Keeping your staff, the post work drinks way

Published on 2 December 2006 in , , ,

Last night after work we had one of those rare moments – and end of year review, followed, of course, by some celebratory drinks.

Drinks in the office. That’s rare for us as the BBC (like many public sector organisations spending your money) doesn’t have a lot of them – after all, it’s a public body paid for by a levy on the public. If people think that you’re wasting money, they tend not to be very happy about it. As such, drinks paid for by work are one of those things that tends to outrage license fee payers (“I’m PAYING for BBC staff to get drunk after work? It’s an OUTRAGE!”).

Personally I think it’s a slightly short sighted view to see some post work booze as being a waste of money. And if I could, I’d be trying to spend more of your licence fee on alcohol.

Before the Daily Mail reader at the back start chocking on their own outrage, I’ll give my reason. It’s a simple one. If you treat your staff well, you tend to keep them. A few bottles of beer every now and then, go a long way because they make people feel happy and valued. And if your staff feel happy, then they’re less likely to ask for a pay rise, and they’re certainly less likely to quit. The costs of some drinks are puny compared to the costs of recruiting and training new members of staff. Looked at correctly, the cost of some booze should seen as a money saving device.

An interesting example of that logic was shown by the BBC’s induction programme, named Up Front. I did a version for existing staff a few years ago – at the time the main version was four days, and the existing staff version was three days. (It’s been changed since, and it’s only two and a half days, plus some online modules in the office.) The activities go on into the early evening so they put you up in a hotel (we stayed in the Hilton Metropole near Paddington).

Some people at the course when I was on it, naturally asked about the costs of all this. The first thing we were told was that the hotel gives the BBC an extremely good rate due to the numbers of people over the course of the year who stay at the hotel. The second was that since the course had been introduced, staff turnover had fallen to such an extent, that the course was now being paid for by the savings in recruitment costs. In other words, spend a little on your staff, and they’re less likely to leave. And if they’re less likely to leave, you’ll spend less.

Anyway, none of this was really what I wanted to talk about. What I wanted to talk about was the drinks as there were two things that stood out for me.

First was the satisfying sound of people in senior management talking about technology – the stuff that powers the BBC’s interactive TV services. As someone who spends his time working on two very large infrastructure projects, it’s always nice to keep hearing that senior managers recognise that whilst it’s not sexy (unlike, say, that new CBBC game that’s just launched called Studio Runners), a good, reliable and flexible infrastructure is important.

Secondly, was the beer selection. Over the many years in the organisation, I’ve come to know what to expect. See, BBC corporate catering (bless ’em) don’t tend to have much imagination in the beer selection. Usually it’s just Becks, Stella and/or Budweiser. If you’re really lucky you might get Corona or Cobra thrown in. Once every blue moon you might have some Budweiser Budvar. Once – and I mean once – I was astounded when some beer turned up with three bottles of Bombardier. I mean, literally astounded.

So yesterday I was frankly stunned to see the sight of Birra Moretti – a rather nice Italian lager, similar to a German Bock style beer. But then was something even nicer.

For no three bottles of Bombardier did we have! Oh no. But a whole stack of bottles of Fullers’ London Pride!

I was in heaven. (Cue attempt at humour whilst trying to link in the seemingly disparate parts of this post) And more importantly, I felt appreciated, and will now not hand in my resignation on Monday as I was planning on doing! (Bedum-tish! Waa-warp! And so on. Yeah, I know it wasn’t funny… whatever…)