Do "Contented Companies" Make More Money? Human resources experts say people want to feel appreciated, but managers (and the shareholders who pay their salaries) care first about performance. Is there any common ground between "feel-good workplace" practices and the bottom line?

You bet there is, responds Richard Hadden, a Jacksonville, Fla.based speaker, and Bill Catlette, a Collierville, Tenn.based human resources consultant. The pair took a close look at a half dozen companies well-known for their enlightened employee practices (among them Hewlett-Packard, Federal Express, and Southwest Airlines), as well as a half dozen they considered as having "run-of-the-mill" management styles (including General Motors and Sears). They published their findings in a book, Contented Cows Give Better Milk (1998, Faltillo Press, Germantown, Tenn.).

What Hadden and Catlette discovered was that not only are what they called "contented companies" more enjoyable places to work, but they also make more money than "common companies"--as much as $50,000 per employee during the 10-year period the authors tracked. The grand total made by keeping people happy: $40 billion.

Meetings are key ingredients in building employee contentment, says Hadden, especially feel-good events and corporate celebrations. Not simply because most folk like cookies and balloons, he says, but because "celebrations are an opportunity to inculcate values and a sense of mission."

Hadden advises companies to make a big deal out of such milestone events as corporate anniversaries. "Organizations that foster pride mitigate the paycheck mentality," he observes.

While he believes that formal incentive programs have their place in boosting productivity, he urges companies to consider using less-formal rewards as well: for example, consider giving someone a pair of seats to a baseball game (or the opera) for finishing a project on time and under budget.

"We've found that the best companies give rewards and incentives without any red tape," he says. "Employees appreciate their spontaneous nature and that they're given at the discretion of the manager."