High-frequency trading company "Optiver" has been revealed as Australia's top workplace in the 2013 Best Places To Work study.
The study was conducted by Great Place to Work and was publicised in BRW Magazine.
With only 203 employees in Australia, Optiver’s success is proof that creating an engaged, happy workplace is not just about throwing the big bucks at incentives and bonuses.
The study was made up of 179 competing workplaces and their 25,905 employees nationally. At least 20 of the top 50 employers on the list could be described as IT companies. High-frequency trader, Optiver, is a finance company, but hires a lot of software engineers.
The managing director of Great Place to Work Australia (which produces the list), Zrinka Lovrencic, says the reason IT-related companies provide the best working conditions is a combination of three factors:
A worldwide shortage of good software engineers; Profitable employers with unmet demand for staff; A population of well-educated Generation Ys with great expectations.
"Good HR departments are now focused on what motivates employees, and hiring exactly the right ones," according to Lovrencic. Having well-oiled recruitment, training and management functions serve as the basis of being a great place to work, which enable trust, teamwork, open communication, a healthy culture, and ultimately let high performance flourish.
ABOUT OPTIVER: Optiver generates large numbers of instructions in fractions of seconds, using automated trading software to move in and out of stocks, options and futures. The firm has no clients, and makes its money by identifying and trading on market imbalances.
Last year, after Optiver placed 22nd in the Best Places to Work list, Managing Director Paul Hilgers put the focus on three areas where he thought the organisation could improve: community, recognition and communication. Part of this includes a buddy system, where new recruits are teamed with a buddy to help them learn the ropes, giving ethics training and making a real effort to cut “red tape” and bureaucracy.
Catching up regularly is another part of fostering community. Whether it's sitting down to eat food together, or having a regular Friday afternoon catch-up, Optiver puts a lot of effort into encouraging relationships. The CEO has a strong belief that a team produces better results than individuals, so having a team environment is not just about comradery, but plays a big part in performance.
There is also great emphasis on open communication with the top. Staff can contact Hilgers or other directors using instant messenger; they can follow and like each other’s internal blogs on the groupware platform, WikyBlog; or they can post an anonymous comment through Tumblr, which is also linked to the group’s internal system. Staff are encouraged to ask questions and give honest feedback about what's working and what's not.
Zrinka Lovrencic of Great Place to Work sees good communication as a key criteria of a great workplace. Included in the list of best companies to work are firms that had redundancies such as Quicksilver, a surfwear company, which handled the task of addressing job cuts by open communication and commitment to help affected workers with outplacement services.
Lovrencic says it takes more than a high salary, having a foosball table in the company lunchroom or any other perks or benefits to retain quality staff. "There is an ever growing interest in understanding the connections between culture and performance. What we see in our research are companies that really take culture seriously."
Read More: See the full list of Best Places to Work 2013.