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Pride Makes It Special
Why choose to work for this company rather than that one? Why attend one college rather than another? Why root for this team rather than that other team? The answer is elemental: We all like to be affiliated with an organization that feeds our sense of pride.
It could be because the place is hip: Talk to the staff people at any House of Blues club, and you’ll hear about the pride they take in their company’s way of doing business. Or it could be because the place is proper and precise: Talk to the concierge at any Four Seasons hotel, and she’ll tell you how proud she is to work for an organization that delivers world-class service. “The few, the proud, the Marines” could be rewritten as a recruiting slogan for any great enterprise that uses its prestige strategically to attract and keep great people —the kind of people who will build on that sense of pride and enhance that sense of prestige.
Pride was a key factor in bringing Kevin Perry, 28, to Red Storm Entertainment Inc. 15 months ago. Red Storm, a Morrisville, North Carolina-based softwaredevelopment house that creates and markets multimedia entertainment products, including interactive computer games and board games, has already scored a number of accolades in the game industry. Last summer, Red Storm released Rainbow Six, an action-strategy game that was the genesis for the novelist Tom Clancy’s recent book of the same name —the first time that a book has been derived from a game. (The book, published this year by Putnam, has topped both the New York Times and USA Today best-seller lists.) Red Storm will release three new games by the end of 1998, and eight more games are incubating for 1999.
Amid all of this creative energy, Perry enjoys a plum assignment: He leads a team charged with creating a new interactive computer game, ruthless.com, which should be out this season. The game, says Perry, replicates the big-money world of modern corporate raiding, blending high-stakes strategy with low-down ruthlessness: “It
combines the crushing grip of business expansion with rapier-like strikes of deceit, dirty tricks, and outright crime,” he says.
But fast action isn’t the only thing that makes Perry proud to be part of Red Storm. He had his choice of firms—including the choice not to commit to any one shop. What made Perry choose to join this company was the fact that Tom Clancy not only works with Red Storm—he also founded the company and chairs its board. “This is a cool place to work,” Perry says. And Clancy’s involvement “really helps us make a splash. People know that Red Storm is not some flash in the pan run by a 16-year-old out of his garage. Tom’s association with the company really opens a lot of doors.”
Red Storm Entertainment is quickly gaining a reputation not just for its bread-and-butter Tom Clancy mili-tary-strategy games but also as a top-notch developer of other kinds of computer games. The company is riding a virtuous circle: As Red Storm’s reputation rises, it attracts more talent (like Perry)—and the more talent it taps, the more its reputation will continue to rise.
A different kind of pride attracts talented people to venerable institutions like Goldman Sachs, Yale University, General Electric, and Covington and Burling, a prestigious law firm in Washington, DC. What these institutions lack in hipness, they more than make up for in old-fashioned prestige. Membership in these enterprises confers status—and status is a form of capital.
But beware: The cycle can shift into reverse if an organization’s prestige degenerates, leaving a once-proud brand in its place. Unless a firm continues to add real financial value —or is grounded in a strong ethical mission, in mutual learning, or in fun and excitement— what’s “hot” or prestigious today can become unfashionable tomorrow. Status can turn stagnant, and no one wants to be affiliated with an organization that has lost its vital energy. When that happens, talented people can be as easy to lure away as they were to lure in —and the best people are usually the first to go.
Balance Makes It Sustainable
Talk to almost anyone in any company at any level, and you’ll hear the same words: “I love what I’m doing, but I’m way too busy to get a life.” Equal parts boast and complaint, that is the most pervasive refrain of the new economy. The problem is balance—or, more simply, sanity. And it’s the last, but perhaps most important, adhesive that companies are using to lure and keep talented people. The best enterprises know this and are winning talented people by offering balanced work.
Easy to say it, easy to promise it. What distinguishes
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the best companies, however, is not that they recognize how important balance is to attracting talent—it’s how they create such balance in their organizations. Not long ago, any decent listing of “great places to work” would identify companies large and small that offered a preset “Chinese menu” of programs for balancing work and life: maternity and paternity leave, company-sponsored day care and elder care, regular retreats and periodic sabbaticals, flextime and even flexplace. In the new economy, the kind of balance that attracts people isn’t a set of programs. Rather, it’s a way of doing business. Balance is deeply embedded in the company’s core —a compelling part of its corporate DNA.