What Do Employees Want? Not Trendy Perks. * the escalating battle for workforce share, today's companies offer everything from concierge services to pet-walking services. But the United States @Work 2000 study, recently released by Chicago-based Aon Consulting's Loyalty Institute (www.aon.com), suggests that employers are wasting money on such costly perks - and ignoring some of the basic tools for achieving staff commitment.
The fourth annual study (formerly known as America @Work) identified seven key workplace habits, called Commitment Drivers, that have a great influence on employees' level of loyalty. In addition to more predictable measures such as salaries and skills training, researchers turned up this: management's ability to create "a sense of spirit and pride."
"We were pretty surprised by that, I must admit," says Dave Stum, president of the Loyalty Institute. "But what it indicates is that organizations need to take a good hard look at the basics before launching new and trendy benefits."
According to Stum, it all comes down to the very nature of the American character. "Americans are joiners; they want to be on a team, and preferably a winning team at that," he explains. "They need to be enthusiastic about what they do."
Jeff Kessel a senior engineer with engineering company PBS&J in Austin, Texas, agrees. "A little bit of recognition goes a long way toward keeping me excited about my job," he says. "For instance, when I was asked to give a talk at a mining trade group conference, the company paid for my time to prepare the discussion and also to attend the entire conference. That made me feel valuable."
Progressive companies use various techniques to get employees psyched about their jobs, says Kristen Accipiter, a spokesperson for The Society for Human Resource Management (www.shrm.og) in Alexandria, Virginia. Xerox Corp., for example, takes staff from all levels on "vision quests" to commune with nature and clear their heads. The retreats have led to the development of new products, including the extremely successful 265DC environment-friendly copier. When Value City Furniture, a wholesaler/retailer in Wood-ridge, Va., began springing for a team lunch on Mondays, an important production day, there has been perfect attendance. And a program at Dana Corp., an automotive-systems manufacturer based in Cape Girardeau, Mo., asks all workers for two new ideas a month. A lottery is held every six months and two employees get $1,500 for their ideas. The company has implemented many employee suggestions that have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Successful loyalty programs don't have to be complicated, but they should focus on the positive. "Our research shows that one of the best ways to create a sense of spirit and excitement among employees is to do a better job communicating the company's successes, not just the failures and problems," says Stum. "It's great to put out your story to Wall Street or the shareholders, but you really need to let the staff know they're in on something important, too."