NONTRADITIONAL EMPLOYEE REWARDS ON THE RISE Salary increases for white-collar workers this year will average a modest 4.2 percent, according to the 1997/1998 Compensation Planning Survey, conducted by William M. Mercer, Inc., the New York-based human resources consultancy. However, "employers are putting more dollars into incentive programs of all types today, and will continue to do so in the future," says Philadelphia-based Mercer principal Charles M. Cumming.
Why the increase? "When you give a reward in salary," Cumming explains, "that reward gets repeated every year thereafter regardless of performance. But if you have an incentive program that results in any kind of reward, that has to be re-earned each time. An incentive can go down based on performance--salaries only go up."
Non-monetary recognition awards are used by a full 61 percent of the 1,600 mid-size and large companies that were surveyed, while another 14 percent are considering using them. "Most companies have some form of recognition where a manager can reward an employee for doing something unique or particularly well, such as an Employee of the Month program," says Cumming. Rewards can take the form of anything from a television to theater tickets to a plaque.
The annual study also showed that compensation practices are changing across the board, both in terms of alternative salary programs--such as competency-based pay programs and skill- based pay--and more flexible work arrangements. For example, 59 percent of the companies offer flex-time and another 13 percent are considering it. "It's a tight labor market," Cumming notes. "Companies are trying to find any way they can to become more attractive to prospective employees and to retain those they have."
Sharon Buchbinder BOOT CAMP AND BUDDIES: AWARD-WINNING MOTIVATION Practices like the BuddyCoachMentor program and HR Bootcamp have won Gensler, an international design firm headquartered in San Francisco, the third annual Arthur Andersen Enterprise Award for Best Business Practices in the arena of motivating and retaining employees.
"Having an 'open organization' has been part of our culture from day one," says Laurie Dreyer-Hadley, director of human resources for Gensler. "We've doubled in size in the past two years and have had less than five percent turnover--compared to 25 percent industrywide."
Dreyer-Hadley says that although no company "can force people to be nice to each other or to continue to learn and to grow, you can create an environment where such things are easy and natural." Gensler's BuddyCoachMentor program does that from employees' very first day, when they're assigned a "buddy" to show them the ropes--from how to use the copy machine to how to navigate the social structure of the company.
Each employee also has a "coach," someone who works with them to help them become the best professionals they can be, to help them to learn and to grow.
"Mentors," however, either happen or don't, Dreyer-Hadley notes. "We encourage mentoring, but it's not something we can force," she says. "When it does happen, it's different from a coach in that a mentor helps an employee evaluate the best career and professional moves for that person in the long run, rather than simply what works best for the company right now."
Dreyer-Hadley also attributes the firm's high retention rate to the fact that everyone in the company owns stock. "We know that if the firm makes money, we all make money," she says.
Other motivational tools include focus groups and anonymous surveys about policies; ongoing training, including HR Bootcamp, where senior staff learn about "people" issues; and numerous reward and recognition programs, including bonuses, profit-sharing, and recognition based on peer nominations.
Sharon Buchbinder THE CARE AND FEEDING OF EXPATS: THEY NEED TO MEET! Formal repatriation training programs dramatically cut therate of employees returning from overseas assignments, according to a recent survey by Runzheimer International. The Rochester, WI-based consulting firm reports an attrition rate of five percent in companies with structured programs, compared with a 22 percent attrition rate at companies with no program.
Yet, despite this success rate, only 27 percent of the 93 international relocation managers surveyed said their companies offer repatriation programs. "Based on the tremendous knowledge and experience gained while on an expatriate assignment, as well as the company's huge financial investment, it seems foolish and counterproductive not to provide this type of training," says Gary Vose, Runzheimer's director of international services.
Training covers such topics as career development and business planning. The programs also include a series of meetings for the expats with home office staff. "One of the problems is that companies wait until the expatriation process is finished to talk to the expats about their careers," says Vose. The process needs to begin at the time the employee accepts an assignment, he says. And it needs to continue throughout the assignment, with expats returning home at least once a year for meetings with management, marketing, and other key departments.
Forty-five percent of companies with repatriation programs start their programs before the foreign assignment even begins, 29 percent begin the programs during the overseas assignment, and 25.8 percent wait until the assignment is completed, according to the survey.
SUPERIOR SERVICE: WHAT YOUR MEETING HOTEL COULD TEACH YOUR COMPANY The hotel and retail industries lead the way in customer service among the five service-sector industries. That finding is based on a survey of 181 American companies by researchers Aleda Roth of the University of North Carolina, Richard Chase of the University of Southern California, and Chris Voss of the London Business School. In addition to hotel/catering and retail, the researchers studied the health care, utilities, and professional/financial industries, basing their findings on industry-by-industry performance as well as general industry practices.
Among the findings: * The hotel industry pays more attention to customer service than any other sector, focusing on the appearance of the properties themselves and of staff, and how well employees manage customer interactions.
* Professional services such as legal and architectural firms are "surprisingly weak," the study found, in terms of practices and performance.
* Financial services companies rely on low interest rates and a booming economy to satisfy their customers, while banks and insurance companies focus on cost containment.
* Government agencies are the least service-oriented sector.