What does investing in rewarding work mean? It is a shorthand way of trying to explain a complex management situation. We are in a period of record high employment in the UK, which translates into a significant threat in terms of employee satisfaction and retention.
The proposition is quite simple. Work must be rewarding, and it is worth making the necessary investment. The costs of replacing good people are twofold; tangible and intangible. Recruiting and training new people is an expensive process and takes time. There are hidden costs caused by the disruption from staff turnover. These include reduced efficiency, eroded team cohesion, poorer quality control and their subsequent effect on customer service. Profitability, reputation and relationships can all be damaged by high staff turnover.
Commitment cannot be taken for granted
When employees know it will be easy to find another job, their loyalty and commitment cannot be taken for granted. Here are some of the latest statistics from the UK Office for National Statistics which underline the point (December 2018 – February 2019):
• The UK employment rate was estimated at 76.1%, higher than for a year earlier (75.4%) and the joint-highest figure on record.
• The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.9%; it has not been lower since November 1974 to January 1975.
• The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 20.7%, lower than for a year earlier (21.2%) and the joint-lowest figure on record.
• Excluding bonuses, average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain were estimated to have increased by 3.4%, before adjusting for inflation, and by 1.5%, after adjusting for inflation, compared with a year earlier.
• Including bonuses, average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain were estimated to have increased by 3.5%, before adjusting for inflation, and by 1.6%, after adjusting for inflation, compared with a year earlier.
Rewarding with recognition
We are all egocentric, which is not a bad thing. It is how we function. We look out at the world around us and instinctively guard against threats, whilst also searching for opportunities. The human race has evolved and developed from the early hunters and gatherers. But the need for survival continues, even in these “civilised” times when the world is more ordered and having a job is the most common means of self-support.
As we are also naturally gregarious and retain a strong pack instinct. Work can be a way of feeling valued and protected. The ego needs regular boosting, or we will start to look further afield for reassurance. These are the subliminal forces which eat away at employees’ confidence and commitment to the job. Distractions, temptations and siren voices tell us that there are better jobs, places and communities where we will be more appreciated. In times of high employment, the appeal will be stronger and the possibilities greater.
So, what does recognition involve and how can it be used to good effect by employers? Firstly, it is not enough to train managers to be attentive and supportive towards their subordinates, and trust them to all have the right temperament and motives. They as managers require the same (or even higher) levels of support and recognition, because they carry a heavier burden of responsibility.
The belief that looking after the high-flyers is a priority, ignores the fact that the top performers seldom make a sufficiently big contribution on their own to ensure the success of the enterprise. In fact, they generally have the biggest egos and absorb a disproportionately high level of attention.
Effective leadership drives results
The reality is effective leadership must demonstrate a recognition and reward strategy which embraces the entire workforce. In both public and private sectors the annual appraisal, 360⁰ feedback, periodic rotation of jobs, work-sharing, part-time and returners policies, compassionate leave, sabbaticals, continuous professional development and a range of other programmes offer solutions designed to make employees feel recognised and secure.
The investment in time, assets and resources, as part of a strategy to support employees, is mostly “below the line” and not easily related to everyday employee experience. Agencies like ours enhance that strategy for our clients by demonstrating the importance of reward and recognition within the framework of an enlightened attitude to work. Live events such as conferences, hospitality, awards presentations, incentive travel, together with points-based voucher schemes, are all examples of practical of reward and recognition solutions.
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