If office workers get fresh flowers, you get them too, CEO Chet Giermak promised line workers at Eriez Magnetics, a $55-million industrial-equipment manufacturer in Erie, Pa. The notion was greeted with blue-collar snickers. But once bunches of chrysanthemums started arriving regularly, the people on the floor took to them as positively as they had taken earlier to fine art hung on the walls, nameplates placed at workstations, and windows opening to the same landscaped outdoor views that upstairs executives were granted.

Mums were the latest inspiration in Giermak's determined crusade to close the quality-of-work-life gap between the company's 110 employees in engineering and sales, and its 145 factory employees. "I'm not saying everyone should have the same perks," he argues, "but I am saying that there are certain perks everybody should have." Hence production people, long since relieved of punching time clocks, also enjoy such white-collar advantages as long coffee breaks and access to corporate supplies for personal use.


GIERMAK SHRUGS OFF THE EXTRA AND DECIDEDLY UNCONVENTIONAL COSTS AS MERE "POCKET MONEY." NO WONDER: UNEXPECTED ABSENTEEISM AT ERIEZ IS ONE-EIGHTH THE INDUSTRY NORM, AND ERIEZ HAS PRACTICALLY NO TURNOVER -- ATTRIBUTABLE, CLAIMS GIERMAK, TO GAINING EQUAL RESPECT FROM ALL 255 WORKERS.

-- Teri Lammers

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