The importance of give and take

by 13 May 2008

As competition for good people grows more intense, talented candidates have much more choice when it comes to selecting a potential employer. Candidates take many things into account when weighing up job offers, and some of the more important, long-term factors are not immediately apparent at the interview stage.

A good workplace culture, flexible working hours and supportive management are all important factors when it comes to retaining good employees. These factors are also key to discretionary effort – that elusive commitment whereby employees are willing to go the extra mile, and thereby contribute significantly to increased productivity and the bottom line.

A 2004 Corporate Leadership Council survey of 50,000 employees around the world found that only 11 per cent of employees exhibited a very strong commitment to their organisation, willingly assisted others and consistently tried to improve. More telling was the fact that 76 per cent exhibited only moderate commitment, and neither went to great lengths to avoid work nor take on responsibility.

The study also found that commitment drives effort and is the key to unlocking discretionary effort from employees. Those with the highest commitment levels provided 57 per cent more discretionary effort than employees with the lowest level of commitment, while high levels of commitment can improve performance levels by 20 per cent.

So, discretionary effort is important, and give and take is one of those concepts that is key to discretionary effort. Whether give and take manifests in the form of a good workplace culture, flexible working hours or supportive management, they all have a significant bottom line benefit.

As competition for talent grows more intense, executives and managers who appreciate the importance of such factors will possess a significant competitive advantage over companies that do not appreciate the importance of give and take.