Can you see any hidden dangers or traps in the happiness

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Case for critical thinking

The IT industry: from ping-pong tables to nap rooms

In BRW's list of The 50 Best Places to Work in Australia, every one of the top five places is filled by an IT company. Google, E-Web Marketing, NetApp Australia, Juniper Networks and Atlassian lead the list. In fact, 20 of the 50 organisations in the list are IT companies, despite the fact that only 2 per cent of Australia's workforce is employed in IT-related roles.

Here's how E-Web Marketing founder Gary Ng describes his company's philosophy of attracting and keeping the very best people and, more importantly, keeping them motivated during their time with the company:

We try to mix competition with a little fun, so we have go-karting tournaments, gaming nights with Google, which means that instead of counting apples every day we put some fun into it ... You cannot have happiness and fun without success, because staff need a sense of achievement ... Our company decision-making is transparent and the staff get involved as much as possible so they feel like it is their business as well.

E-Web Marketing's office also includes a room in which staff can take a quick nap, a ping-pong table, themed departments, bean bags, video game consoles and a karaoke machine. The company offers every employee 200 hours of training each year. Given that the demand for IT workers far exceeds the supply of qualified applicants, such perks communicate to employees that their companies value them and wish to retain them.

Why do IT companies like E-Web Marketing focus so heavily on looking after their people? According to some, it is essential for IT companies to recruit, select, develop and retain the very best employees who suit this kind of work, since having great people is the key to creating and maintaining competitive advantage in the dynamic IT sector. Consider two employees of Google, for instance. Leticia Lentini joined Google in 2005 when the company's Australian office had only 17 employees. After ten interviews, she moved recruitment and payroll until she become, in 2006, Google's events magician - tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that Google's many events from sales presentations and seminars to product launches, go often without a hitch.

James McGill, a programmer at Google Australia, says of his job at Google Australia

What we do every day at work is genuinely difficult, the problems we solve really interesting and every conversation I have at work is fascinating. That's what's so great about coming to work. Everyone is so interesting to talk to.

It's clear from this quote that McGill's social needs are being met (well, being more than met!), and his self-esteem is being generated at a great rate as he reflects on working at a such great company with wonderful, ever-fascinating colleagues. It is also clear that Jam is into self-actualisation - because he's convinced that he works in the best job in the world.

What about some of the other IT companies on the list? While IT staff often have to work ridiculously long hours with real intensity, fast -growing IT companies tend to be tensed characterized by relatively informal workspaces and provide many perks for the services of the employees - for instance; healthcare subsidies, additional time for leave, games massages and free food. Juniper Networks, for example, provides additional super annotation contributions for its employees. Three-quarters of the staff of Juniper telecommute work from home or elsewhere), so the boss sits at the other end of an 'ask' button on e company's Intranet site Atlassian provides five days per year to each employee to engage in voluntary work of their choosing, and also provides a $10 000 referral bonus to any employee who attracts a friend or contact to work at the organisation. Like Google, Atlassian gives staff 20 per cent of their time to work on projects of their own choosing. It has a philosophy of making all of its information available to employees, from its revenues to its costs and profits. NetApp Australia offers 20 weeks paid maternity lease to its employees, as well as over $4000 in health insurance contributions for each of its staff.
Arguably, it is much easier for the E-Web Marketing's and the Google's of this world to offer such bounty to their staff. When a company is established from scratch, its leaders have a huge amount of freedom to design the workspaces that they want; create the reward systems and values that express their desired culture; and, where they achieve rapid profitability or have money to invest, pay their people attractively and provide all sorts of and perks that most organisations could never afford to. Does this make the IT companies exemplars of best practice in motivating and rewarding people, or does it make them outlier and exceptions that are worth a quick look but little else - because, quite simply, the rest of the world lust doesn't work like that?

After all, doesn't everyone want to work at an organisation that looks great, has a sense Of fun, goes out of its way to look after them, and makes them feel that they are contributing to something greater than themselves? It they are not in the highly profitable IT sector how can today's managers and leaders even begin remaking their organisations in these ways?


1. Do you agree that the IT companies described in this case study have lessons for every organisation? If so, what are these lessons?

2 In sectors such as government (also known as the public sector), managers have relatively little room to move in providing the kinds of perks discussed in this case study. What else can they do to make their workplaces more attractive and motivating?

3. Can you see any hidden dangers or traps in the happiness that James McGill expresses about his life Google? List and describe two or three of the potential downsides to James's view of work.

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Reference no: EM13847864

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