Are your employees like Battery Hens?

23 01 2008

Jamie Oliver

After his crusade on school dinners, Jamie Oliver has been recently launched a new crusade on the plight of Battery Hens Vs Free Range Hens.  He argues that the product of Free Range Hens is much better… for them and for us. I personally  haven’t come across anyone who argues against this, in other words it’s common sense!  Even the supermarkets have taken note as “consumers” (a strange word to describe people?) have elected to pay more for better quality products – what next?
I find this situation analogous to many businesses.  Desperate to drive down cost (seen as the be-all and end-all to their customer – “the consumer”) businesses squeeze employees into tiny spaces within uninspiring boxes, starved of daylight and other stimulation, and organised around tightly defined processes with strict roles and responsibilities.  This might be highly productive, yet I’m sure everyone with common sense can see that it’s hardly going to motivate people to give their best.  They might as well be battery hens.
In these times when more and more jobs are outsourced to low cost economies (to drive down cost further) businesses increasingly need to get more from their employees if they are to compete within the global economy. Creativity and Innovation are the new buzz words that are heard in the boardroom, but will treating employees like battery hens foster the very best from them? In the war-for-talent will your offices attract the very best?  How many of your employees will choose to look for a more rewarding environment in 2008? Do you really know the hidden cost of this?
I would like to suggest that forward looking businesses need to address this issue, indeed some of the best employers are already doing so and are reaping the rewards of their vision.  It would be nice to see more companies employing architects and interior designers again, creating working spaces that inspire individuals, foster teamwork, and result in higher levels of creativity and innovation.  The cost might be higher, but perhaps the result would be something your customers might pay more for, and put your business on the path to sustainable growth?
As Jamie might say:-     “food for thought”?
Cultivar Consulting has developed partnerships with architects and interior designers so that we can introduce changes that inspire with our clients – contact us now to find out more…




6 responses

23 01 2008
Peter Rouse

We have to find new ways forward. The time for blunting of noses on grindstones is over – we need to ‘pass from the competitive to the creative mind’. Business process outsourcing is with us and likely to stay for some time to come.
Finding our innate creativity is not easy when we have been largely programmed to do what we are told – the conditioning runs deep.
I am organising a conference to explore this field of human advancement so please take a look at for a day that could change your view of what is possible.

24 01 2008
Paul Nixon

I think that many businesses focus too much on the lowest cost to serve, and on maximising shareholder value (= minimising cost), and too little on employee wellbeing.

Ultimately this is a short-sighted view since if poorly treated the better employees will leave and the poorer employees will remain. The costs to any business of replacing good quality people has been well documented.

However, these costs are often hidden, whereas the direct cost of salaries, or building development / maintainence are upfront and visible. A good working environment is as much of an investment as training. If and when the “hidden” costs of a poor working environment become more visible, then perhaps better decisions will be taken regarding the quality of the workplace within which many employees find themelves.

31 01 2008
David Willetts

Hi Paul
I agree with much of what you have written. The focus in such matters is on the ‘unit price’ not the ‘overall cost’. In such complex situations providing objective data to identify the business cost (in monetary terms) of poor employee wellbeing, low morale may be difficult.

We probably all recognise such costs exist because business management will talk comfortably of number of sick days, low efficiency and poor productivity etc., all of which add cost to the operation. However, calculating a credible value for such waste is always the challlenge and one companies all too often avoid.


11 04 2010
Design Thinking, Architecture and Interior Design « the big business issue…

[…] “Are your Employees like Battery Hens?” […]

12 07 2010 | Blog | Design Thinking, Architecture and Interior Design

[…] “Are your Employees like Battery Hens?” […]

12 07 2010 | Blog | Design Thinking, Architecture and Interior Design

[…] “Are your Employees like Battery Hens?” […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: