Wednesday, July 28, 1999
Work environment more important to employees

Business Columnist

Today's workplace is different, diverse, and constantly changing.

The typical employer/employee relationship of old has been turned upside down. Workers are living in a growing economy and have almost limitless job opportunities.

This combination of factors has created an environment where the business needs its employees more than the employees need the business.

According to Max Messmer, chairman and CEO, Robert Half International. “For a growing number of workers, corporate culture is the key determinant in their choice to stay with an organization long term.”

To keep employees satisfied today, it takes an entirely different approach than it did just a few years ago. Indeed, one-third of the executives surveyed by Robert Half International Inc. have changed their opinions and now say the work environment is the most critical factor in keeping an employee satisfied in today's business world.

In 1993, only 9 percent said that the work environment was an important factor in keeping employees satisfied.

Other critical factors include the importance of praise and recognition,and compensationeach cited by 28 percent of those surveyed. Six years ago, praise and recognition was at the top of the list, cited by 47 percent of those surveyed.

Other significant changes include concern over promotions. Only 4 percent of executives say that promotions are a big factor in keeping employees satisfied today, compared with 26 percent who said that in 1993.

Furthermore, the importance of compensation and benefits has risen to 28 percent from just 7 percent in the 1993 survey.

The underlying thread is management must realize if its employees are dissatisfied, they can easily find employment elsewhere. The managers and businesses that create a positive work environment will be the winners of tomorrow's workplace.

Management's new challenge is to create a work environment that attracts, keeps, and motivates its workforce.

The responsibility lies with managers and supervisors at all levels of the organization. Businesses must step outside their traditional roles and comfort zones to look at new ways of working.

They have to create a work environment where people enjoy what they do, feel like they have a purpose, have pride in what they do, and can reach their potential.

TD Industries in Dallas, Tex., has a unique way of making its employees feel valued and involved. One wall in the company has the photographs of all employees who have been with the company more than five years.

Maybe that's why TD Industries was listed last year by Fortune magazine as one of the Top 100 Best Companies. To help create a more positive work environment follow my Hold, Keep, Seek and Review strategy.

Hold managers accountable. Managers and supervisors have the biggest impact on the morale and motivation of workers.

They are the ones who can create or defeat the work environment. Therefore, they should be properly selected, trained and held accountable for results, which includes retention, motivation and the other usual aspects of management.

Keep people informed. Mushrooms grow in the dark. Similarly, a business that keeps its employees in the dark is one that suffers from low morale and high turnover. We live in a information rich society with the Internet, E-mail, CNN, cable, satellite TV pumping a steady stream of information 24 hours a day.

People today want to know what's going on. Businesses must communicate at least 10 times better than in the past. Good communication eliminates myths, rumors and bad attitudes.

Seek employee's input and advice. When managers ask their employees for their input, the results are usually positive.

A good example is Guardian Industries, an 800-person glass plant in Indiana. They decided to start listening to their employees and find a better way of deciding how to staff the shifts.

The employees decided that instead of working rotating shifts between day and evening, they would rather work permanent 12-hour shifts. The result—turnover fell by 50 percent.

Review and reinforce benefit plans. I am amazed to see that many employees

have forgotten about or not aware of their benefits. A wise company is one

that periodically reviews and reminds employees of their benefits. This

process could help prevent the “grass is greener on the other side”

effect. Insure your benefits are up-to-date and consider how lifestyle

changes impact on your workforce. Flextime is one of the most popular

benefits today's workforce is looking for.

Free by e-mail/fax: If you would like a free subscription to the Navigator newsletter please fax us your letterhead or E-mail us at 770-760-0581/ P. Smith speaks at conferences, leads seminars and helps organizations solve problems. He leads an organization called Chart Your Course International located in Conyers, Georgia. Phone him at (770)860-9464 or send an email at More information and articles are available at

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