Free beer, clean streets: HR goes on the bottle in Amsterdam

You wish you had staff as engaged as these workers. This bizarre program is a prime example of some of the more inventive HR practices being carried out in Europe

Free beer, clean streets: HR goes on the bottle in Amsterdam
uggling with employee engagement? Want to retain staff without a raise? Try paying them in beer.

That’s the solution the Amsterdam government has found for a two-fold problem: finding workers willing to clean the streets on low wages; and keeping drunks out of public parks.

A curious government-funded program enlists Dutch alcoholics to clear the streets of litter, and the project is so popular that they can’t find enough litter for all the prospective employees.

Each day at 9am, workers are given their first payment: two cans of locally produced beer, followed by two more at lunch time. There’s free lunch for all employees, a final beer at knock-off, and a performance-based bonus beer if the job’s done well. Of course, they’re also paid a minimal wage of 10 euros a day, or about $13.70. (To put that in perspective, that would pay for a Big Mac Meal and a cappuccino in Holland.) Other employee benefits include a daily packet of rolling tobacco, and a wellness program of sorts that provides health workers and counselors to help alcoholics recover from their addictions. The demonstrated community acceptance and emotional support the employees receive from the program fuels high engagement, keeping them connected to the program despite such low pay.

It’s a picture of great HR, but could it ever translate to the American workplace? Well, maybe not directly, as much as we would all love to knock back a beer or two on the job. But Amsterdam’s case serves as a potent reminder of just how simple – and cost-effective – it can be to invest in employee engagement.

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