Managing purchase orders: this time it’s personnel

Managing purchase orders can be complicated, but if done right can accelerate employee development and define a great company culture.

Managing employee purchases: shopping trolley

Google London employees have a coffee lab. John Lewis organise clubs, societies and trips for their Partners. Employee development and wellbeing has become a big part of a company’s image, helping attract hires and customers alike.

But it’s not just a case of buying some beanbags: the responsibility of managing a budget for employee wellbeing can be overwhelming, complicated and controversial. Finding the right approach for your company takes research and understanding, but is well worth it; it can accelerate employee development and define a great company culture.

Focus on the individual

Claiming expenses for a train ticket or a new desk chair hardly gives us the same buzz as treating ourselves to the latest MacBook. Claiming expenses is about ensuring your employees aren’t out of pocket because of their job. Unlike expenses, however, the wellbeing of the individual worker is what drives the decision-making process of employee purchasing.

Employee purchasing allows staff the opportunity to invest in themselves with the financial support of the business, whether it be through a magazine subscription or gym membership, so it makes sense to allow them some input.

Before you let your staff blow their whole budget on Nerf guns, however, it’s important to understand a little about the psychology behind purchase decisions so that you can build the foundation of an effective, manageable system for everyone.

Keep an open mind

To begin with, it’s key to remember that everyone responds differently to various products and services in relation to their own wellbeing and development. You can’t place a scale on the value of wellbeing and development purchasing, so case-by-case reviews are crucial to managing purchase orders effectively.

(Of course implementing a system for reviewing such requests is lot easier when you use an effective purchase order management tool like Turbine.)

Say someone puts through a request asking your company to fund weekly French lessons. Do you reject it on the basis that you don’t even trade in France, and don’t see the value to the company of John from accounts learning the language of love?

Managing purchase orders: Paris

While that’s a valid reaction, you need to realise that John may have sent the request after reading about how learning a language can help him develop skills in memorising figures.

Keeping an open mind as to what purchases can be valuable for the company encourages staff to think about how they can to develop work-related skills in a way that is the most effective to them on a personal level (and maybe even fun too).

Articulate, our sister company, used to offer staff members a subscription to the Harvard Business Review. Learning essential business skills from a well-respected magazine is not to be sniffed at, and of course was gratefully received.

However positively the staff responded, though, the subscription was unlikely to be the best possible investment into everyone’s individual development and wellbeing. Once the system changed to one that put staff in control of their allowance (dependent on manager approval), some subscriptions were swapped for things like natural sunlight lamps, language courses and writing workshops. It’s vital to place trust in the fact that your staff know what’s best for them and want to invest in what works.

Managing purchase orders: Journals

Don’t worry about bang for your buck

It’s important to remember that the money spent on a purchasing budget is not the most important aspect of managing purchase orders. A range of items costing the same amount will have different perceived values depending on who is paying, who is benefitting and what choices are available.

A system that carefully considers value on an individual basis will naturally quash unreasonable requests and nurture conscientious choices. Plus, funding purchases that workers may have made from their own pockets increases the perceived value, making them feel invested in on a personal level and better motivated to be great employees.

While slides and astroturf are great, a little individual focus on an employee’s wellbeing can go a lot further.

(Hat tip to Senor Codo, Moyan Brenn and Library of NC for the images)

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