Human Resources Culture Makes for Top Employer

 

In 1966 at the North Carolina State University (NCSU), individuals from eight other universities where brought together by the National Institute of Health (NIH).  The purpose of this group of individuals was to develop software to analyze data being developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The original product was identified as Statistical Analysis System (SAS).  This gave way to both the name and corporate beginnings.

In 1972 NIH ended funding for the project. When funding ended the members of the team decided to each contribute $5,000.00 a year to continue the project at NCSU.  Over the next few years SAS software was licensed to various companies across the business spectrum.  As more business requested the software it was determined in 1976 by the original developers to privatize their efforts.  SAS Institute Inc. originated at 2806 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, North Carolina (NC), building located across the street from NCSU.

In the beginning the small business relied on everyone in the business to know and do everyone else’s job. “When a shipment of users manuals arrived, everyone stopped what they were doing and formed a human chain to hoist each box, person to person, to storage space on the second floor.” (SAS Institute Inc., 2016).  Throughout the rest of the seventies SAS continued to grow and add employees.  SAS also expanded into the global market opening subsidiary office overseas.  In 1980 SAS moved to its current Headquarters location in Cary, NC.

What makes SAS Institute Inc. a great place to work. CEO James Goodnight put it best in interview by Angus Loten for CIO Journal by The Wall Street Journal.  The culture is the heart of the company and started in the beginning.  The question and answer follows: “SAS is often cited as a great place to work. Why is it important for you to keep workers happy?

Because we are maintaining software for years and years, and constantly improving it and adding new features and capabilities, it’s very important to retain the people who originally wrote it.  To do that, we’ve tried to create a culture where we have a great deal of respect for people and that rewards innovation.  We have a weekly meeting every Tuesday where we have any number of people will come over and do demos of what they’re working on, for upper management, so we get a constant view of all the new things people are working on. (Loten, 2016)”.  Culture is the key to SAS Institute Inc. success.

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Employee satisfaction along with showing their value to the company, was always at the beginning of the corporate culture of SAS.  Early employees have related that in the beginning on Hillsborough street, James H. Goodnight (co-founder and current CEO) would take everyone in his car down the street to the pizza place.  The company paid for everything during these outings.  This was a regular occurrence when 100 customers where added.  Flexible work schedules along with free M&M’s and breakfast goodies were present from the beginning.  SAS posted its first company bulletin in 1978, which was type written on a single page of paper and posted on the bulletin board.

Technology was not the only innovation SAS was a leader.  In the year after moving to their new location in Cary, NC, SAS broke new ground opening the first employee child care center in the basement of the Headquarters building.  This was decision by the company to keep employees (valuable programmers) considered not returning to work after pregnancy.  At this point in time this was an idea not even considered by companies.

This goes back to the interview Goodnight had with the Wall Street Journal in early 2016.  These ideas began with the formation of the company and years before this type of information was identified as “Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM)”.  This was the first of the ideas which made SAS a leading company to work for world wide.  However, this was not the end.

Following the opening of the daycare center, SAS took employee needs to a whole other level.  At their headquarters campus, they open a recreation and fitness center.  A health care center was open on the campus to support employees and families.  This was followed by the opening of a gourmet café’ to serve meals to employees.  These additions garnered SAS awards to include “Healthiest Company to Work For” by Health and Living Magazine.

The health care center has been a valuable to both SAS and their employees. Confirmation by a study conducted in conjunction with Duke Health.  The finding was reported in a news release from SAS.  Key point was the health care center lead to lower costs for both SAS and employees.  “For 30 years, analytics leader SAS has operated an on-site Health Care Center (HCC) for the convenience of employees and dependents.  Now, a new study led by researchers at Duke Health finds those who use the HCC for primary care are less likely to need emergency department visits or hospitalizations than those who do not.” (SAS Institute Inc., 2016).

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SAS highlights these benefits by providing them to all employees regardless of location.  This type of culture is proof of success in that over the years has kept a turnover rate to around four percent.  Employees, which are in 149 countries, are provided the same services as those at the Headquarters in North Carolina.  Now it is not feasible to build and sustain medical clinics at all these location, the company has adapted ways to provide these services.  For instance, in remote locations benefits such as childcare and medical are subsidized with local service providers.

SAS does not hide it success in employee satisfaction.  This is evident by visiting their website (http://www.sas.com/en_us/careers/life-at-sas.html).  At this location, the company outlines what a career with SAS would be like.  The headline here is this quote: “By taking care of our employees, the rest takes care of itself” (SAS Institute Inc., 2016).  This location further discusses the culture and benefits.

By separating these two areas the company can show its commitment to employees.  Under the umbrella of culture there are eight areas discussed.  These all relate to the company and how it manages work environment such as: open style of management to worker relationship, work conditions (college style campus at headquarters location), continuing employee growth, flexible work schedule allowing time during the day for fun and fitness, return investments (education and volunteer), and conservation.  Benefits discusses four areas pertaining directly to the employee: money, career, health, and life.

The founders of SAS had a vision and in that vison had the forethought that to succeed the company would not only have to provide a top line product but employ top line people. This has made for adjustments to business strategies, which requires changes to SHRM, easy and transparent.  In other words: “Organization development is a systematic approach to improving organizational capability, ie the capacity of an organization to function effectively in order to achieve desired results” (Armstrong, 2016, p. 96).  The company culture provides for change and growth.

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This type of corporate culture emulates SHRM.  “Much research has been carried out, which has shown that there is a correlation between good HRM practice and organizational performance.” (Armstrong, 2016, p. 17).  Being on the forefront of ideas which are now identified in discussions related to SHRM helps keep SAS as a leading place to work.  The key to this is how to maintain and go forward into the future.

SAS continues to be a leading place to work for many years.  In 2016 Fortune ranked SAS the number two global company to work for.  The reasons for the ranking came from Great Place to Work ® reviews which related: “At SAS Institute Inc., 94 percent of employees say their workplace is great” (Great Place to Work, 2016).  The survey provided a review of what employees think about the company and lists all the perks and programs SAS provides.

What was discussed in this paper seems to be just the tip of the benefits. SAS by being far advanced in the idea of SHRM continues to adapt and change to new world and technological developments.  In doing so has never forgotten to provide new and current customers great products and services requires those employees who got them in the first place.  These practices has kept SAS a leader is analytical analysis and employee satisfaction.

Armstrong, M. (2016). Handbook of Strategic Human Resource Management. In M. Armstrong, Handbook of Strategic Human Resource Management (p. 17 & p. 96). Philadelphia: Kogan Page Ltd.

Great Place to Work. (2016, Aug 24). Great Place to Work SAS Institute Inc. Retrieved from Great Place to Work: http://reviews.greatplacetowork.com/sas

Loten, A. (2016, Mar 08). SAS Institute CEO, the ‘Godfather of Analytics,’ Sees Future in the Past. Retrieved from The Wall Street Journal, CIO Journal: http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2016/03/08/sas-institute-ceo-the-godfather-of-analytics-sees-future-in-the-past/

SAS Institute Inc. (2016, Feb 03). Fewer ER, hospital visits for employer health center patients, per major academic medical center study. Cary, NC. Retrieved Dec 27, 2016, from http://www.sas.com/en_us/news/press-releases/2016/february/sas-duke-study-employer-health-care-centers.html

SAS Institute Inc. (2016, May 10). Life at SAS. Retrieved 2016, from SAS, Careers, Life at SAS: http://www.sas.com/en_us/careers/life-at-sas.html

SAS Institute Inc. (2016). SAS Institute Inc. Company Information. Retrieved Dec 27, 2016, from Company History 1976-1980: www.sas.com/en-us/company-infomation.html#1976-1980

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