Software house keeps staff happy through open management style

The key to a happy workforce is involving staff in company decisions and giving them a financial stake in the company.

The key to a happy workforce is involving staff in company decisions and giving them a financial stake in the company.

That is the advice of Jethro Eastwood, head of IT at Middelsex software company Data Connections, which won the Best Places to Work in IT 2003 Award in the IT software, services and hardware SME category.

"We have excellent communication with senior management, and we know what is going on in the company," said Eastwood.

"Every member of staff gets to talk to everyone in their management line, including half an hour with the chairman or chief executive every nine months, so everyone gets a chance to air their views and ideas."

Because the IT department's end-users are themselves IT professionals, developing software products, the IT staff are very closely involved with their user community.

"Having technically focused users is more fun, because they keep us on our toes. Some of them know more than us on certain topics, so we have to keep on top of the game," said Eastwood.

"The kinds of problems they give us are more technical, and the questions they ask are quite tricky, so it makes our lives more interesting. We also get to work on new technologies before they are released, because if a business unit needs that software for their development work we set it up for them.

"We are very focused on the end goal - if the user needs something done urgently, say for a customer demo, then we will set it up for them."

Data Connection's IT department also works with the latest releases of Linux (Red Hat, Caldera and SuSE), Solaris and HP-UX operating systems.

Employees have a stake in the company's profitability. Data Connections is owned by an employee benefit trust, and staff are beneficiaries of the trust sharing the profits. "Profit sharing reaches from the chief executive to the cleaning staff," said Eastwood.

However, it is not a standard annual allocation, where everyone gets the same.

"The profit sharing is related to your contribution, so you really feel you are getting recognition for your work, and the profit sharing factor can be a significant element of your remuneration," said Eastwood.

Biannual staff social outings - such as skiing trips to Switzerland - have also proved popular.

Data Connection also encourages staff to give something back to the local community. "We are heavily involved in local affairs in Enfield," said Eastwood.

"We give 2% of profits to charity, and help as many local charities and organisations as possible, especially those for disadvantaged children, the sick and the elderly.

"We are very keen to be seen as an important part of the community as our employees are part of that community - it all adds to the totality of involvement."

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