According to The Age, Coles is attempting to buy its way out of a morale crisis by offering big bonuses to up to 80 senior staff to bind them in golden handcuffs until 2008.

In my experience as a recruiter of retail managers, job satisfaction and morale are rarely about money. Retention is about suction, about creating an environment in which people want to participate. It is the only way to retain staff in the long term.

Good jobs involve transitions – and there are really only four – new products or services, rapid growth, a change of culture or keeping the venture off the rocks. Coles can certainly offer transitions; but good managers need another element. Good managers want to feel they can have a positive impact on their company’s journey.

There are many forces that can powerfully influence judgement. The three most powerful are pain, nausea and waking up each morning with the feeling that you have to go to work.

Create or allow an environment where managers feel they can’t make a difference (either because the task is too great or the tools or training are inadequate) or where they do not get the personal recognition for their contribution, and you will find yourself in a place where no amount of money will retain key staff in anything other than the short term.

In a company where the workforce is in the thousands, offering this deal to a select few will not only have limited success; it will have also sent a horrible message to the vast majority. This is an army that is offering inducements to the generals and colonels, but ignoring the majors, captains, corporals and everyone else. We don’t need a rocket surgeon to guess what that might do for morale in the trenches.

Peter Fray

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