People, not perks, the key say listers

Keeping staff happy may be a matter of challenging and inspiring them rather than coddling them with cash and perks, according to IT companies on a New Zealand list of the best places to work.

Keeping staff happy may be a matter of challenging and inspiring them rather than coddling them with cash and perks, according to IT companies on a New Zealand list of the best places to work.

“We don’t go out of our way to be the best place to work,” says Ron Stroeven, a director of Information Tools. “Our goal is prosperity.”

Information Tools appears at number four on the list of the best workplaces produced this month by Computerworld stablemate Unlimited. The editors particularly noted the company’s low 8% staff turnover and that it had the fewest number of respondents who were likely to leave in the coming year.

Stroeven says the marketing technology company tries to foster an enjoyable environment and encourages employees to assist one another.

“It’s pretty important that you hang on to people, particularly with us, because we are in a niche market so it takes a while to bring people up to speed,” he says.

“We try to have very much a help-each-other-help-the-client-type culture.”

Staff work flexible hours, can work from home or even abroad, and the company operates a reward scheme, Stroeven says.

Intergen managing director Tony Stewart (pictured) says his company appears on the list because staff enjoy working together on challenges.

“The key thing is the people,” he says. “We have got a really good environment, we have got really good people.

“The people here enjoy working with each other. They’re challenged by what they do. Everybody understands what it is that we’re trying to do in the company; we share information on a weekly basis.”

Intergen, which appears at number six on the list, offers shareholdings to employees but expects them to pay for the privilege, Stewart says. “It gives them a proper sense of ownership rather than being a gift.”

Intergen does offer a few perks. There's an XBox on premises and the social club is "pretty active", says Stewart.

Microsoft appears on the next spot on the overall list, but is the top-ranked medium-sized company (100-399 employees).

Managing director Ross Peat (pictured) says the company gives its staff responsibility, challenges and some fun.

“It is important to provide [staff] with a highly empowered environment, where they each carry a lot of responsibility for their area of business and can make decisions on behalf of the company,” Peat says.

Microsoft provides “a highly stimulating and open environment, where people are challenged and excited about what they do,” he says.

“We put every effort into making sure that everyone gets to play hard as well as work hard. It’s about being flexible and about trusting our people to be the best that they can be.”

Microsoft staff commented on the flexible hours. One noted that Microsoft’s R&D spend — $US6.8 billion — is equivalent to the US space research budget. Others praised the tools and procedures they company offered to get a job done.

Other companies on the list include Express Data at number eight, Nokia NZ at 14 and HDS at 15. Unlimited produced the list based on the online responses of 13,000 employees from 128 organisations.

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