Creating a rewarding future

Newsletter articles

1 Jul 2011

HR Insight issue 13

Peter Reilly, Director HR and Consultancy

Peter ReillyAll organisations have been trying to address employee engagement as a means to raise productivity and improve service delivery, but insufficient attention has been given, in our opinion, to the part that reward plays in the motivation of staff. What we know is that the salience of pay varies with employment group. The lowest paid need income for survival; the sales person may expect a bonus to reflect performance; and so on. But we also should recognise that reward is much more than pay. It includes such things as (flexible) benefits and non-financial recognition for one’s contribution, as well as the intrinsic merits of the job itself or working towards the goals of the organisation (especially in voluntary sector organisations).

Moreover, we should acknowledge that context also has a big effect on attitudes to work and reward. The private sector is struggling to emerge from recession, but with some companies prospering and others merely surviving. Public sector organisations are not only facing cuts but also have restrictions on pay increases anderosion of benefits (especially pensions) to accommodate.

In this environment, organisations must think of how they respond to achieve new business goals, but carry their workforce with them and consider the role of reward in achieving this goal.

We have been working with a number of public sector organisations to develop these ideas. Some believe that the best response is through communicating total reward as encompassing the variety of reasons why people join an organisation, stay there, and remain motivated. This shifts the emphasis from cash to other features of the employer offer such as learning and development and career opportunities that may well vary by gender, grade, occupation, etc.

Other organisations have been thinking about the nature of the employment 'deal'. In the new business context this may need to be readjusted. Not only will employees want to emphasise different aspects of the employment experience like job security, role content, workload and hours, but so will employers want more from staff – greater task flexibility, higher output or readiness to change. This can be captured via a statement of mutual rights and responsibilities that specifies such things as, on the employee side, the right to be trained for one'srole; to voice one's opinion and be heard; to have effort acknowledged, On the employer side, this would specify the requirement on individuals to tackle new work areas, accept constraints on expenditure, and to work with others to solve problems.

A productive way forward is thus to ask employees about the nature of the employment relationship – its plus and minus points, and their hopes for the future. Management can be similarly asked what their future expectations of staff might be. A statement of the mutual deal can then be drafted before testing with key stakeholders.

Contact Peter Reilly for more information.