Making Change: Workplace for your Lifestyle

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If you want to get ahead at Hyland Software - get a massage. Or grab your sneakers for the lunchtime kickball match or ride the slide from the second floor to the first.

AJ HYLAND: The slide actually is used regularly. I think I used it three times yesterday because it was faster than the stairs.

That's A-J Hyland, President and CEO of Hyland Software in Westlake. Hyland is almost 32 years old - which happens to be the average age of the company's 250 employees. Pure coincidence, Hyland says, although it could explain why so many of the firm's workers take advantage of the array of amenities the company offers. You can get your haircut on-site, drop off and pick up dry cleaning, visit your child in the state-licensed, on-site day care center or have your car detailed. Hyland says in the year since the company moved into its current facility, the use of these services has increased dramatically.

HYLAND: The investment isn't necessarily something we watch in terms of being overly scrooge-ish about it.

The work atmosphere is intense, Hyland says, and the amenities help workers have fun when it's time to have fun and form social bonds so they enjoy coming to work. But Hyland believes, it's not the amenities per se that help attract and retain workers.

HYLAND: I think people are attracted to the philosophy and the way we do business and the way we treat our customer and how we treat our employees even outside the amenities stuff in terms of the positive attitude that I think generates through all of our people here.

For those young, talented, knowledge workers that many in Northeast Ohio see as the key to the region's success - Hyland Software offers a Silicon-Valley-like work place for those who'd rather stay in Cleveland. So it's no surprise that Hyland rarely has to solicit applications. That's part of the benefit of so-called "high performance people practices," says Hillary Bradbury, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Case Weatherhead School of Management. Bradbury says those principles recognize the link between an employee's overall health and effectiveness on the job. It's a philosophical shift in how to manage people, she says - a philosophy especially appealing to those in their 20s and 30s.

HILLARY BRADBURY: Generation X are being known for their unwillingness to tolerate bad working conditions. The other thing is, the idea that spending money on your employees is a win-win for the company bottom line. It's a relatively simple idea, but people have resisted it strongly - particularly the older set.

The younger crowd gets it, Bradbury says, and it's to any company's benefit to hop on board as well. According to one study, Bradbury says, companies that invest heavily in these practices add between 25 and 40-thousand dollars per employee per year to the bottom-line.

At least one of Northeast Ohio's Fortune 500 companies points to its investment in employees - including noon-time aerobics classes - as part of its success.

TRISHA GRIFFITH: We offer primary care center, on-site EAP, fitness centers and then additional classes in addition to the basic fitness center we'll offer yoga, mediation...

That's just a smattering of the offerings Progressive Insurance Company's 24-thousand employees can take advantage of, says Trisha Griffith, chief human resource office of the Mayfield Village-based company. Fade out aerobics class There's also masso-therapy, lactation centers for new moms, annual cholesterol checks---and yes, Griffith says, there's definitely a correlation between the amenities available and the company's profitability.

GRIFFITH: When less people leave; when we retain more employees, which is very costly when you train people and they leave. Then it directly affects the business results. And we also know - and I don’t have the data in front of me - but almost every exit interview that we conduct, they say, "but I did love the amenities, it felt like a great place, I loved the people."

Griffith says, Progressive's turnover rate is a low, 14 percent turnover rate - including those that Progressive lets go. That's just one payoff when companies make the effort to attract and retain the best talent, says Pat Perry, president of the Employers Resource Council, this region's largest employers association. And if more companies followed suit, Perry says, there's a potential payoff for the whole region.

PAT PERRY: We think it's huge.

Perry says the emerging worker - those young'uns we want to stick around to reverse the brain drain - place less value on monetary compensation and more on working for a company that helps them find time to keep their life in balance with their work.

PERRY: We would advocate that an organization that isn't paying attention to current and future expected trends of what the workplace workers need, that those organizations - whether they realize it or not - are dying a slow death. And regionally we are unfortunately going to be impacted by traditional organizations who are not willing to change.

But there's no reason for resistance, he says. After all, developing these practices doesn't mean forking over millions. There are low-cost measures a company can take that will make a world of difference to Gen X and Y - people like Solon native and recent Boston University grad Evan Hirsch. He says his priority is working someplace challenging and fun...

EVAN HIRSCH: People in my generation would like to start those firms and be those people and provide those benefits and shake things up here and change for the better.

In Cleveland, Shula Neuman, 90.3.

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