Sunday, August 13, 2006

It is all about Money

It's not all about money, work survey finds
Employees' commitment tied to good environment

Lee U-Wenu-wen@newstoday.com.sg
14th July 2006

So, money isn't everything after all — even when it comes down to determining how committed one is to a job.

Just one in four employees said money was an important factor in driving job satisfaction, compared to 56 per cent who chose having a good working environment as their key motivator.

A new survey on employee engagement released yesterday by the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI), which involved 127 companies that employed between 50 and 800 people, found that monetary rewards may have played a significant role in attracting people to a company, but in driving employee loyalty and commitment, cash plays a small role.

Instead, topping the list of motivators are: A good working environment and bosses who involve staff in decision-making.

Indeed, there seems to be a large gap between what workers truly want and what bosses are willing to offer. Take good career prospects, for example. In the poll of 127 workers, more than half ranked this of third in importance, out of a list of 10 job satisfaction factors (see table). In contrast, nearly four out of five companies (78 per cent) placed this value second-last in importance.

This indicated a distinct lack of awareness on the management's part of the wants of the workers, said the institute.

Its executive director, Mr David Ang, said: "Companies in general are not up to the expectations of their employees. Perhaps companies don't regard things such as career prospects very highly because they eat into business costs. But now that they are starting to realise the worth of their employees, perhaps things will change."

Such disparities in perception are believed to have an adverse effect on staff turnover, too.

In another SHRI workforce survey released yesterday, nearly half of the 61 respondents said their company has difficulty retaining staff, citing three top reasons: A better paying job in another company (71 per cent), better prospects (71 per cent) and failure to move up the corporate ladder (44 per cent).

And when it comes to hiring older workers, Singaporean employers are, surprisingly, more than happy to do so.

A key reason is that most bosses have fewer problems with a mature workforce. Four in 10 companies said they are keen to redesign jobs to meet the needs of older workers.

SHRI also found that 75 per cent of workers describe themselves as "engaged" in their work, meaning they are committed to their work and enjoy it.

The most engaged employees are those working either at universities or voluntary welfare organisations (83 per cent).

Only 55 per cent of workers at small and medium-sized enterprises say they are engaged in their jobs.
I had been daydreaming.

I dreamt that I was heading a Department. I was giving good results, meeting targets aggressively and paid well. Unfortunately, I had a nagging feeling of restlessness. What's wrong with me?

Maybe it was the departure of my good friend Mark who was made redundant last month. Big Boss said market was tough, need to cut costs to stay 'competitive'. So, half the Department was 'outsourced' to external contractors who could do it at 70% of the costs of doing it ourselves.

Maybe it was the talk in the grapevine about the company re-locating to China. The engineers in China cost one-fifth that in Singapore.
Maybe it was the letter inviting me to sign up for "Eldershield". I am now officially a statistic of the 'elderly'. And the elderly in Singapore are not particularly popular.

No. I think I know what's wrong.It is my mother. She's been watching these serials about "Yue Fei" recently. And the politics in the serials bear such a striking resemblance to what is happening in my company that I am beginning to see shades of "Yue Fei" in some of my colleagues. They are not quite popular with Big Boss.

We all know what happened to "Yue Fei". Loyalty has its costs. And I don't fancy being a "Yue Fei" for anyone.

So. That's why I am restless.
In the past, I had pledged company loyalty in return for lifelong employment. Now, with the rapid pace of change, the adoption of hire-and-fire practices and outsourcing, this compact is shattered.

It would be too onerous to expect any company to look after me under an increasingly competitive environment. Even if your direct boss wants to, his boss might not.Likewise, I don't think any company should expect company loyalty from me too.

Instead, I will look after myself, whether the company involves me in decisions or promises me excellent career prospects, or otherwise.

Which is why I am quite puzzled by the findings of SHRI.Issues like involvement in decisions and career prospects had been highlighted as the most important components of an employee retention strategy.

Perhaps the respondents were all young workers, who look forward to being heard and promotions ahead of them. For me, "Cash is King", as Oscar Wilde once said: "When I was young, I thought that money was the most important thing; now that I am old, I know that it is."

Of course, it does not mean that money can solve all problems.But, money forms the base.Without the right salary, you cannot even start to talk about recruitment or retention.

To be sure, strategies like involvement in decisions and career prospects help.But, if the SHRI is trying to advise employers that the way to secure employee loyalty is to involve staff in decisions and enhance their career prospects, then, I think it is too naive.I do not think any employer can expect employee loyalty, regardless of what they can do.

And there is sometimes very little an employer can do.In an environment as competitive as we are now, employers are sometimes as much a victim of the larger environment as employees are.So, if they cannot look after themselves, how can you expect them to look after you?

For me, the bottom-line is still Cash.
It's the only thing that counts.
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