Robert Scoble has a great piece up at Fast Company providing advice to Microsoft as it prepares to create a retail presence to compete with the Apple store. In the article, he compares the Apple experience with the more "mass-market" experience you get when you go to Best Buy.
Like anyone with an inner geek, I love Best Buy, so it's hard for me to be critical. But part of his advice to Microsoft caught my eye as it relates to building a workplace that could routinely compete in the "best places to work" category:
"Microsoft has to build an integral and magical experience. When you go to Disneyland everything fits together and attention was paid to every element of a guest's experience. Same thing here. If I were Microsoft's designers I'd start with the bathrooms. Why? That's one place that Apple hasn't spent much time (they often are dirty, don't use any technology, and don't match the rest of the store in the experience). Make the bathroom experience magical, then work backward out into the store. Make every experience something you can't do at any other store."
Think about that for a second. Where do your employees spend a lot of time other than their office/cube? What experience, if negative, has the potential to make employees do the gag reflex and throw up in their mouth a little bit?
That's right - your bathrooms...
I hadn't thought of it before reading Scoble's article, but I'm going to venture a guess that by spending 2 to 3x what others do on the bathroom and by paying to keep it clean during the day, you can deliver a differentiating factor that your employees would notice if they ever interviewed for another job.
I'm dead serious - done right, this might be one of the most inexpensive ways you could deliver value that others can't or won't. I choose convenience stores, on road trips, based on what I know about the cleanliness of their johns, so why wouldn't that have an impact on where I want to work?
And make sure I have access to paper towels instead of the industro-blower....