A few years back, I found myself in an argument with our IT department about standard equipment and refresh policies for my team. They wanted us to move off Macs and standardize on Windows, use small monitors and buy new computers every 4 years instead of 3.
There were obvious challenges with this plan. The time to migrate tool chains from Mac to Windows. The flight risk of asking my pro-Mac team to use Windows. Rather than get into a financial argument, the solution was a simple piece of context.
Payroll cost me more than 50% of my budget.
Buying top quality hardware, every two years, for every employee will cost me about 1% of my overall budget, or 2% of my payroll. ★
And that’s it. People were my most valuable resources. Better to invest a small amount in them, than nickel and dime them for the equipment they needed to do their job. Engineers spend almost all of their time working in front of their computer. Buying good hardware tells my team “I care enough about you and the quality of your work to give you the best tools to work with”. You might say : “You could have given everybody a 2% raise”.
A 2% raise has minimal positive impact on employee satisfaction, morale and engagement.
Particularly for tech workers who have already passed the “happiness threshold” with their pay. Whereas a new computer – a tangible thing that you use every day – makes a difference.
Only 30% of employees in the US are engaged in their work. A small change in engagement makes a big difference to company performance. Gallup research says that companies with engaged employees are ~20% more productive, profitable and have significantly fewer defects in their products.
There are many drivers of engagement; they are endlessly studied. My experience has been that showing employees you care about them and you know them helps drive engagement. You don’t even have to go fight for nice hardware. You can do this through things that are even less expensive compared to salaries. Here’s some other things I’ve done :
- Given everyone a budget to spend on any training activity they choose.
- Setup an unlimited book budget that anyone can use. ★★
- Made sure to look people in the eye and say hello, by name, when I see them.
- Let the team buy gadgets and gizmos with a default “Yes” policy (e.g. Raspberry PIs and quadcopters)
- Hand-written birthday cards for everyone, thanking them for their specific contributions to the team.
- Bought the “nice” coffee once in a while.
- Took 40+ people by ferry to a nearby island for the sole purpose of getting an ice cream.
Now make your list of little things you could do to show your employees you care. Make them things that your people will care about. Being thoughtful in your selection also shows that you care about them and understand who they are. Picking the right thing is more important than the monetary value. Most employees don’t need Napoleonic brandy or trips to Hawaii to feel worthwhile.
★ Salaries were half my budget, so spending 1% of overall budget on equipment is a 2% increase on my salary spend.
★★ Don’t worry about unlimited. Only some people will buy books, and those people don’t buy more book than they can read.