent on work-related programs, says Melott.
Last year, 87 percent of the company's eligible
managers participated in the program, he says. The bonus is
intended to remind employees that the company is serious about
wanting them to have balanced lives, says Melott. "This is an
effort to put some meat into our quality-of-life initiative," he
New Hires On the Air
Cleveland-based Ohio Savings Bank had a problem: a stale
onboarding and orientation process, combined with high turnover
rates among its new hires. In one division, the figure was 31
percent within 90 days.
"We were feeling that we needed a way to liven
up our orientation -- it was too paper-intensive -- and we wanted to
help people learn about the culture of the company," says Lindy
Lutz, the bank's vice president of learning and performance.
So Lutz and her team put their heads together.
During a brainstorming session, the acronym WIIFM (short for "what's
in it for me?") was bouncing around the room, and one of the
managers decided it sounded like the call letters of a radio
station. "It struck a chord," she says, "and pretty soon we were
talking about radio stations."
The result: As part of their orientation, new
employees at OSB get regular reports from "WOSB: Your Station of
Choice." Among the "programs" new hires listen to are: The Oldies (a
history of the company), The Weather Report (a review of the
corporate climate), The Stock Market and Traffic Reports (a rundown
of statistical and growth highlights), a Top 10 Countdown (a list of
10 reasons OSB is a great place to work) and The HR Scoop (a
presentation of policies and procedures). There's even a "listener
call-in" section, where pre-taped questions about benefits are asked
Lutz says turnover at the company is down
across the board -- for example, the division with the 31 percent
turnover has cut it to about 4 percent.
"It's really a great way to ensure that
employees feel confident and comfortable with their career
decisions," Lutz says.