Morale is something of an obsession at Physio-Control Corp. The $100-million maker of medical electronic instruments goes out of its way to generate goodwill among the troops. It even holds quarterly kickoff meetings for its 800 employees at company headquarters in Redmond, Wash.
At the meetings, which feature refreshments, Physio-Control's president announces news about the company and its performance, hands out recognition awards, and leads a lively question-and-answer period. The company keeps secret the exact date of each meeting, and has been known to announce the surprise start of festivities with a band marching through the halls and offices at 7:15 a.m. It has chosen marching bands from the University of Washington and a local high school, but sometimes it opts for a little variety, such as bagpipers blaring away in full regalia.
If early-morning martial music seems like a rather strident way for a company to whip up esprit de corps, you won't hear much complaining from the people at Physio-Control. In fact, rallies and other morale-boosting efforts are among the factors that earned the company a berth in The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America (Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., Reading, Mass.; $17.95), a recently published bestselling book written by Robert Levering, Milton Moskowitz, and Michael Katz. According to Levering and his colleagues, disaffected employees are pretty hard to find at Physio-Control.
"We take great pains to make everyone feel like they're part of a team," says company spokesperson Craig Yamamoto. "In all of our printed material, and in conversation, every employee here is called a 'team member.' If someone refers to a team member as an 'employee,' other team members will get on his case. New people sometimes think it's kind of cornball, but after a while they see that it's genuine, and very much for real."
The collegiality at Physio-Control goes beyond both semantics and showmanship. The company uses four flexible work schedules to accommodate different lifestyles. It has created a generous cash profit sharing plan and savings plan, has a merit pay philosophy and adheres to a strict policy of promotion within the ranks. It has also consistently maintained full employment. "In the 25-year history of the company, no one has ever been laid off for lack of work," boasts Robert Lowy, Physio-Control's director of human resources. "We're very proud of that track record, and we get a great amount of loyalty in return. If there's a crunch, we transfer people around to balance the workload, or we stop hiring from outside."
In other words, the only time an employee at Physio-Control is likely to get marching orders is at 7:15 in the morning.