Money talks in employee rewards

Financial bonuses gain preference over internal recognition, survey finds

A market scarcity in skilled IT workers and increasing costs of living have been said to be leading factors in a shift in how Australian employees prefer to be rewarded for good work.

More than two thirds of the 1,881 IT employees recently surveyed by recruitment agency Hays Information Technology showed preference for being rewarded in cash, while 15 percent valued internal recognition and 16 percent preferred non-financial bonuses such as weekends away and gym memberships.

The survey findings represent a marked change from those of a similar survey conducted by Hays in April 2006, in which nearly half of the survey respondents were said to prefer internal recognition, with only 9 percent valuing non-financial bonuses, and a mere 42 percent of employees preferring cash rewards.

According to Hays' regional director Peter Noblet, the way in which employees are rewarded for hard work or successful results has a significant role in employee engagement - which, in turn, has repercussions in employee retention.

"Financial rewards such as bonuses or an earlier salary review have become increasingly important to employees over the past 12 months," he said. "Consequently, an effective reward strategy needs to incorporate cash components."

"Business activity has increased and people are generally busier in their jobs," Noblet explained. "Coupled with the knowledge that we are in a candidate-short market and given higher grocery, petrol and mortgage costs, employees' emphasis has moved to cash payments rather than non-cash benefits."

However, electronics vendor Altium Limited's Chief People Officer, Kerri-Ann Wilson, is careful not to overlook the importance of non-financial benefits in acknowledging employee contribution.

"Often companies neglect the value that talented people place on aspects -- things like challenging work, career development and the opportunity to make a difference," she said. "In our experience, the non-financial benefits and internal recognition are just as important as the financial rewards."

On top of their salary packages, share options and profit-sharing, Altium employees enjoy the benefits of free meals, gym memberships, mobile phone plans and free car parking; conveniences that Wilson expects to make the lives of Altium employees a little easier.

And the benefit scheme seems to be paying off for Simon Moulton, a 32-year-old system support worker who has been employed at Altium for five months.

"Being given just monetary rewards would be less personal than the benefits we get at Altium," he said. "The value of having free meals each day, a computer rebate and the range of services provided - if these were taken away and you were given a salary increase instead; the real value of these rewards would be lost."

Joel Tow, an Altium software engineer and recent university graduate, agrees, citing the "little benefits that come along" as a drawing card in his six-month-old relationship with the company.

"Following a specific project I worked on recently, I was also given a non-financial reward for my work which was really appreciated and totally unexpected," he said.

"If it came to the question 'would I work somewhere for more money', that's great in the short term," he said, "but the other benefits provided at Altium provide for a more sustainable environment for my long term growth."

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