More than a Paycheck

We’ve all heard that it’s not necessarily money that keeps employees loyal. Read the latest research and you’ll find a whole list of things that are on the wish list for today’s employee. Yet many employers still see the solution to their retention problems as having to do with dollar signs. Throw more money at ’em and they’ll stay.

Well to some extent, this is true. Money pays the bills. It helps us fulfill the kids’ wishes for a Play Station 2. And helps us add to their college funds. And let’s face it: we want the toys – cars, computers, vacations – that prove that we are successful.

Employee Retention and Loyalty. These are the buzzwords of the new millennium. With unemployment at an all time low in most areas, and a generation of workers who aren’t afraid to leave your organization if the grass seems greener elsewhere, what’s an employer to do?

The first reaction for many employers is to throw more money at the problem. Higher wages means higher retention, right? If you pay the wages, you’ll keep the employee. While this may be so in some cases, it’s not the cure-all for this universal problem.

Today’s employees value their family relationships. Some say they won’t work long hours and miss out on family things the way their own parents did. Others see society’s trends or society’s failures with high crime, unsupervised teens; and others see the result of low parental involvement in the calls where they respond and vow not to let that happen to their families. Regardless of the specific reasons, this generation of worker is just following the trend of going back to basics: Families first, family values.

In fact, for many employees, it’s not about money at all. For instance, in many police departments, officers who work road patrol usually make more money than administrative officers because of the overtime opportunities. One Generation X officer who’s been on the job for less than 10 years says that her family comes first, so she’ll stick with assignments on day shift. So far, she’s taken two multi-year assignments off of road patrol to accommodate this desire. In a different department, another officer was considering a promotion but decided against it. It meant going to an administrative position rather than a road position, and it was going to be a significant pay cut. However, in the course of discussing the options with his wife, his young daughter came up to him and asked if his new job would mean he would be able to spend more time with her. He took the promotion.

Of course, the difficulty comes in trying to accommodate family schedules in an profession that operates around the clock. It’s just not possible to assign everyone day shift with weekends off. Since there is no formula to combat your officers’ desire to spend more time away from work, the only option is to make their time at work as pleasant as possible. This is where the concept of a positive organizational culture comes into play.

By demonstrating the positive aspects of being at work (the way we treat you, the way we recognize your efforts, the autonomy we offer you) rather than on what may be perceived of as negative (you’re here instead of at home, no one really cares about you here anyway), you help your employees develop a sense of belonging at work. While the police family couldn’t (and shouldn’t) take the place of the actual family, it can make an undesirable situation bearable or even enjoyable.

Another strategy for helping employees deal with this work/life balance is to offer other types of desirable compensation. What “perks” can you offer that can ease the sting of a police officer’s schedule? Opportunities for cross training? Uniform drop off for cleaning? Health club or exercise room benefits?

Of course, at this point, you may be saying that a police officer’s schedule is 24/7 – take it or leave it. Unfortunately, the labor pool is small enough and the competition large enough that you may have to look for some of these less-traditional answers to our attraction and retention plans.

There is no easy answer to today’s retention issues. But administrators armed with understanding about new officers’ attitudes toward family and a willingness to offer other options are on the right path to employee loyalty and retention.

by Pam Wyess
(c) 2001 NetWork Training Group. All rights reserved.

Posted by Pam Wyess in Employee Rentetion.

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