People do want to work well and be rewarded

People want to work well and be rewarded.

Imagine working for a boss who allows you time off each year to volunteer at your favourite charity; who encourages you to keep fit; lets you decide the hours you work and provides social outings and free lunches. And these are just a handful of the perks employees enjoy at some of Australia's best workplaces.

You may wonder whether any work would get done but the reality is that productivity is not affected, says Zrinka Lovrencic, a director of workplace consultant Great Place to Work Australia. They are also 300 per cent more profitable than the rest of the market, she says.

Each year Great Place to Work produces a list of the 50-best companies to work for in Australia. Google, Netscape, Atlassian, Physio Co, OBS and Ikon have all appeared on the list. The winning formula is a culture based on encouragement, trust, openness and a strong customer focus.

“They understand that 90 per cent of their intellectual property walks out the door each day,” says Lovrencic. “So what are they going to do to make sure it returns the next day?

"Employees want to feel valued and appreciated, and they want to contribute.

''It's not about putting in a pool table or a games room. It's a philosophy that says employees are appreciated."

Lovrencic says old-school thinking - "you're getting paid to work here" - just doesn't cut it any more.

"Times have changed, the markets have changed and employee expectations have changed," she says.

"If your corporate strategy is to sustain a mediocre performance then old school is fine, as this gets the bare-minimum effort from employees.

"If your aim is to outperform your competitors, then attracting and fostering extraordinary employees is needed. People do want to work well and be rewarded."

Lovrencic says employers must open the lines of communication. "Ask them what they like about the company and what support they need to help the company reach the next level."

Anne Archer, a director of Forge Consulting, specialises in workplace management and productivity. She says to get the best out of staff, employers must encourage engagement and commitment.

"To achieve this you need to understand what employees value, apart from reward and recognition," Archer says. "Then put in place a series of sustainable initiatives. These are often about a work-life balance and might include one day a year to work as a volunteer; allowing people to work from home or job share; maternity and paternity leave; or making it possible to buy extra holidays.

"Sustainability of these initiatives is critical. You can't give on the one hand and withdraw further down track without disenfranchising staff."

Becoming a sought-after employer is about creating a work environment that encourages creativity and innovation, she says.

"This means ensuring the workplace is one which enhances productivity so you maximise efficiency and effectiveness. This, in turn, helps minimise frustration. Show your employees you are truly committed to fostering them to ensure they reach their full potential."

In a recent survey, The Australia Institute found that about one-third of the workforce reported experiencing stress and anxiety as a result of their work.

Executive director Dr Richard Denniss says these workers usually had little say in their conditions and inflexibility in their workplace.

"Many of these people head off to work with very little idea about what time they are going to finish,'' he says. ''This is a result of poor planning and preparation on management level.

''In the long run the workplace systematically creates an environment where workers can't plan their personal life or look after their health. This not only leads to poor communication and lower production, but an increase in absenteeism and ultimately, high turnover.

"People want to be part of a successful company. A successful work culture demonstrates that the employer has faith and trust in staff, rather than someone looking over their shoulder and telling them how to do their job," he says.

What do you think makes for a brilliant boss?