customer

CustomerZone360 NEWS

CustomerZone360 Home

Incredible Thanksgiving Story: Howard Hughes Gave Every Employee a Holiday Turkey

By Dr. Brooks Mitchell November 23, 2015

The following story is a perfect illustration of one of the foundation principles a successful employee incentive program should be based on. Specifically, if the reward is not linked to measurable achievements, it can cause more harm than good. Clearly, that was the case at Hughes Aircraft in 1941.  If you would like to see the story told in the first person by Dr. Brooks Mitchell, you can check out the YouTube video below or read the detailed version of the story published here again for your enjoyment.


During the Holidays, I always think about my mentor at Texas Instruments, Dr. M. Scott Myers who was one of the greatest management psychologists and visionaries to have practiced his craft. I was very lucky to work with him. Scott told me a Thanksgiving story about a time when he was a Human Resources director for Hughes Aircraft prior to WWII. Yes, he actually worked for Howard Hughes.

At that time, Hughes Aircraft was a very small company. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, Howard approached Scott and asked him to give every employee a turkey as an appreciation gift for a job well done that year. The young Dr. Myers thought this was a great idea and Hughes aircraft gave turkeys to 150 employees. Everybody seemed to be happy and very grateful for this surprise gift.

Shutterstock

The following year, prior to Thanksgiving, employees began to ask Scott if they were going to get turkeys again. The company was growing exponentially because of the war and Scott was apprehensive about the logistics of buying and distributing 1,500 turkeys. He approached Howard about this and Howard responded, “Sure, Scott. Why not? Let’s give turkeys again this year.” The third year, it was a foregone conclusion — if you work for Hughes Aircraft, you get a turkey at Thanksgiving.

By the fourth year, the war was on and Hughes Aircraft had grown to several thousand employees. Getting turkeys to everyone was a logistical nightmare. Things became even worse when the union got involved and accused management of giving the bigger turkeys to some favored employees while arrogantly ignoring the fact that some employees would prefer hams. As a result, a contract was negotiated that allowed people to choose a ham or a turkey.

One year, there was a rumor that the hams had spoiled and the workforce threatened a wildcat strike. Finally, management washed their hands of the whole affair and simply calculated the equivalent cost of a turkey or a ham and gave the employees a computer punch-card they could redeem at Ralph’s grocery store. Once at Ralph’s, employees were told the punch-card was as good as cash and they could actually use it for things besides a turkey or a ham: diapers, beer, cigarettes, or anything else in the store. Everybody seemed to be happy and the workforce was no longer dissatisfied.

Scott used to say to me, “In the workplace, if you give somebody something for nothing, you make them good for nothing.” I often wonder if this experience had anything to do with Howard Hughes’ later reclusive years.



COB of Snowfly Inc.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

CUSTOMER Magazine Announces Winners of the 2018 CRM Excellence Award

By: TMCnet News    8/13/2018

TMC announced the winners of their 19th Annual CRM Excellence Award, presented by its premier publication, CUSTOMER magazine.

Read More

4 Reasons Your Amazon Affiliate Store Isn't Making Money

By: Special Guest    8/10/2018

If you have an affiliate store with Amazon and you aren't making any money, we understand the frustration. You've put in hours of work building your s…

Read More

7 Tips for Outsourcing Your Human Resources Department

By: Special Guest    8/7/2018

When your business starts growing and you need to hire additional talent, this is an exciting time. With more people working in your company, there is…

Read More

How To Use Clever Campaign Reporting And Preference Centers To Help Your Business Thrive

By: Special Guest    8/2/2018

When running a marketing campaign, it's indeed important to deliver your message the right way. That way, you will not only be sure of a future conver…

Read More

Why Customer Service Should Matter in Your Life

By: Special Guest    7/19/2018

There are a lot of things out there that matter for businesses, but it's also important to think about what matters for us as consumers. When we go sh…

Read More