Why knowing your staff better can improve motivation


A generous reward budget can, in some cases, work in opposition to its effectiveness. In 1930, Hollywood introduced the Motion Picture Production Code, or ‘Hays Code’.  It imposed a level of censorship previously unseen and pretty much banned everything, from men and women appearing in bed together to ridicule of the clergy. The result was that filmmakers got creative. And storytelling became more imaginative, subtle, clever, humorous and, ultimately, richer.

Why knowing your staff better can improve motivation

Limitations on reward spend can force you to re-evaluate and focus on what really matters. Here are a few suggestions about how to get to know your people better, so you can make your benefits programme more effective, without spending a fortune.

Create a dialogue

Simply supplying a long list of benefits with names like Critical Illness Cover, Income Protection, Pension, Workplace GIA and Life Cover does not speak directly to the individual. Get your people thinking about the stuff that matters to them: health, emotional wellbeing, financial wellbeing, relationships at work, work/life balance, managing stress, holidays, family, moving house, buying a car, fulfilment at work, happiness. Show them that these things matter to you as well.

Chances are that you will have benefits that address all these things, but change the way you talk about them. Talk about the benefits of your rewards, not just the features. The visceral impact of talking to people about things that are relevant to them will vastly outweigh any restrictions in cover levels or diversity of benefits.

Listen to the research and stats

A poll by the US firm Interact on 1,000 workers cited lack of appreciation by their managers as their number one complaint (63 per cent).  When contribution is recognised, motivation can increase by 60 per cent.

Motivation and Satisfaction of Employees in the Workplace (2017) published by the University of Maribor, Slovenia, showed that older employees are more motivated by flexibility in the workplace, working at their own pace, autonomy and the perception that they are being treated equally.

We’re not short of studies and stats, but take note of the themes. Recognition. Flexible working. Being listened to. Time and again these are identified as prime motivators and, by and large, they come without a price tag. Do you have a culture of thanking people? Do you allow flexible working? How do you know what your people want and do you ask them?

Findings from studies and research is plentiful nowadays, and much of it free to access. 

Get to know your people better

Drill deeper and start to find out what the stats look like within your own organisation. Interrogate usage stats on flexible benefits platforms. Get engagement stats, Net Promoter Scores, from your benefits providers – they will be happy to supply you with these. Gather data yourselves and kill two birds with one stone; a survey is a great way to show that you care about the opinions of your employees, and you learn more about their motivations at the same time. Exit surveys are also an invaluable way to understand why people leave you, and allows you to address systemic issues.

Use these insights to apply greater focus to your reward programme. Do people really value Discount Vouchers or Wine Club memberships? Do they need 9x Life Cover? Ditch the benefits that people don’t value. Re-allocate budget to the things that matter. If you have a reward strategy, on what data is it constructed?

Think Total Reward

A study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development published in 2017 shows how employees think their current financial wellbeing and motivation could be improved. The top result, at nearly 70 per cent, was ‘earning a higher income’.

Total Reward Statements are still not that common, but they can be so effective in showing an employee the total value of their reward package. And this is often much higher than an employee had ever expected. Simply presenting an employee with this information can change their perceptions. They will start to view their earnings as a much higher ‘total reward’, not just the monthly pay packet. 

Consider the cost of increasing everyone’s salary by three per cent, and then set this against the cost of introducing Total Reward Statements. If higher salary is seen as a key motivator, then achieving this perception at a fraction of the cost of actually delivering it is worth considering.

So, to summarise, regardless of your reward budget, focusing on your staff and getting creative may be all you need to improve motivation. Talk to people about subjects that matter to them personally. Learn from the data, both at a high level and at a local level – ask your people what they want and act on the answers. Use Total Reward Statements to remind people how you look after them and that true reward is about more than just money. 

Author is Stephen Coates, Principal, Benefit Consulting at JLT Employee Benefits.

This article was provided by JLT Employee Benefits.


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