TRENDS The next time you're at a company meeting, ask yourself this question: "If our top competitor knew that this meeting was taking place, would they be worried?" If your answer is no, you should walk out of that meeting without any regrets, says Bill Dauphinais, partner, brand management, marketing, and communications at New York City-based PricewaterhouseCoopers.

That's exactly what happened at an unproductive meeting he recently sat in on. On the other hand, "Successful companies make decisions at meetings and move ahead," he observes. "One of the best companies that I've ever observed holds meetings where lots of feisty dialogue and broad-knuckled debate regularly take place."

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of 377 CEOs from the world's 2,000 largest companies found that 47 percent of CEOs devote a "great deal" of personal attention to reshaping corporate culture and employee behavior (more time than they said they spend monitoring corporate financial information)--some of which they do through the company's meetings. Says Dauphinais: "You can observe a lot about a company's culture just by looking at its meetings. Innovative companies have open dialogue during every meeting and action items coming out of them."

Beyond the Bottom Line: Employees Value Recognition Companies that offer cash bonuses and pay raises to keep their best employees from bolting would probably do better to put more into worker recognition and training. A recent survey found that pay placed dead last in a list of eight factors that determine job satisfaction and employee retention, behind recognition for a job well done and training.

Based on data collected from half a million employees at more than 300 companies over the last three years, the 1998-99 Hay Employee Attitudes Study, researched and written by the Hay Group, a Philadelphia-based management consultancy, focused on the difference in satisfaction between two groups: "committed" workers, that is, those who said they planned to stay with their current employer for the next five years, and those who planned to leave within the next year.

The study found that while 58 percent of the committed group were satisfied with their organization's level of recognition, only 30 percent of those planning to leave felt their company did enough to reward high achievers, a difference of 28 percent. Similarly, 59 percent of the committed employees liked the amount and quality of training they received--in contrast to only 32 percent of those folks busy sneaking to the copier machine to run off duplicates of their resumes.

The survey did not find that pay wasn't an important factor in employee retention, only that it wasn't the most important. "Pay is the golden handcuff," comments John Dabnor, director of business development for Tadiran Tele-communications in Clearwater, Fla., "but nothing is more important than recognition and training."

Another interesting finding from the Hay Group study showed which factors had little to no effect on employee turn-over. These factors included the size of the workload, the employer's insistence on high standards, and job security.

-David Ghitelman

1. Type of work

2. Respectful treatment

3. Ability of top management

4. Coaching and feedback from boss

5. Opportunity to learn new skills

6. Training

7. Recognition

8. Pay