MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Give employees what they want

Ok, so there might not much chance of raising salaries, says Jack Wiley. But there are other ways of keeping workers happy.

by Jack Wiley
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
With pay deals across the UK at an all-time low, employees could be forgiven for lacking in motivation at the moment. But it’s not necessarily big money that they’re looking for. A 30-year research study has found that seven factors contribute to the engagement, commitment, retention and overall satisfaction of employees.

MT asked Jack Wiley of the Kenexa High Performance Institute, and co-author of a new book on this study, for his top tips on how managers can give employees what they want the most.

1. Recognise and appreciate people for the work they do
It’s simple: tell them they’ve done a good job. And close the gap between employee actions and when those actions are recognised: in fact, make informal recognition a habit. Don’t ignore employee performance until the annual review - and never focus solely on criticism.

2. Make work exciting
Those who can develop and deploy a wide range of skills are more satisfied at work. Discuss with employees what they like and don’t like about their jobs, then try to provide variety and have fun. Employees also get excited by altruistic goals – they want a job they can believe in and they want to feel that they’re making a difference.

3. Help employees to feel confident about the organisation’s future
Employees have a fundamental need for job security. They want stability and steady work so they can meet their financial obligations. Empower employees by giving them a say in how they work. This will create trust and it will give them a greater sense that they are controlling their own destiny.

4. Compensate employees fairly
We would all like to be paid enough (through base pay, bonuses and benefits) but beyond that point, pay loses much of its motivating power. But stopping short of ‘enough’ deeply affects an employee’s sense of goodwill. Provide an annual compensation and benefits review, to underline how much the organisation is investing in each individual. Compensate for lower pay by giving employees time off.

5. Give people opportunities to develop their skills
Invest in training: employees will learn new skills, thereby increasing their engagement and job security. Hold formal and (at least) annual career discussions to determine employees’ goals and aspirations. Give people the autonomy, authority and encouragement to use their skills and to do their jobs in their own way.

6. Get the conditions right
We don’t work in a vacuum: what happens around us matters. Provide a well-equipped environment that is comfortable, healthy and safe. Arrange social activities to promote interaction and teamwork. Listen and respond to employee complaints and help individuals to achieve their own work-life balance.

7. Tell the truth
Employees want to work for honest and transparent managers who act with integrity. Communicate openly and directly: regardless of how bad things are, always tell employees the full story. They’ll know if things are bad – lying will only undermine your credibility.

The seven elements listed above - Recognition; Exciting work; Security of employment; Pay; Education and career growth; Conditions and Truth - can be summed up using the acronym R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Those organisations that excel in these seven areas have an employee engagement level that is 117 percent higher than those that don’t.

9. Calibrate the impact
Because engaged employees care more, perform better and stay longer, those organisations that deliver R.E.S.P.E.C.T. also benefit from 64% higher operational performance and significantly greater customer satisfaction.

10. Measure the impact on the bottom line
Consider, for example, the economic measure of return-on-assets: on this important metric, organisations in which employees feel they get what they want outperform those organisations that don’t deliver R.E.S.P.E.C.T. by up to 10 times.

- Dr Jack Wiley is executive director of the Kenexa High Performance Institute and co-author of ‘RESPECT: Delivering results by giving employees what they really want’.

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