No success for the nation's Scrooge's

Almost a century of tradition ended the other week. One of the businesses that I had worked for finally shut it doors.

Almost a century of tradition ended the other week.

One of the businesses that I had worked for finally shut it doors.

About a year ago, its manager took me over the road for coffee, presented me with a large cheque and told me to be on my way. However, any feelings of schadenfreude I had over the final failure of the enterprise was more than offset by friends losing their jobs and a small town losing an important part of its heritage.

The chief executive of the company blamed small-town economics, even though last year he shut a business in the big city. “I close one every year” could be written on the family crest.

The “Young Master”, for it was he once again, denies he is the “world’s worst executive”, noting that he still has his job.

Of course, being part of a family business helps.

Where does IT come into this?

The relevance lies in the difference between the "old" and "new" industries, and moving with the changes they bring about. This old-style employer took a Victorian attitude to staff management. Badly paid and worked to death, the workforce moved on when they could, or Young Master got a henchman to quicken the process. People had little input to, or faith in, the feudalistic management and their talent was only recognised by their next employer.

Investment was minimal, even in basic equipment to let people do their jobs properly.

By not sufficiently investing in future development (internet or e-commerce, maybe), by not giving people adequate resources, by not making staff feel involved and part of a team, ultimately his enterprises failed.

Looking at this month’s Best Employer awards in fellow IDG publication Unlimited, and a similar recent Australian survey, patterns emerge. Generally, IT and other "new economy" firms tend to be the better employers. No doubt they have to be as IT workers are in short supply. But they seem to find a “third way” between the unionised, rigid days of the past and the flexible, neo-slavery of some firms today.

These "new" companies still work their staff hard; hours remain flexible and often long to meet present needs. But the brighter and more successful realise much depends on their staff and there must be give and take on both sides.

If staff need to work late one night, then let them finish early another day. If workers deserve a holiday in Queensland, then give them one (as one did). That way, employers earn staff loyalty.

And it is not all about money. One IT employer that rated poorly for pay makes staff feel valued in other ways, which is why they stay.

Elsewhere in this issue, the Ministry of Fisheries admits it is not the best payer, but it claims success in involving staff in decision-making and making the work for its IT staff "interesting".

I, too, could have moved on to better paid work since arriving here. But as Computerworld is a far better employer than my recent ones, I am happy to stay. (Great, glad to hear it--Ed.)

Over Christmas and the New Year holidays, just weeks away, many workers will reassess their employment and look at moving on. New Year, new job, fresh start, that sort of thing, or maybe it is only over the long holidays some people finally find the time to get the CV ready and look for work. Either way, expect much staff movement come February-March.

For the "bad" employer, this means trouble ahead. More so in 2001,as the IT shortages are expected to worsen.

They could find themselves suddenly and extremely shorthanded. Coincidentally, perhaps, Young Master closed the stable door just after his finest horses had bolted.

For the "bad" employers, there is still time to butter up staff with unexpected Christmas bonuses, bottles of wine, lavish parties and other morale boosters. Tell the accountant it matters not what these goodies will cost, but how much more it will cost to lose people.

Ebeneezer Scrooge was hardly the must successful businessman in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.

And these days, Bob Cratchitt would not be so loyal. He would have done a runner ages ago

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