It Pays to Pay Your Employees Well, with CEO Kip Tindell

Kip Tindell, CEO of the Container Store, explains that his employees are the company's most valuable asset and that it's important to pay them what their worth to foster a positive workplace culture.

What would you identify as your company's most valued asset? The usual answers to that question would include product, brand, physical space, R&D, etc. Not often would you hear (at least not with sincerity) that a particular business considers its people to be its most valuable pieces. 


The Container Store is different. Not only does the retail company believes the hype, it acts in accordance. CEO Kip Tindell, author of the fittingly-titled new book Uncontainable, recently visited Big Think to discuss how investing in employees helped make The Container Store such a success:

Tindell explains that The Container Store is founded on seven guiding principles. One of those principles is is that one great person can be at least as productive as three good people. This belief has the company hold out for only the best possible hires to join its team. Prospective employees go through an arduous eight-part interview process that focuses on identifying the most productive and innovative workers possible. When found, those people get paid.

"People join The Container Store and they never leave. I mean our turnover is single digit in an industry that averages triple digit, and pay is part of that... The average full-time sales person in the store makes about $48,000, which is not an enormous amount of money but it's a lot of money, it's a whole lot of money for a retail sales position..."

The company operates as an inverted pyramid. Tindell, as CEO, makes "substantially less than industry average." Meanwhile, employees who interact most with customers make "well above industry average," as much as 50-100% higher depending on the region. And unlike many companies, The Container Store doesn't consider the low heads on its totem pole to be easily replaceable. In fact, maintaining consistency in its workforce offers the company a valuable line of continuity that benefits all invested parties.

"You're getting three times the productivity at only 50 to 100 percent higher labor costs. So the employee wins because she's getting paid 50 percent more than somebody else would likely pay her, the company wins because It's getting three times the productivity at that only 50 percent higher cost, and the customer wins because they're getting this engaged really great employee."

In an era when income inequality and stagnant wages have become become major national issues, it's a breath of fresh air to see a company pay many of its low-level workers so well. Fortune Magazine agrees, as The Container Store has been named one of its "100 Best Companies to Work For" a whopping 15 years in a row. Four of those years saw the company ranked in the Top 2, a fact of which Tindell is quite proud:

"When you go in the stores the people that wait on you have been there four years or eight years or 12 years, they love their jobs and they're truly interested in your storage and organization problem. So, we're not advocates of paying mediocre people well, we enjoy excellence, we insist on a meritocracy and we really believe in paying great people well; we give much bigger than usual annual increases. I'll look forward to the day when we have people on the sales floor making $100,000 a year."

The Container Store's employees are well-qualified, well-trained, and well-compensated. This results in both elevated productivity and a collective sense of pride. Tindell explains that the company's stern meritocracy communicates to employees that windows of opportunity and advancement are always open. It's these feelings of pride and hope, as well as a desire to work hard and find solutions, that are but the surface results of the company's firm investment in the quality of its workforce.

The question then rises: are you valuing your best workers as you should?

For more on The Container Store's guiding principles and Kip Tindell's management philosophy, check out his recent publication Uncontainable.

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

An organism found in dirt may lead to an anxiety vaccine, say scientists

Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.

University of Colorado Boulder
Surprising Science
  • New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
  • Scientists say this can lead to drugs for first responders and soldiers, preventing PTSD and other mental issues.
  • The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.

Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.

The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.

The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.

Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

University of Colorado Boulder

Christopher Lowry

This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.

Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.

The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.

Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.

What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.

"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."

Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

For most of history, humans got smarter. That's now reversing.

We were gaining three IQ points per decade for many, many years. Now, that's going backward. Could this explain some of our choices lately?

The Flynn effect appears to be in retrograde. (Credit: Shutterstock/Big Think)
popular

There's a new study out of Norway that indicates our—well, technically, their—IQs are shrinking, to the tune of about seven IQ points per generation.

Keep reading Show less

Lama Rod Owens – the price of the ticket to freedom

An ordained Lama in a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, Lama Rod grew up a queer, black male within the black Christian church in the American south. Navigating all of these intersecting, evolving identities has led him to a life's work based on compassion for self and others.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "What I'm interested in is deep, systematic change. What I understand now is that real change doesn't happen until change on the inside begins to happen."
  • "Masculinity is not inherently toxic. Patriarchy is toxic. We have to let that energy go so we can stop forcing other people to do emotional labor for us."
Keep reading Show less