When Cathy Filgas co-founded Anthro Corporation 29 years ago, she did so with the belief that the corporate culture needed to be one where employees looked forward to coming to work. A major factor in cultivating that kind of positive environment was establishing solid lines of communication throughout the company.
When the recession of 2009 forced Anthro to lay off almost 10 percent of its staff, employee morale was at its very lowest. Though unhappy employees didn’t complain directly to Filgas about staff cuts and a wage freeze, the grapevine was abuzz with discontent.
Filgas recognized the communication breakdown, and was eager to open frank conversations with folks on the front lines. “We asked ourselves: ‘What can we do that’s morale boosting—and low cost—to get an open discussion going?’” Filgas decided to see if Brown Bag Lunches could help the company come up with ideas to get through tough economic times, and make employees feel included and valued. A group of employees would get a free lunch and Filgas could get feedback first hand. The verdict? A resounding success.
“It was amazing that something as simple as five or six rotating employees eating lunch together each month while sharing ideas helped us keep our head above economic high waters. What a great way to let your employees drive you to success,” says Filgas.
Employees took advantage of the opportunity to not only voice their concerns about the layoff and how it was handled, but to speak about other issues that were affecting morale. The hour-long lunch broke down the wall between employer and employee, making it easier for both to understand where the misunderstandings were and how they could be improved.
Even after the recession doldrums subsided, Filgas’ commitment to host a monthly Brown Bag Lunch has continued. “Through this Brown Bag Lunch Program, we’ve initiated some amazing programs, cleared up many misconceptions and enjoyed some delightful lunches. It has become a meaningful part of our corporate culture.”
Note: This article was adapted from Jebra Turner’s original, written in 2011.