#OptOutside, or why I’m with the folks at REI and will not be shopping at Target or Walmart at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day.

We’re heading into the holiday season in the U.S., and it’s a time of year I’ve really come to enjoy. For those of you that have met me that might sound strange, given that I was born in England and lived there for almost 30 years; obviously, my enjoyment of Thanksgiving wasn’t something that was instilled in my family traditions from birth. But I’ve lived here for more than a quarter century, now, and as a dual citizen with an American family as well as my English one, I get to enjoy the family celebrations on the fourth Thursday in November along with almost everyone else.

I said “almost everyone else” for a reason. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a family to celebrate with, or a home to celebrate in, of course, but while tragic, that’s not my focus here. The group I’m talking about today are the retail workers for whom family time is being eroded by the rampant encroachment of Black Friday into “Black Thursday.” Thanksgiving is a day for families to spend time together. It’s ridiculous to me for stores to open at 9 PM or midnight on Thanksgiving to get a jump on Black Friday sales. So that’s why I was delighted to see that Seattle-based retailer REI had taken a huge step in the opposite direction.

In late October, REI announced that it will be closing all its stores on Black Friday, and went further to introduce a campaign to get people outdoors enjoying the world around them (#OptOutside). First, I love that a retailer is foregoing profits on what is potentially the busiest day of the year because it wants its employees to be outdoors doing things they love doing. As a company that sells clothing and products for outdoor activity, this probably isn’t entirely altruistic, but I’d like to believe that at least part of the driving force behind this was a desire to do the right thing for hard-working employees. It’s refreshing to see a company willing to put its money where its mouth is and treat the employees as true partners in the business. And, as a customer of REI, they have earned my respect and have enhanced the likelihood of me shopping there over the coming months, and I’m sure I’m not alone – a true win-win.

REI’s choice is yet one more sign that doing the right thing for employees just makes good business sense. I’ve seen a number of these signs this year, and hopefully there have been many more that I’ve missed. There’s Virgin’s family leave policy announcement this summer, for instance. Microsoft, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Netflix, Adobe, and Amazon have all updated their parental leave policies, some as recently as this month. Starbucks’ rent deposit assistance in the UK and college achievement plan in the U.S. in partnership with Arizona State University are progressive policies designed to attract and retain employees. This isn’t just a coincidence. As the labor market tightens, the stakes in the job market are rising. The jobsite Indeed.com has reported steadily rising incidences of the words “benefits” and “bonuses” in job ads, now at levels not seen since the pre-crash job market in 2007. Smart companies understand that in today’s connected world, treating their people well not only is a path to better engagement, but also how you get the best people in the door. So in other words, yes, these decisions are good for your people, but they are good for you, too.

At this time of year I suspect the majority of people in corporate America are tired out and ready for a long Thanksgiving weekend followed by that rather nice “slow period in December”. At this time particularly it’s good to see companies treating their employees with respect for their (real) life outside the workplace. It’s the right thing to do, and is fast becoming a necessary thing to do. In other words, it’s the right thing to do, for your people and your bottom line.

In the meanwhile on Friday November 27th, where will you #OptOutside? I think I’ll be here…










About the author:

Marcus Scott, PeopleFirm
A founding partner of PeopleFirm, Marcus has 20 years of experience as a business thought leader. Both as a consultant and as an internal employee, he has helped a variety of corporations with their business and people strategies, external and internal marketing programs, and new product and service development. Marcus has maintained a passion and respect for the human element of organizations throughout his career. He is equally adept at both highly strategic projects that define how companies compete in the labor market and the day-to-day details of executing an employee survey program. His focus (some might call it an obsession) on structure and patterns enables him to convey complex information in easily understandable terms that can be translated into clear insight for executives, managers, and front-line employees alike. His current areas of focus include people strategy and driving high performance through employee engagement.

PeopleFirm is a management and HR consulting firm dedicated to helping you achieve that ultimate win-win: inspired people driving inspiring performance. We focus on effective tools, measurable outcomes, real results, and getting your people out of their seats and engaged in your company’s growth. We use people strategy, talent management, organizational performance, and change management, to help you partner with your people to build an organization that excels in today’s new world of work. People are your last competitive frontier. Make them count.

Your people = your success.