Part 2: Where’s Our Free Beer?!

Blog Post A Culture that Fuels Our Strategy


In our last blog we considered a question for which not everyone has a good answer. The question we considered was: is your organization here for you (i.e., it exists to have your concerns fulfilled)? Or are you here for your company (i.e., the company employs you for its benefit rather than yours)?

Though many people wish it were the latter, it is not. Companies and organizations exist to fulfill on the individual organization’s concerns and interests. A person’s employment for that company is in service of the company fulfilling their concerns, not the company fulfilling the individual’s interests (though, often times, both sides of the equation are addressed). The moment (or close to the moment) either the job function I perform or my specific performance in that job function stops being of service (or of the value expected from the investment) to the company fulfilling its concerns, it’s over – I’ll be out on the street. Though abrupt and unpleasant, such is the way of the world. By example, how many elevator operators do you see today compared to their prevalence in 1944?

Where’s our free beer?!

Yet, if the employee is just a cog in the wheel of a much, much larger machine, why do some companies (perhaps yours, assuredly others) provide their employees all sorts of amenities? Those amenities can range from the pedestrian though appreciated (e.g., a ping pong table in the break room) to the sublime such as top-end health and wellness benefits, catered meals during the workday, tutors for children, and much more. Walking by a start-up in Downtown Denver one Friday afternoon, I looked in and saw people lifting a pint (at work!) and blurted out to my colleague, “Where’s our free beer?!”

The answer is simple: the free beer is at that company (and not at mine). Why is that? Again, the answer is simple: it is what the company sees as needed. Those companies which have a slew of amenities and benefits have them for the same reason that many companies do not have them: the company has determined what it sees as needed or critical to compete appropriately in the marketplace. Whether they are correct or not will only be proven over time. There are a lot of companies that offered a lot of benefits to their employees which are no longer in business. Conversely, some of the leanest and meanest organizations have stood the test of time and have held on to employees (who could have gone elsewhere) for decades.

Lest not we forget the critical question: where is my free beer? After 18 years, I know that it is not at Insigniam (and it is not at most companies). So why do people stay? That is a great question to explore in our next blog.