January 9, 2017; Minneapolis Star Tribune
This article reminds us that culture counts a lot when considering how to address workplace retention, and nothing puts a smile on some faces like a dog in the office.
In the Twin Cities, a number of nonprofits have dog-friendly policies, which they believe help with overall morale and retention of employees even when working conditions are sometimes stressful. At the same time, they make the atmosphere more relaxed for those coming to the nonprofit for services.
Opportunity Services is a 63-year-old nonprofit, which is evidently not too old to learn a new trick. Todd Schoolman, the head of HR for the human services organization, says the bring-your-dog-to-work policy is part of the nonprofit’s wellness program. He was, perhaps, a bit self-interested in that he has a 13-year-old cockapoo named Ruby that makes employee rounds with him. But he also he had data to back up his point; a 2010 study from Central Michigan University found that dogs produce better employee morale and higher levels of production and collaboration.
Opportunity Services provides help for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. The staff is underpaid—in part because of the low rates set by the state—so retention becomes a serious problem. It’s hoped that the dog policy will encourage retention. We might suggest that good salaries plus the dogs would be twice as good, but we figure they already know that.
In the end, as we have written often, nonprofits have to get in gear to collectively demand living wages for front-line staff working with vulnerable people. Without that, we will be stuck in a tough retention cycle for good.—Ruth McCambridge