The huge demand for staff in the industry may have played some part in IT companies dominating a best employer survey in Australia.
Hewlett-Packard was best employer out of companies with over 1000 staff and Apple Computers Australia was best with under 1000 staff.
Runners up in the annual survey were Com Tech Communications and Cisco Systems.
Other IT winners in the larger employer category include Cable & Wireless Optus (9th) and TeleTech International (10th). In the smaller employer category are - Nokia Australia (3rd), Bain International (4th), Sun Microsystems (5th) and Acumen Multimedia (10th).
The survey of 1000 employers was performed by the Australian branch of global management consultants Hewitt Associates, who compile a similar best employers list for Fortune magazine in the US. Hewitt Associates found that the secret to being a good employer was not about money, or perks like massages, but staff feeling that they are well-led and excited by what the company does.
It's about fun, being given opportunities, training and flexibility. But most importantly, about being heard and feeling valued. The survey found IT companies were most generous in part because of the current IT labour shortages.
Hewitt Associates calls these values "engagement" - the degree of satisfaction, loyalty, and dedication that employees feel towards their company; for larger firms something usually driven by deliberate company policy and processes.
An employee at Apple Australia said working at the company was more of a religious experience than a means of making money. "Everyone who works here truly believes in the company, its products, policies and direction." Apple credits its success on a flat hierarchy, an open door policy to top management, plus and regular social events, including staff breakfasts. Education and training is ubiquitous, salaries are generous, along with leave, bonuses and profit sharing. Staff can also nominate co-workers for awards with prizes like free holidays.
Hewlett-Packard offers business trips, career development, stock options, and flexible working hours, such as letting certain staff play golf on Friday afternoons. Everyday, fruit baskets are taken to the kitchens, there is a gym and subsidised canteen, plus BBQs and gardens for staff use.
HP says this creates a staff turnover of 6% to 8%. It also reports an average working period for staff of seven years in an industry where people usually stay two at the most.
In addition to the usual training and stock options, companies also offered other perks such as free breakfasts and lunches, free alcohol, entertainment discounts on movie and theatre tickets, bounties of $1,000 or more for recommending a successful staff recruit, a cake on your birthday, and a wine-tasting club.