Everyone Wins When Businesses Treat Employees Well

By Samuel Greengard

It seems like common sense: treat employees well and you’re likely to improve performance. However, on the front lines of business and IT, there is no shortage of companies that stumble. Some overwork employees, others create a hostile environment filled with mistrust, and still others make it difficult for people to accomplish much of anything.

For every Costco, Whole Foods and Google, there are dozens of laggards. A 2013 Gallup report, The State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders, found that only 30 percent of workers say they feel engaged and truly connected to their employer and the work they do. The price tag for this “active disengagement” falls somewhere between $450 billion to $550 billion annually.

Yes, it takes more than motivational posters and catchy slogans to light a fire under workers. In IT, the challenges are even greater because demand for key skills is enormous and shortages have become a chronic problem.

However, according to a recent CBS news story citing Russell Investment Group, stock in Fortune 100 “Best Employer” firms delivered an 11.80 percent return—about twice the general market.

What creates a best employer company? For one thing, employees must feel they are doing something important and making a difference in the world in some way. At Whole Foods, for example, it’s creating a more sustainable business and a better world one organic green bean at a time. Within the IT department at your firm it may be coding apps to provide really cool and useful features for employees or customers.

For another, employees require more flexibility and autonomy than ever, including flextime programs, DevOps initiatives and agile IT. Industrial-age business models no longer fly and command-and-control management paradigms no longer work. What’s more, workers—particularly Millennials—desire the latest and greatest tech tools and devices. They view technology as a perk.

Of course, some firms—Google is one of them—allow employees to fly off into the wild blue yonder and pursue projects of interest. Some of these eventually spin into corporate initiatives. Others, like brewery Samuel Adams, hold competitions and sponsor other activities. The common denominator? Employees who are engaged and genuinely like their work.

The key is to understand what clicks for a particular company and a culture. As CIO, it’s critical to ensure that enterprise tools are in place to support a more collaborative, flexible and agile work environment. Information technology doesn’t make a best employer, but it can certainly break a company.

About the Author

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read his previous CIO Insight blog post, “Forget Outsourcing, Think Smart Sourcing,” click here.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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