Best places to work in IT 2003: The five positive workplace attributes
Over the years I have worked with people in many different IT departments. Some people really enjoyed their work, but others hated it. When I was asked to be a judge for the Best Places to Work in IT, it got me thinking: what conditions do IT professionals need at work to be happy?
Being a terminally logical thinker, I made a list of work conditions which naturally fell into five groups:
- Job interest
- Organisational culture
For IT people, job interest comes from using technology and working with the business. So, if you are using interesting technology in an interesting business, the jobs should also be interesting, and vice versa. Considerate management is needed to ensure individuals are matched to suitable, interesting roles, rather than instructing people to do things they find boring.
The culture of an organisation is difficult to define, but it has a big effect on how people feel about their work and their colleagues. Some organisations have a culture that encourages co-operation, and others a culture that promotes competition. Some cultures are caring, others harsh. The overall culture of the organisation will affect every function, but there will be variations between these functions, with "islands of care" within the harshest cultures.
All managers should be aware of their organisational culture and do all they can to promote a culture that results in people feeling their workplace is a good place to be.
It is often said that money is not everything but it is certainly important when it comes to deciding where to work. A job scoring highly in the other four factors will still not be seen as a good place to work if the rewards are inadequate. Managers, in a good place to work, study the market to ensure that rewards are competitive and do not damage any good work already done in the other factors.
A particularly successful way of rewarding people is performance-related bonuses, as long as the performance measures are sensible and easy to understand. Profit-related bonuses are probably the best way to achieve this.
Organisations with a "hire and fire" culture give little security and are only seen as good places to work in the short term. They can often offer high rewards and good personal development, and employees can discover ways they might want to move on from this culture.
But most people want to work in an environment where the management views job security as important and tries to avoid any redundancies.
Finally, we all like to work in a nice environment in a good location. There are many different views on what this is, but a concerned management will do all that is practical to meet this goal.
The conclusion is obvious: management is responsible for making every effort to make somewhere a good place to work. So often basic mistakes are made as a result of not considering employees' needs. Every manager of people should have their employees' happiness as a high priority.
Andrew Davies is a visiting professor in information systems at Cranfield School of Management