SAS Institute, an international leader in data warehousing and decision support systems and the world’s largest privately held software company, has received considerable media attention for its “utopian” work environment that it has sustained over time. The compelling case story focuses on capturing the essential elements that define the SAS Institute culture: employee-centered values, employee interdependence, a spirit of risk-taking, freedom, autonomy and richness of resources.
Effective Job design has a lot to do with fostering and sustaining motivation amongst SAS employees. SAS has a stringent recruitment process to ensure the cultural fit of its new hires and thereafter gives its employees as much freedom and autonomy as possible. The employees are not micromanaged and are encouraged to try new things and “dig holes” as long as they know when to stop digging. While there is no formal performance appraisal process, there is significant emphasis on manager-employee communications and feedback cycle. Employees receive feedback on performance multiple times a year and also interact with the client to get direct feedback for product improvements. Also, while there is no formal succession planning, job rotation opportunities abound. The view at SAS is that people change careers three to four times. SAS tries to make sure that those changes occur within the company, so the philosophy is to give people the opportunity to get training and skill development in other areas which allows expansion of their skill variety. Employees have the opportunity to move from one project, department or facility to another. They can also move from managerial to individual contributor roles and back again. And, there is typically no reduction in pay for moving to a job without management responsibilities. There is strong emphasis on task identity. As an employee who was lured away from Texas instruments observed “Here I know that everything I do will...
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