Money can’t buy everything

Workers judge their jobs by more than their pay packets, and to stay loyal they must be motivated and engaged, which is why staff incentive schemes are increasingly important. By Steve Hemsley.

Of all the motivational ideas, inviting staff to a Stick Man Health Farm is one of the more unusual.

Yet around 80 employees at design and marketing agency Iris signed up for what were in fact life drawing classes held after work.

The sessions were the brainchild of creative Glenn Doherty. “We all got into design because we enjoyed drawing, but there was a danger we were becoming too reliant on computers,” he says. “Everyone loved getting their hands dirty. This was a way to motivate staff in a social environment after a hard day’s work.”

Companies are coming under increasing pressure to find more unusual ways to motivate their staff who demand more than purely financial rewards to remain loyal.

Of course, Iris knows it cannot ignore the money issue and runs a self-evaluation bonus scheme where staff score themselves to determine how big a pay rise they should get, before their line manager makes the final decision.

And ultimately it is employee retention rather than drawing ability that is the best measure of staff motivation. Iris is confident it has got its approach right, having reduced its employee churn from 21% to 12% in a year.

Spending money to boost staff morale is a sound investment. The trick is to get the reward scheme right for the different individuals who make up any workforce.

As people climb the career ladder, money becomes less of a factor, especially when someone is deciding whether they are enthused enough to stay in their job.

Assessment company SHL has produced an online motivation questionnaire that shows line managers what factors have an impact on a person’s motivation.

“One of the most motivating factors for retaining good people is to ensure a person finds their job interesting,” says SHL’s commercial product manager Simon Raymond. “People also want a sense of achievement and to be recognised for what they do.”

different motivation Being able to identify early what will give a particular employee a morale boost is crucial to ensuring that any money spent on a reward or incentive scheme is not wasted.

Andrea Born, head of business incentives at House of Fraser, says: “It is important to profile your staff in terms of age, marital status, gender and interests. Only by doing this will you come up with something to inspire everyone.”

She adds that in today’s working environment many marketers are cash rich and time poor. Many senior executives would prefer more simple pleasures, such as time off to attend a child’s birthday party during the week without being made to feel guilty.

In the US a survey of more than 1,000 employees by Wirthlin Worldwide asked staff how they spent their last cash incentive or bonus. Among respondents, 29% said the money went on bills, and 18% could not remember how they spent it. Only 14% treated themselves to something special, like a holiday.

“People want more of a work/life balance and any rewards or bonus programme nowadays must reflect that,” adds Born.

Any company considering re-directing money allocated for bonus schemes into a tangible rewards programme also needs to be confident any funds are going into the areas of the business where morale levels are actually low.

“Marketers are increasingly being called on to apply their skills to people in the distribution channel,” says John Sylvester, executive director and head of motivation at Milton Keynes-based marketing services agency P&MM.

This is certainly true in the packaged goods sector where it is important to reward staff working for wholesalers. Agency BD-NTWK runs a scheme called Mind Body and Soul for Coca-Cola Enterprises where wholesale workers are encouraged to promote its brands by being offered points they can redeem for prizes.

Grass Roots is a company that specialises in tailor-made motivational programmes for clients and helps businesses identify who to reward. It has introduced its pre-paid GRG card linked to MasterCard’s debit brand Maestro. Value is added to the card, which gives access to 9 million outlets in 120 countries and lets companies with international offices run one reward scheme. “The card has the flexibility of cash, but confers a more tangible and direct relationship to performance in the workplace,” says Grass Roots’ managing director Rik Burrage.

marketing or personnel Marketers understand a company’s brand values so want to retain control of any incentive scheme that will ultimately impact on the brand’s performance. Yet this can bring the marketing department into conflict with the human resources (HR) team.

This has resulted in some companies creating a new role of reward manager, usually someone with an HR background.

Ultimately, how happy and motivated a person is at work does come down to the culture of a business. And often improvements in employee motivation can be seen from something as simple – and cheap – as improving the internal communication channels so everyone knows what decisions the management is taking and why.

The companies that have well-motivated staff tend to be those that can get the balance right between offering appropriate financial and tangible rewards while also making the effort to involve and listen to their employees. •

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