Employee Care: The Best Solutions Are Sometimes the Simplest

Contributor:  Wael Al bassam
Posted:  04/23/2012  12:00:00 AM EDT
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The best solution to our problems may actually be the nearest or the easiest. Sometimes it seems so easy that we doubt its effectiveness.

I had a quick discussion with a CEO who called me once for advice.

“I have a serious problem in my organization,” he said.  “We are facing difficulty in attracting talents, and difficulty in keeping the ones we already have. We cannot even motivate our employees to perform well or become punctual. What should we do?”

I knew that this is the most common issue with organizations in his region, so I asked him, “What did you do for your employee?”

He replied, “Of course we gave higher salaries, but that has not changed the attitude.” He was surprised when I told him that was a prerequisite to employees and that they would never consider increasing the salary as a factor that would impact behavior. Human beings move to a higher level of needs once the basic one is achieved. For example, assume the basic level of need is to get a job and a stable income. Once this is achieved, a human being will now be interested in having job security in his current job rather than acquiring another job somewhere else. Sure enough, once the job security is achieved the employee will aspire to potential growth at the job, and so on.

This all goes back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and this requires a lot of attention to employees. Most organizations focus on their financial results to monitor their success, while mature organizations also give a lot of attention to other perspectives like their customers and their internal processes. Very few organizations give enough attention to their employees and genuinely care about their concerns.

Jim Goodnight, the CEO of SAS, says in an article entitled Doing Well by Being Rather Nice, “Everyday, the most valuable asset of my company goes out of the door, and I must do everything possible to make them [come back] the next day happily and willing to work”. Organizations should find out ways to show their employees the appreciation for their contributions. That will address the need for belonging and help employees feel engaged. Engagement is the solution for many turnover problems, like the one above.

This solution may seem quite obvious. When you have a problem with people, you should deal with issue from the “people perspective” and not from the financial perspective. It is true that both perspectives are related, but the focus is totally different. The starting point is to understand employees’ needs and concerns. Then put suggestions for addressing these concerns. Then evaluate the results and cost effectiveness. Finally implement and evaluate results. Some companies like SAS started with very small things like giving out free M&Ms. When they found results encouraging, they gave more and more as the return on investment has proven effectiveness. Now, they ended up building huge facilities for sport activities, fine dining, child care, and health care that provide their employees with almost everything they need—and for free. They do not discuss salary increase; they talk about competitive pay. Once an employee feels that he/she is paid fairly and they are provided with extra care from their employer, even another offer with a higher salary would never be more attractive.

I remember a Google employee once said: “I am willing to go on working for Google even if they stop paying me salary. The extra benefits and care that they provide me with almost covers all my expenses.”

I have once suggested a medical scheme for parents of a company that suffers from low-Saudization. They were surprised that the turnover rate and their offer acceptance rate have improved immediately. This has proven that this type of tools is very effective for Saudi nationals and the local culture that appreciates filial gratitude/parents care.  And there are many other examples and ideas that can be implemented and would show better results through “Employee Care” approach.

I believe it is high time we shifted our focus from the basic compensations and benefits approach to solve people issues, towards showing care for our employees. A tailor-made initiative that is suitable for our culture would be much more effective than a higher pay.   

Wael Al bassam Contributor:   Wael Al bassam

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