Say thank you 15 million ways

by 03 Feb 2012

Bus operator Ken Grenda is being hailed as Australia’s most generous boss after handing out $15m in cash to his staff as a reward for their years of service and loyalty.

The 1,800 workers at the Victorian family-owned bus company Grenda thought their banks had made an error when they discovered thousands of dollars in their accounts – some employees received as much as $100,000.

The business was recently sold for $400m after being run by the Grenda family for 66 years, and the family patriarch was keen to play down the ‘best boss’ moniker. “I don't see any point in CEOs taking out millions of dollars all of the time. You know, that just doesn't appeal to me. A business is only as good as its people, and our people are fantastic,” Grenda said.

Managing director Scott Grenda told ABC’s PM that the benevolent gesture was an obvious extension of the ethos underpinning the company – a family-run company that values its staff.

One of the largest cash bonuses ever paid to all employees was by General Motors last year, when the auto manufacturer handed out bonuses to its 26,000 salaried employees. Factory workers received bonuses of at least $4,000, while some white-collar employees received as much as 50% of their base pay.

While workers are obviously happy to receive extra cash, two workplace experts advised employers that money won’t buy loyalty or happiness from an employee.

Anthony Grant, director of the coaching psychology unit at the University of Sydney, told the Sydney Morning Herald that while financial security was obviously necessary, handing out cash bonuses would not encourage employees to work harder or faster, and would certainly not be a deciding factor in staying or going.

In terms of keeping an employee happy, employers need to do more about ensuring an employee has proper resources and respect, and that their mental health is considered.  “If they don't have the resources to do their job well, not just adequately, this will not just demotivate people, it will really piss them off,” Grant said.

He added that what works in the long term is having a strong team culture, recognition and respect, and most importantly, not having employees feel like they are part of a machine, or ‘just a number’.

Dr Keri Spooner, head of postgraduate HR management at Sydney’s University of Technology, said making an employee feel recognised can be as easy as “providing lunch at a meeting”.

Spooner said the biggest mistake employers made when handing out incentives was not considering what behaviour it encouraged. “Money does not buy loyalty and it doesn't buy commitment. It is such a common commodity that if that is all that is keeping you in a job, all someone has to do is offer you more and you’re gone," she said.


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