Big firm finds it pays to treat employees like human beings

Head of Cadbury Brothers, big British candy company, tells of results of acting toward his workers as though they were his own children — has yielded profits on generosity.

Cadbury Bros., Ltd:, the great English manufacturers of cocoa and candy:

  • Serve hot cocoa and biscuits to girls who come to work before 8am
  • Serve cold drinks free in departments which are overheated
  • Pay carfare for those employees who live far from the works
  • Give free dental and medical advice to all workers
  • Furnish swimming pools and compel younger employees to take physical training
  • Conduct an educational department and compel all employees under 18 to attend classes
  • Maintain an eight-hour day
  • And pay better wages than the unions demand

Cadbury Brothers have developed such an industrial conscience that it has taken Edward Cadbury, one of the proprietors, nearly 300 pages to describe its workings in a book which he has just published on “Experiments in Industrial Organization.”

“Everyone who is acquainted with the Bournville works the home of the Cadbury concern near Birmingham, England knows full well that the mainspring of their policy has been a sense of social duty!” writes Professor W J Ashley of the University of Birmingham.

And Author Cadbury points out, “The efficiency of the firm and its employees does not end with the firm itself; it has a wider civic value, in so far as the firm is a unit of the industrial organization of the nation, and the employee plays his part as an intelligent and capable citizen!”

Which is as much as to say that Cadbury Brothers consider an employee to be a MAN, first of all — not merely a unit of industrial energy, to be harnessed, worn out and scrapped as cheaply and quickly as possible.

A thorough physical examination and certain educational tests are given to each applicant for employment. All those who are taken on under 18 must agree to complete a four years’ educational course. And the training is not only in subjects that will make the learner a more efficient earner of profits for Cadbury Brothers, but it is also in English history and literature, arithmetic, French, geograpliy and kindred subjects.

Cooking, needlework and the care of children are some of the courses prescribed for the girls. The classes are held at the firm’s expense and often during working hours. The firm is in the position of actually paying its employees to learn things that will help them and society directly, and the firm only indirectly, if at all.

Two physicians and four trained nurses are constantly on duty at the works. Every ailment among the work people, however slight or serious, is given immediate attention, free of charge, and the necessary medicines are sold at cost. When a doctor reports an employee’s condition requires it, special delicacies are prepared for him in the kitchen of the works.

From this same kitchen, more than 3,500 meals are served every day to the employees at cost. “For,” writes Cadbury, “a matter of vital importance to the health and refinement of the workers is the provision of nourishment and comfortable meals!”

Here are directors who show an interest in the refinement of their employees. The idea is unique, and in carrying it out they have converted what might have been merely an ugly factory into the semblance of a delightful club. There are libraries, recreation, clubs, twenty-four acres of athletic grounds where tennis, hockey, football and cricket are played. There is a girl’s convalescent home in the country, a system of sick aid, and a successful insurance fund. Three acres of the company’s land are divided into small allotments and let out for vegetable gardens at the rate of 12 cents a year per 30 square yards.

Then there are vacations — otherwise the employees would not be able to keep up their high efficiency! So each worker is given between fifteen and twenty days’ vacation a year on part pay. And cheap excursions are especially arranged, so that these vacations may be spent in the country.

All this because Cadbury Brothers feel a moral obligation to their employees. And yet they insist that the economic results alone have justified the trouble and great expense, as the growth of the firm shows. In 1880, they had 303 employees. Today they have over 6,000.

“An indication of the high efficiency resulting from our methods,” writes Cadbury, “is the fact that the firm is competing with increasing success in foreign and colonial markets, although foreign competitors pay lower wages — the wages of the women workers being in some cases not more than half those paid at Bournville!”

In other words, this great new experiment, in the relations between the boss and the worker, has been a success. It has paid!

About this story

Source publication: The Day Book (Chicago, Ill.)

Source publication date: October 30, 1913

Filed under: 1910s, Celebrities & famous people, Culture & lifestyle, Money & work

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