Bringing the Charm War Home

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Where job satisfaction is concerned, compensation is the main thing but not the only thing. Bank managements, already looking to polish their public image, might do well to extend the charm offensive to their own work force.

A recent Bloomberg News column by Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter lays out 12 low-cost items business leaders can give employees to boost morale.

Cynics would brand this a cheap trick meant to defuse dissatisfaction with bonuses or salary levels. But we at eFinancialCareers News believe some workplace perks have real value. We've even opined that employers who take the lead in restoring benefits slashed during the downturn might grab an early edge in talent retention. Kanter evidently agrees.

Coming from a consultant who works for managements (i.e., not for you), her suggestions are inevitably a mixed bag. They range from useful, to impractical, to embarrassingly corny.

Here's a few examples of each:

Useful

The gift of time: "Can a deadline be extended? Work hours more flexible? Cancel a routine meeting. Send people home early."

Personal introductions: Handing out "new leads, prospects, or connections."

Convenience: "Add to the services available on the premises. Find more ways to order in or have things delivered."

Impractical

Rule suspension: Remove the most frustrating and least necessary rules. (But what would compliance say?)

Peace in the office: "A period of amnesty or apology for past conflicts or troubles."

Name recognition: Kanter advises naming portions of hallways after individual employees, or having a "graffiti wall of signatures," or video monitors whose displays rotate among names and perhaps photos of people who work there.

This is a small-scale application of IBM's famous (and effective) 1970s practice of renting out sports stadiums and calling top revenue producers onto the field one by one via the PA system, to the applause of thousands of colleagues. In finance, though, I suspect producers respond to only one kind of reward.

But I do see some value in a lower-key version of the same idea (also among Kanter's suggestions): notes and photos about positive events, framed for display, sent by bosses or teammates.

Embarrassingly Corny

Surprise entertainment breaks, provided on the premises by dancers, acrobats, singers, or other entertainers drawn either from local schools or talented employees.

Bosses serving staff: "Senior executives could cook and serve breakfast, deliver the mail, or do valet parking." Uh huh.

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