We’ve discussed the importance of building a positive, family-like company culture on this blog before. The Cincinnati Bengals, an NFL team in InfoCision’s home state of Ohio, recently provided a wonderful example of how this can be accomplished.
Not long ago, Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still learned that his four-year-old daughter Leah had pediatric cancer that left her with just a 50 percent chance for long-term survival. Understandably shocked upon hearing the news, Still could not fully participate or focus on Bengals training camp and was cut from the club as a result. The 25-year-old understood and agreed with the team’s decision, until medical professionals told him that his daughter’s treatment could cost up to $1 million. Having been cut from the Bengals roster, Still was no longer insured, which made paying for treatments a tall order.
But the Bengals organization found a solution. They brought Still back as part of the club’s 10-man practice squad—a reserve of players every NFL team maintains—which allowed him to stay on the team’s insurance plan. Additionally, the team gave him permission to leave at any time to spend time with his daughter. Eventually, with the support of the team behind him and the comfort of knowing he could leave to see his daughter whenever he needed, Still was able to concentrate more on football and was actually moved to the team’s active roster for its second game of the season.
But the story didn’t end there. The Bengals also announced that proceeds from sales of Still’s jersey—which cost $100 each—would be donated to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and earmarked for pediatric cancer research. As Still’s story went national, his No. 75 jersey broke the team’s record for sales in a single day; to date, more than $500,000 has been raised from these purchases. Even other NFL teams got involved, with New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton buying 100 jerseys himself.
Still’s story went viral nationally and the Bengals received quite a bit of well-deserved positive attention, something every organizations enjoys when it happens. More than that, however, the franchise showed its players and other staffers that it views them as more than just replaceable pieces in a giant machine. The NFL can be a cold business where players are unceremoniously cut for underperforming all the time. But Bengals upper management showed that they value their employees as human beings.
So what are the takeaways from this story? First, it’s unlikely your business will be negatively impacted long-term by doing the right thing for your employees. Second, supporting your employees is actually an intelligent business move. Providing extra support—through on-site childcare or workplace wellness programs, for instance—may cost a little extra upfront, but happier employees are more productive, loyal and better able to deliver a high quality of customer service. In other words, when it comes to your employees, doing the right thing and the smart thing are usually one and the same.