Morale Officer Keeps Staff Turnover Down

SINGAPORE (07/13/2000) - Companies lamenting how difficult it is to keep talent from leaving their organizations could take a page out of Scient Corp.'s book.

Since its inception two years ago, this Internet solutions provider has managed to retain a low staff turnover rate of 10 percent, which it chalks up to its positive work environment and culture. Perhaps unheard of among Asian companies is the notion of chief morale officer.

Although Scient has had morale officers in the past, it decided to create a full-time global chief morale officer in January, a position that culminated out of concern for the company's rapid ascent.

Joe Galuszka, Scient's chief morale officer, talks about the importance of boosting staff morale in the competitive Internet-driven marketplace.

Computerworld (CW): What is the relationship between e-business and morale?

Joe Galuszka (JG): There are two aspects to that question. First, the change in the organizational structure based on the new Internet economy has created highly networked, communicative, and collaborative organizations. Think of it this way, traditional hierarchical organizations have been turned upside down as their structures become increasingly flatter.

Second, this process has created empowered knowledge workers, who now have more information made available to them. They have more choices and are discerning about their options. And as a result of this, organizations will need to focus on building the morale, if they want to keep their brightest and best within their organizations, and not lose them to the competition.

CW: Why did Scient see the need to create a global chief morale officer (CMO)?

JG: We've had office CMOs since the inception of Scient, and they have been active in our environment all along. The global CMO position, which I now currently fill, was actually driven by the interest of the office CMOs, who wanted both global coordination of this network and representation of job satisfaction issues on leadership teams.

CW: How has having a global CMO benefited Scient?

JG: Our staff turnover rate has traditionally been half of the industry's average (professional services), which we believe to be in the range of 20 to 40 percent. Staff morale and colleague satisfaction are extremely critical to Scient.

The success that we have built on can be attributed to the aspects of morale, colleague satisfaction, and culture. Since my promotion on 1 April 2000, our attrition rate has held constant, and we hope to maintain this positive trend.

CW: What is the culture and environment like at Scient?

JG: Again, the Internet analogy is very appropriate here. The culture at Scient is highly collaborative, networked, and communicative. It's a fun place to work. We have an open and honest communication policy, which means our colleagues can engage senior management in matters concerning career issues or job dissatisfaction anytime via the phone, e-mail, or in person.

We also take excellence very seriously, and constantly encourage people to challenge themselves beyond the comfort zone to achieve results. Our colleagues are empowered, and are given leeway to leverage their knowledge and expertise within the company. All of these have translated into competitive advantage for Scient, as well as for the marketplace.

CW: What are some of the activities used to boost morale at Scient?

JG: We make our office environment our priority, which is the morale officer's domain. He or she co-ordinates activities specifically organized to build spirits and community of the office, such as rallies and clubs based on common interests.

We also have specific focus on rewarding and recognizing our colleagues for their contributions and achievements. At an organizational level, we stress a lot on community service. You will find that we are very interested in giving back to our local cities, and in the areas where we've businesses in.

CW:What issues do you wish to highlight to both employees and organizations in this Internet-driven economy?

JG: We have a prospective that says office morale starts with a great business plan. And if you really look at the fundamentals, compensation may be the number one factor, which can be a knockout -- that is, until you qualify the fact that it is industry-competitive.

Right now, we are on a level playing field in that the offers are all relatively similar in terms of total compensation. Once that has been qualified, other parameters become equally important, such as the culture of the company, the growth and development potential, the career option, the work environment and the types of people within the company.

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