Written by Fiona Reed, Principal, Mercer’s Human Capital business, Australia and New Zealand
As the labour market tightens and the economy continues to grow, there has never been a greater need to determine how best to motivate employees. While Australia was spared the worst of the Global Financial Crisis we were certainly not exempt - employers had to make some tough decisions and, on the whole, employees lived with these to ensure their job security in difficult times.
However, as the balance of power shifts back to employees and the changing dynamics of an intergenerational workforce becomes more apparent, it is important for employers to understand how they can best tap into the psyche of their employees. Recognition that every plan is motivated by different things, the challenge is to piece together an effective yet agile strategy to get the best results.
So, how do we ensure that we continue to motivate our employees to get the best results for them and for the organisation?
The important link is employee engagement. Driver of engagement will vary by organisation, industry sector, geography, and even for each employee.
Mercer’s Top Tips for Motivating Your Employees
While it is important for employers to determine where they see particular employee engagement challenges within their own organisation, the tips below can assist in achieving a tailored engagement strategy:
1. Clearly articulate responsibilities and performance goals. It is important employees have a clear idea of what is expected of them and are actively involved in setting their performance goals. It’s also important to understand the variation in your talent pools - motivating employees is not a matter of one size fits all. For example, highly engaged employees have overall performance scores of 20 percentile points higher than employees with average levels of engagement. This demonstrates the importance of tailoring goals accordingly and make sure you differentiate between segments: what may be seen as a motivating challenge for one employee may, by another, be perceived as stressful or threatening.
2. Provide regular, timely and constructive feedback. Feedback is vital for employees understanding their strengths and opportunities for development, and needs to be communicated in a timely and constructive manner in order for it to add value to the organisation.
3. Identify development needs and help employees achieve these objectives. In a tight labour market, employers have become more focussed on identifying employee development needs and developing internal skills. However, they are not usually so supportive of providing the time needed to undertake the required training and development activities. It is important to instil trust by committing to the time and the activities.
4. Recognise and celebrate performance. Recognition and celebration of both individual and group performance enhances an employee’s sense of appreciation and support. Whilst monetary incentive payments are an important component of this, other rewards, such as flexible benefits or salary packaging, can also be a motivating factor.
5. Provide transparency in the remuneration approach. While pay in itself is not the sole driver of motivation, it is a contributing factor. Employees want to understand the way remuneration decisions are made and how their performance contributes to these results.
6. Provide flexibility but ensure it’s appropriately link to the job’s requirements. A flexible approach to work has become increasingly valued by the current workforce. However, the nature and requirements of the job need to be taken into account when determining the appropriate level of flexibility. Interestingly, flexibility has shown to be a factor that appeals to all demographics Baby Boomers to Generation Y as well as across the gender divide.
7. Support career planning by actively encouraging breadth and depth of experience, Employees today are looking for diversity in their career, so developing talent internally means they are much more likely to change roles within your organisation, rather than moving to another. When it comes to retention, it’s important to work with your employees to understand their career ambitions and support their objectives.
8. Provide interesting and challenging work. Employees are increasingly looking for work that is meaningful and stimulating. Despite the difficulty in providing this constantly, the aim is to empower and satisfy your workforce by providing work that requires skills and experience where you can and is challenging for the right reasons.
9. Demonstrate that you value your employees and their work. Provide employees with the opportunity to be heard and demonstrate to them that their opinions are taken on board - employees should feel they are part of the decision-making process. They are also likely to take more pride in the organisation’s overall mission and vision if they believe they are contributing meaningfully.
10. Communicate effectively in order to develop trust and confidence in your employees. - An organisation’s culture plays a pivotal role in driving motivation and the relationships between employees, managers and their colleagues therefore need to be founded on trust, support and collaboration. A multi channel, planned and opportunistic, communication strategy that promotes openness and transparency will help make this possible.
An employer can offer a broad array of incentives to motivate their employees, however without a supportive, collaborative environment such incentives are likely to prove ineffective.