Sunday, 4 February 2007

Why would you want to work for someone?

I found this story after reading something about the huge bonuses offered to the executives at Google (exec bonuses is a rant for another day). It's about the top 100 companies to work for in the United States. At the top is Google, which isn't entirely surprising if you look at the percentage of people they recruited in one year. Although staff turnover wasn't mentioned - that would have been an interesting figure to see.

Microsoft is way down at 50. As the two corporations compete against each other, this could be seen as a big blow. MS is a much bigger company too, so you would think it could afford a better environment. However, you have to think of what makes a good environment. Is it facilities? Is it the atmosphere created by the team you work with? Is it the knowledge that you will be well paid for your hard work? Is it basic job security? (I say basic because it's low down on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.)

There's no single answer for everyone. It's likely that it's more than one thing that makes the ideal environment for someone too. As this is such a complicated issue, there have been many theories about how to make employees happy.

Apart from Abraham Maslow, there was also Elton Mayo and Frederick Herzberg who had popular theories.

The image below is a diagram of Herzberg's Two Factor Theory:
Two Factor Theory
You'll notice two things - Hygiene factors and Motivation factors. Here are some examples:

  • Working conditions
  • Quality of supervision
  • Salary
  • Status
  • Achievement
  • Recognition for achievement
  • Advancement to higher level tasks
  • Growth
This page shows the results of the different combinations of hygiene and motivation. It's clear that high amounts of both equals a happy worker. However, does a company invest money and time in all of the examples, or just some of them. If it doesn't get it right, then staff turnover increases and productivity goes down (I should mention at this point that staff turnover can be deceptive if you have a large amount of employees on short term contracts). Also, smaller companies might not be able to invest enough to get the balance.

Mayo's theory was the Human Relations Theory. He stated that:
"One friend, one person who is truly understanding, who takes the trouble to listen to us as we consider our problems, can change our whole outlook on the work."
What this means is that he believes that working relationships (especially with management) is the most important thing. If you make friends at work, they can make the day go quicker and they may even improve the way you do work because of their different background and possibly greater experience. If you work well with the management, it's likely that they'll be more receptive to what you say and you could get further in whatever business you're in. However, this is a two-way thing. The management have to be open to the ideas of others. Without that, people leave and profit takes a dive. For a full list of points from Mayo's theory, click here. The problem with this theory is that even if the workforce gets along with each other and can easily talk to the management, the business won't be a success if the facilities aren't appropriate/up-to-date/of a certain quality.

What a business should do is ask the existing employees what they want. If it's possible, then they should invest in it. Note the word possible though. If management says yes to everything, they may make promises they can't keep or get into financial trouble if they way to get a thing is to spend money. As well as ask, they should observe. Observation can get different and/or more information that can be useful.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Employment, Jobs


Alfred Thompson said...

The bigger the company the harder it is to afford better benefits. It is a matter of scale and the laws of large numbers. That has long been one of the problems of working for a large company. Google is still pretty small in terms of the dollars of income per employee. We'll see how well they do if they get larger.

gretchen said...

Alfred is right. And beyond the cost of providing benefits, it's also more difficult to please large groups of employees as the company grows. The larger a company, the more diverse its workforce is ... and the more varied priorities those employees have. With a smaller company, it can be easier to implement benefits which may please a greater number of people (because of similar age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, background, etc). It's a trade-off of being larger and more diverse.

Company size, benefits, culture, etc - these are all important factors a jobseeker should consider. It's all about finding the right experience.

Also, as an aside, I'm not putting on my pro-MS hat here ... but I don't put a lot of stock into those lists. I know how they work from the other side. :)