Tight job market forces companies to coddle workers
Businesses try flex time, mentoring, and concierge services to retain
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With all the downsizings in recent years, employees want to feel they are learning new skills that could help them get a new job. But Mr. Stinson and other human-resource experts say the educational process actually helps retain employees. They feel valued and respected.Skip to next paragraph
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AT&T also has a formal "golden rule" for its bosses and employees: Treat others as you would like to be treated. This rule, says Stinson, helps workers deal with diversity, harassment, and boss-subordinate issues.
"The No. 1 reason people are leaving companies is that they don't trust or respect their managers," notes Ms. Farren.
*The NPD Group, a market-research firm based in Washington, N.Y., has set up a formalized mentor program. Employees can choose the individual they think will help them better manage their goals and initiatives, says Vicky Niems, human-resources manager.
This is part of a program that has "paid off" in lowering employee turnover and improving morale, she says. Employees must spell out with their manager a career-development plan, which includes specifying a replacement in their present position. Employees rotate assignments every two years or so to learn more.
Management provides as much flexibility in work hours as feasible. Sometimes this involves a compressed work week or working partly at home. Instead of sick days and vacation days, employees get a "time bank." They can take that number of days off in a year without specifying why they're doing so.
"We don't ask," says Ms. Niems.
Hundreds of noncash techniques are being using to keep employees satisfied. Many deal with the time shortage faced by two working parent families and single parents with kids. Others attempt to satisfy workers' common desire to feel valued and make career progress.
San Diego consultant and author Robert Nelson speaks of the need to make jobs more satisfying. That can often be done by involving workers in decisionmaking, especially when it affects their jobs. He also points to a survey finding that 66 percent of employees would give up part of their base salary if they had flexibility in their work hours. It ranks higher than health benefits for most employees.
Flex time 'boomerang' awards
At TRW Inc. in San Diego, he notes, employees can work nine-hour days and take off every other Friday. "Do this a few times, and pretty soon you really like it," says Mr. Nelson.
At the American Automobile Association office in San Diego, employees successfully completing a project can "dump a dog." They can give another project they don't like to their manager to complete. This, says Nelson, gets managers more involved with staff.
A San Francisco high-technology firm gives departing employees a grand send-off and a "boomerang award." One end cites the date of departure; the other end is blank for date of return.
One key to keeping employees, says Farren, author of "Who's Running Your Career," is for bosses to appreciate the uniqueness of their staff members, to assess their individual capabilities, and align their aspirations with the needs of the company.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society