kidsholdinghandsA recent Harvard Business Review blog, “The Generosity Strategies that Help Companies Grow” points out how companies can increase consumer loyalty and long-term profit by offering free services that their customers really use.  The message is “Consumers tend to respond in kind when they are treated generously and with respect for something they value.” The writer continually equates generosity with money and believes that a company spending a little money to be generous brings in profit later on.

When we think of generosity, the author’s definition and society’s prevailing definition attaches it to being generous with a measurable capital like time or money.  But, looking at the definition for generosity, we come up with synonymous such as unselfish, bighearted, magnanimous, and benevolent. These synonyms take generous from something that has to do with capital to a word that describes behavior that is good for us and the others around us.  We enjoy being around an unselfish person and  believe that selfishness is such a negative quality that we try to develop our children into unselfish people. We develop “customer loyalty” to those who are unselfish because we believe they treat us equitably.

Going back to the economics of generosity, the article states that when consumers see a generous benefit that is greater than the price of the product, they value the product more.  The article uses the illustration of Value = Benefits > Price > Costs. Companies can use generosity to add value to  the relationship of the company to the consumers outside of the company.  But, why only use generosity to relate to people outside of a company.  It stands to reason that if generosity develops customer loyalty then generosity also develops employee loyalty.  The employees value the job because the intangible, unselfish benefits are greater than the price and cost of working there. Employees want a company to relate to them the same way that we are taught, as children, to relate to others in the world.

How can generosity appear in your company and become a fundamental and integral value of the company?  Companies use the words like “generous benefit package”, “generous vacation time” or “generous remuneration”.  But, going back to an earlier point, these “generosities” are still attached to tangible capital like time and money.  Looking at generous from the idea of “unselfish” conceptualizes ways to intangibly add value to employees.  Being unselfish can mean that leaders and leadership skill building opportunities are open to employees from all areas of the  business, not just the conclave of identified leaders within the business.  Being unselfish means sharing skills and knowledge freely knowing that these skills and knowledge benefit everyone in the company.  Being unselfish means valuing employees’ helping each other succeed at tasks.

The value of  creating and working within a company with a shared culture of generosity/unselfishness is best illustrated by your childhood playground experience.  Which kid did you like to play with the most, the selfish kid or the unselfish kid?