Motivation and satisfaction

Why money is not the best you can offer to your employees

Employers are now in a phase where most of them are wondering what more to offer to attract the best talents, to increase retention rate, and to ensure the business models they have built for the future.

HR departments have turned form transactional and technical structures to creative business partners, full of people sitting and thinking about how to improve retention and help business transform to meet the new environmental reality.

Every year companies, operating in the people consulting industry, release at least one big survey results, to help companies plan their people activities.  When analyzing results from these surveys we can easily identify that money is not on the top of the lists.  There we find things like opportunities to learn, opportunities to grow, clear career paths, etc. Still, when companies are trying to attract the best in class talents, they do it first trough the money. There is something wrong with reading all these survey results and then looking at the company representatives’ actions during the execution of their talent attraction strategies.

Harvard Business Review survey released back in October 2019 points on the learning element as crucial for potential new hires.

Towers Watson survey results, released back in June 2019, have identified “supporting differences team and manager” as a crucial element for talent attraction.

CIPD employee satisfaction survey, released in the second half of 2019  has pointed that for the people in the UK, the most important element to accept or decline an offer for changing their employer is a clear career path and company social presence.

HRM Association survey from the USA, released in September 2019 points on the informal way of doing the work and the open for giving and receiving clear and consistent feedback structure.

These are only part of the surveys conducted back in 2019.  In all of them, money is not even in the top 5.  It has moved from the top of the list, 10 years ago, to the bottom of the top 10 factors for changing work. 

What has replaced money is something more meaningful, that managers and leaders are talking so much on, but still don’t understand very well. This is culture.  The top priorities, companies must focus on, to bring the best in class talents are part of the culture.

In the company, I am part of, we have always focused first on culture and then on that hygiene element – the money. We don’t pay the highest salaries.  We don’t have the fanciest offices. Our people don’t work from home. But we still manage to keep our employees happy and have as low as 2% a year turnover.  When I first spoke about this in an event, business and HR leaders who attended showed to me a distrust of how our model works. I needed a year to show them our company from inside and how we achieve results, without focusing only on the hygiene factor – the money.  We did it by simply following several simple rules that have turned into a powerful cultural element and a turning point for most of the employees “planning to leave us”.

Here is what we have done and are continually expanding on:

Create values from inside
I have been part of larger companies and have been working as a consultant with large companies that don’t have an internal identity.  In these companies there are detailed values, hanging somewhere on the wall and being used to discuss performance and plans for improvement for specialists, experts, and first-level managers. As high as the leader is positioned in the company the less these values reflect its behavior. And this is shown to everybody.  To avoid this mistake, you need to make values valid for everyone – from the most junior employee in the company to the most senior leader. 

Sustain values in time trough values-based decisions in every area
People will not believe in the power of values if they do not see it in action. Values, created from inside the company are strong and set standards for behavior and corrections on every leadership layer. No matter the position in the company, everyone’s behavior must be rewarded or punished based on the same values and understanding. There must be no exclusion.  This will strengthen the values and will help to be seen and recognized by all employees as an internal moral standard.

Focus on listening to your employees
I have been on hundreds of presentations where a senior leader stands to present and says something like “This year we planned to improve our engagement rate with X percent. I am glad to announce that we did it.” And then, this same leader moves through the numbers for a turnover, retention rate of top talents, just to present terrible numbers showing that the turnover has increased, the company has lost some of its brightest talents, etc. To listen to your people, you need to talk with them often. Short survey ones or twice a year is a good start, but to hear everything you need an ongoing dialog based on the frequency of the needs of the employees.

Plan and execute change with your employees
When you talk often to your employees you will be able to understand them better. That does not mean that you will be able to deliver everything they want in the form wanted. Let’s say for example that you want to improve performance and effectiveness.  Your employees agree with you because you present to them a performance-based bonus scheme, but then you set the KPI’s for performance the way you see them, isolated from your employees and after several months of not achieving the desired results you are in a process of changing KPI’s because of the inadequate setting you have lost some of your brightest talents and performance and morale have dropped.
Now you think about what went wrong. Well, it is simple – people don’t trust numbers they don’t feel are realistic and connected to their work.  If you want to have all your employees on board when planning and working for a change you need to involve them in your plans. It is easy – just explain the reason why you are doing what you are doing and ask on their professional opinion how realistic the goals you want to set are. That will help you and them to engage with the results.

Build accountability for each project or task  
Having people around you with the same demonstrated level of engagement to the company does not mean that you will get the job done. To be sure that you will achieve planned results, you need them to be accountable.  People can be engaged by different reasons – money, work time, the convenience of the workplace, etc. Still, this engagement is more on the company level. It is based on what the company can offer in terms of stability, security, and balance. If you want to achieve real results you need to have employees ready to work on challenges even if they don’t like them. These employees are ready to give more that is expected from their roles,  they put more energy to work,  they don’t give up when they face a challenge that makes them feel uncomfortable, don’t stop when don’t get any information they think is important, but continue until the work is done.  This is what accountability stands for and what you need to build if you want to sustain success in time.

Make an individual center of your policies
Leaders talk about individuals, being the heart of their decisions, and “flexible” policies created. And when you look at the execution you see nothing like flexibility or people-oriented activities. If part of your strategy for the employees is to give them something customized, then you need to focus on understanding what that means for each employee personally.  Although my current employer is a manufacturing company producing medical devices and we must follow strict standards, we have implemented some flexibility policies for all our employees. Making an individual’s needs a real priority in your policies, procedures, and culture will allow you to work on building unique experiences, valuable for the individual, and pointing on his or her needs. Individual communication and interaction are the keys to building a more positive relationship with each employee and set the ground for real accountability in their work.

Be flexible in your culture mindset
One pain point I have seen in many companies is that the cultural model is created just to be set as a static ideal. The wok environment changes every year. New and differently thinking people are entering the workforce and some of those you have created your cultural model with may exit it.   You need to check periodically if your cultural model answers the business and personal needs and if not – change it.  Involving employees in a culture check activity will help you to easily understand what part of the behaviors and standards have become irrelevant.  This analysis needs to be made together with your employees.  The change of the standard is communicated by the senior leadership team but is something that comes out from all employees’ hearts. You need to involve your employees in rebuilding the standards, according to their understandings and beliefs.  A standard set for everyone from everyone is a real measure, then the standard set in silos.

Often in my career, I have seen managers and leaders using the simplest method to attract new employees or retain current – the money.  But even now – in a world full of material needs and goals- people value more the attitude that makes them feel as significant contributors.  In a world that is more individually oriented, if you want to stay on top of your employees’ priorities, you need to act individually and create opportunities for involvement, personal achievement, growth, and flexibility.  In this world being engaged is not a sustainable factor for success, because engagement has now different meanings. Creating an environment where people are seen and valued as individuals, no matter their differences,  can help you to achieve sustainably growing results over time, by using the energy of the most accountable to every challenge and task people.  


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