12/10/2011 - 10:51

‘Brand’ power loses out to security at work

12/10/2011 - 10:51

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Pay and conditions leads work-life balance as the top workplace incentive, according to a new survey.

IT’S official, again; more Aussies and Kiwis dream of working for Google than any other organisation.

The Insync Surveys and RedBalloon ‘2011 Dream Employers Survey’, Australia and New Zealand’s largest public employer of choice survey, attracted more than 7,100 responses from the general public.

For the second year running, Google clearly took top position as the employer of choice. The survey also found people’s desire to work for themselves is as strong as ever, with self-employment ranked second, moving up from third place last year. 

These were followed by Virgin Group, Qantas and Apple, all of which featured in the top five last year.

Head of people operations Joe Krayer says the key to Google’s success comes from not looking at programs in isolation, [but] using a multi-faceted approach to motivate and provide a culture that recognises employees.

“The foundation is our very competitive compensation package consisting of base pay, equity and bonuses, which isn’t surprising given the company rolled-out a global 10 per cent pay rise in 2010 to all employees,” he says.

“All compensation programs are closely tied to performance and designed to reward employees for building innovative solutions for users and business partners.

“We have in place robust reward and recognition programs, [where we] reward employees via excellent benefits and unique perks, such as massages, sleep pods and fun off-site events. Googlers often tell us their biggest reward is our unique culture and the ability to work with amazing co-workers on products with a global impact.”

Money talks in 2011

The top three drivers that make a ‘dream employer’ in 2011 are:

• pay, benefits and conditions (38 per cent), up 11 percentage points from sixth position in 2010;

• work-life balance (37 per cent), up nine percentage points from third position in 2010; and

• culture (36 per cent), down three percentage points from second position in 2010.

This is a notable shift from last year when the top motivation was brand or company reputation, dropping from 41 per cent in 2010 to 27 per cent this year. 

Mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton both made the list – Rio entering the top 20 for the first time and BHPB jumping up the ranks from 20th in 2010 to ninth place this year. The survey results came only a week after BHPB announced a net profit of $22.5 billion for the 2010-2011 financial year, the biggest in Australian corporate history. 

According to economist Saul Eslake from the Grattan Institute, this shift away from brand reputation in favour of companies that can offer financial security speaks volumes about the state of the economy.

“It’s true that people are becoming more anxious about their finances in the face of rising costs of living, increased taxes, fears of higher interest rates, declines in personal wealth through superannuation fund  losses and decreased house prices,” Mr Eslake says.

“Wages have been pretty static since before the onset of the GFC, so in the face of all these developments it’s perhaps not surprising that employees are attaching greater weight to pay than they were last year.”

According to RedBalloon founding director Naomi Simson, however, companies may be left wanting if they put all their emphasis on the size of pay packets.

Happy workers

Less than half (40 per cent) of respondents are satisfied with their current employer, 45 per cent are planning to look for another job in the next 12 months and only one third (33 per cent) are prepared to recommend their employer.

When asked what they most want to improve about their workplace, the top three gripes were: systems and processes (41 per cent); communication (39 per cent); and rewards and recognition (38 per cent).

Ms Simson says reward and recognition programs are vital in attracting, developing and retaining key talent. 

“Paying people fairly is an absolute must, but cash rewards don’t inspire employee loyalty, with studies showing that non-monetary incentives have a higher perceived value, being 24 per cent more powerful at boosting performance than cash incentives,” she says.

“The survey results support what we have known for a long time; the feel-good generated by a pay rise only lasts as long as it takes for the extra cash to be swallowed by the mortgage or credit card payment.

“Offering flexibility, building high levels of employee engagement and giving employees the opportunity to learn and develop with a sense of purpose will be crucial once the thrill of a fatter pay cheque has worn off.

“Companies that ignore the benefits of having reward-and-recognition programs in place will pay the price with higher staff turnover and reduced productivity from disengaged employees. And worse still, they could become damaging brand ‘badvocates’.”

The latest research confirms that employees want to know their work is meaningful and connected to the organisation’s goals. It is strong communication that creates this link, as people feel respected and empowered if they’re informed about things that matter to them.

It is the day-to-day working environment that really affects engagement and morale, and this is clearly displayed by these three key areas for improvement. 

Employees should be the biggest advocates for an organisation, helping win new customers and attract new talent, but most employers waste this opportunity. If organisations could harness the word-of-mouth power of passionately engaged employees, the bottom line impact would be potent.

What’s new?

We’re increasingly attracted to careers that provide the opportunity to do something that matters and adds real value to our lives, with the police force and defence appearing on the top 20 for the first time.

The top 20 ‘Dream Employers’ as voted by the public were Google, self employed, Virgin Group, Qantas, Apple, Microsoft, OMD, Walt Disney, BHP Billiton, Getaway, United Nations, police force, Vodafone, NASA, Rio Tinto, departments of defence, Commonwealth Bank, Cadbury, Facebook and Lonely Planet.

New to the list in 2011 are NASA, Rio Tinto, Cadbury, police force, departments of defence and Facebook. 

Making way for these new additions are Sydney Water, Coca Cola, eBay, Salmat and ABC, who have all dropped from the top 20 this year.

• James Garriock is CEO of Insync Surveys


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