"The smell of her shoes -- oh!! The wonder of them!!! Sometimes chicken soup, sometimes the hint of duck pâté, but always little tiny pieces of corned beef and pastrami!!!" So raved Boris the dog in a recent issue of "Workin'," the employee newsletter of Zingerman's Delicatessen. Cofounders Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginew started "Workin' " a few years back, for the same reason most companies start employee newsletters -- the Ann Arbor, Mich., deli, with annual sales of some $5 million, had grown too big for the owners to be able to talk to all 130 workers every day.
What sets "Workin' " apart, however, is that it's fun to read. A sampling of recent stories: "How I Escaped the Zingerman's Tornado"; "What I Found at the Food Show"; "Seventeen Reasons Why It's OK to Steal." The newsletter costs Zingerman's approximately $2,000 a year, but it's worth it because it actually gets read, instead of languishing in stacks on the counter. Here are the ingredients of the deli's appetizing bimonthly:
* Commit your own time. "When neither I nor Paul is contributing important stuff to it, it becomes less interesting and less valuable," says Weinzweig.
* Be honest. Anything that's offensive, a put-down, or transparently calculated will be sniffed out in an instant.
* Design and produce it in-house. Employees will feel a sense of proprietorship only if they really do create the newsletter themselves.
* Pay the editor. The person who takes on the editor's job of "Workin' " is paid above and beyond his or her regular earnings. The pay provides an incentive and validates the newsletter.
* Require full participation. Some 30% of "Workin' " is penned by front-line employees, 30% to 40% by managers, and 30% by cofounders and partners of Zingerman's.
-- Ellyn E. Spragins* * *