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How employees' perceptions make the difference

I’ve been thinking a lot about the nontangible things that drive employee perceptions of a company and how they connect to job satisfaction. For instance, I have a friend who stayed at a low-paying, high-stress tech job because his boss took him out to lunch every Friday at a wood-paneled fancy restaurant and filled him in on all the corporate gossip. That lunch couldn’t have cost more than $30 a week, but it was enough to keep my friend content and pulling 65-hour workweeks for peanuts.

It’s not just my friend. Once, I was interviewing for a job that I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to take. It was one of those situations where you kind of owe it to someone in your personal network to go to the interview, even though you know that you don’t want the position. What’s more, they couldn’t afford me — they knew it and I knew it. But the thing that gave me true anguish about turning them down? They had these great chairs. They were perfect: They contoured and supported, and made you want to be creative. Man, it’s been four years and I still think about those chairs!

On the flip side, I have another friend who quit a job because of Facebook, of all things. You see, her company’s network was aggressively locked down and she had put up with it for years (not to mention finding elaborate and innovative ways to get around its blockades). But then the company blocked Facebook at the API. It might have had valuable reasons for blocking the social media site, but that was the straw that broke this apathetic employee’s back: She felt that if she couldn’t be trusted to maintain her virus protection; not click on stupid, obvious Trojans; and maintain her Facebook usage to breaks and lunchtimes — well, it was clear that her company no longer respected her as a thinking adult.

As we face a possible double-dip recession, the greatest fear for many CIOs is that they have apathetic employees who are simply biding their time, waiting to leave. No one wants a dead-weight employee. You know what the guy with the steak lunch and the lady with the banned Facebook had in common with my coveted chairs? They’re all examples of employee perceptions of how much they are valued by the company. Whether justified or not, sometimes tangible gestures get translated into employee job satisfaction (or dissatisfaction).

Sometimes, when times are tight and we can’t reward our employees with salary increases and are asking them to put up with five-year-old hoopty laptops, it’s up to the leadership team to keep thinking of employee retention strategies and ways to make it magical.

Arm those crappy laptop users with some cheap SSD drives so your IT workers aren’t constantly running out of storage space. Pillage those leftover monitors sitting in the empty cubicles from the last workforce reduction, and give your employees two or three if they want. It seems silly, but it really is the little things that keep your employees pleased with their decision to partner with your company. And it’s the little things that make them decide to break that partnership, either by leaving completely or by simply checking out while still gathering a paycheck.

The fabled dot-com boom days weren’t entirely off-base. We don’t have to buy everyone an Aeron chair, but concern for workers’ creature comforts can go a long way toward keeping them happy, without necessarily tapping a salary budget item. It all comes down to being creative about how you razzle-dazzle your workers and manage employee perceptions.

Speaking of salaries, we want to hear from you! How’s your personal bottom line this year? We’re conducting a salary and job satisfaction survey of CIOs and IT professionals. Your responses are completely confidential and will be only part of an accumulation of responses in the reporting. Not only will we send you a copy of our survey results, but you’ll also be able to download a copy of our latest research report on the changing role of the CIO. And as if that’s not enough, you can also enter to win our prize giveaway.

Take the survey!

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