What Makes Your Company a Great Place to Work?
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Once a year I usually run across these lists of top places to work. ComputerWorld just released its “100 Best Places to work in IT 2012.” It made me think about the things that make for a great work environment, and some things that are not so conducive to a great work environment. Despite what most people would naturally think; money is not what drives most people to work hard.
Defined Roles: IT businesses can be demanding; what this means for staff, especially in the SMB space, is that everyone wears a lot of hats. It is important though that everyone has a defined role. Make sure everyone on your staff knows their role and has a well-defined and written out Job description. This helps staff to understand their work requirements, and gives a basis for performance reviews. Sit down quarterly with staff individually to go over their basic roles, and make changes as necessary.
Career Path: People love to have goals and have something to work towards. Creating and defining a career path, gives just that goal and motivation to team members. Start by asking your staff where they would like to see themselves in the company in 3 years. Create a plan that helps them to reach an attainable career goal. For instance if they are a level 1 technician and want to be a level 3, write out the training and steps necessary for them to get there. Provide expectations and milestones, and write in what they will receive when reaching milestones. These could be title changes, bonus or wage increases, added benefits, or additional responsibilities.
Reviews: Reviews are probably one area many business owners fall behind on, or fail to convey the correct message to employees. Look at a review as a place to motivate your staff, and not a place to reprimand. If an employee is unaware of performance issues until you have a review, you have not provided proper leadership. It is important to sit down with staff and discuss issues in real time, not just at a scheduled time. Throw away the downloaded review forms and spend time to write out expectations, goals, and employee performance. Star, number, and letter grade rating systems do not give enough information and definitely don’t provide motivation. If necessary, do a pre-review meeting. Ask your employee how they think they are doing, and what they think they can improve on. You would be surprised at how honest people will be when asked. Never! I’ll repeat never, have your employees write their own reviews! You’d be surprised at how many times I have had to do this, or seen it done at companies.
Bonuses: If there is one place that you can demotivate staff more than any other, it is in a monetary bonus structure. This becomes very true especially when it comes to expected Christmas, monthly, quarterly, or any expected bonus. Anyone seen “Christmas Vacation”? Fluctuations in the economy, staff, and overall business can affect these bonuses. When taking away an expected bonus you immediately create a negative work environment. Non-monetary bonuses are better motivators. Think about when we were kids. Do great work, and “we’ll have a pizza party” or “watch a movie on a Friday.” Those always did the job and had us working hard. Think outside of the box when it comes to all staff bonuses. Meet X goal and everyone gets a leather chair for their desk, or when a goal is reached we install a new piece of gym equipment in the break room. This doesn’t mean you can’t provide monetary bonuses; just keep them on the down low, and provide them on an individual basis when you feel they are well deserved.
Great companies are ones that value employee input, that listen to ideas, and implement change. Creating motivators, and giving employees attainable goals, keeps turnover low and provides staff with a true sense of team. One thing I have always said when looking at opportunities is that “I want to be a part of something bigger.” This means that I am motivated by, and want to be a part of the growth of the company. By providing an environment that has a true sense of team, and by following some of these simple steps, you will have one of the “Best Places to Work in IT.”
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Author: Frank Gurnee