Fair reward is better than high pay in motivating staff, IT industry veteran George Cox told finalists at Computer Weekly's Best Places to Work awards ceremony.
Cox, former managing director of Unisys and director general of the Institute of Directors, and current chairman of the Design Council, said fair pay was only the beginning of the challenge.
To become a great place to work, organisations had to think proactively about training, career development and work-life balance. And to get this right needed backing from the very top of the organisation, he said.
Drawing on personal experience, Cox laid down guidelines to help organisations improve their working environments.
Highlighting the need for a fair reward system, rather than just offering high pay, he said, "I can point to people in the City who feel aggrieved towards their employers over a £500,000 bonus."
Tying bonuses to quarterly results, rather than to the end of year results, can dramatically improve productivity. "Providing a real incentive is important."
Organisations need to think carefully about work-life balance if they want their workforce to be productive, said Cox. If managers work long hours, this sends the wrong signal to staff in the rest of the organisation.
"We do not work nine to five in IT. We work what is needed. I am prepared to work whatever hours are needed, but I am not going to work all the hours God sends because I have a family and a life.
Recalling a boss who barred him from taking his briefcase home from work when he was a young manager, Cox said he learned that, "if you cannot take work home, you will be forced to do it in the day or delegate.".
Too many organisations did not recognise the potential of their employees, or take steps to stretch them and grow their skills.
Employers should be prepared to invest in training and career development of their staff, said Cox. Doing so will attract good people to them, and when people leave, they are more likely to sing the praises of the organisation than give it a bad name.
l Making IT departments good places to work must become an increasing priority for employers, as IT investment continues to recover, David Hallett, client services director of Sun, told the Best Places to Work awards ceremony.
"Now as we are coming out of a recession, we feel we are on the cusp of a renewed take-off. The demand for resources is going to become more important," he said.
"Systems have to run 24/7. IT people cannot stop while computer systems are running. No pay packet can make up for the fact that work has stopped family lives. People don't do it for money. They do it for loyalty to the company," he said.
Cox's tips for a good place to work
- A reward system that is fair and awards the efforts of staff is more important than how much people are paid
- Managers need to win the trust and confidence of their workforce. Once it is lost, it cannot be recovered
- Companies have to think about the work-life balance. A long hours culture does not improve productivity
- Engage employees in company objectives
- Make sure you recognise the potential of employees, develop their skills and give the work to stretch them
- Companies need to be able to manage a diverse workforce as the demographics of the population changes
- Companies should commit to training and career development for their staff
- Job security is no longer about working for the same employer for life. It is about developing marketable skills.