Don't show them the money

If you think your employees are only concerned with wages and promotions, you may need to think again.

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By  Brid-Aine Conway Published  April 6, 2008

Researching and writing ACN's various pieces on IT employment (‘Singled out' in March, ‘Vanishing act' in April and the upcoming article on remuneration in May), a few things became clear to the ACN team.

The first thing is that, despite evidence to the contrary, not everyone is going to run into their manager's office shouting "Show me the money!".

No one can deny that making money is the main reason people work, but it does not seem to be a large part of why people go into the same job every day. Once a person has established him or herself in the employment market and is earning a decent wage, they don't give up wanting pay rises, but they do start looking at the other prospective benefits of having a job.

Training staff and offering opportunities to move around in the company (be it upward or sideways) are relatively obvious ways to motivate employees. There are very few jobs where the day-to-day operations don't become repetitive and boring with time, so staff need to know that when that happens, it doesn't mean their time at the company is over. Most people like to be challenged, to have something new to think about and do, and not offering that can be the equivalent of installing a revolving door.

Once upon a time, people felt lucky to have any job and when they got one, they stayed in it for life. They were trained on the job for the job and generally weren't qualified for anything different from the job they started out in, and promotion was difficult and time-consuming since it usually involved waiting for your superior to retire, or even to kick the bucket.

A global (if unevenly spread) rise in education and living conditions has led to a totally different kind of employment market. There are more jobs and more people qualified for those jobs. In a number of industries, including IT, there are more jobs than there are people to work them, or at least so it seems at present. Any industry suffering a skills shortage has to become inventive in the way it attracts and retains staff.

Wages, training and benefits become hugely important but what is surprising how important other aspects of the job can be, which many managers overlook. While all the CIOs and trainers interviewed for April's feature on skills and training agreed that offering training was a great way to retain staff and keep them happy, many also added that good working relationships with colleagues, and especially direct managers, was a big part of retention too.

Many bosses would not believe that observing and managing personal relationships was part of their job, but it is basic psychology (Maslow's hierarchy of needs) that once a person has money in their pocket, a roof over their heads and the prospect of continuing up the career ladder, they start to need relationships with others that make them feel like they belong and are respected in a group.

Of course, managers cannot treat staff like unruly children and interfere heavy-handedly in their give-and-take, but ignoring a single disruptive and unpleasant character could lead to unhappiness throughout the team.

Perhaps this is something that Middle East companies are already hearing from their HR departments, but it is not something that they have had to listen very hard to up until now. It wasn't so long ago that the money to be made was enough to attract employees to the Middle East, but economic changes both here and abroad mean that wages are coming into line with, or even falling behind, what's offered elsewhere.

Business psychology has not been at the top of the agenda when it comes to recruitment for regional enterprises, but now is certainly the time to get familiar with the concepts if they hope to compete in the employment market.

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