The quest for happiness

new%20years%20toastAs budgets are tightened, employers are having to find ways of saving money while keeping their staff happy. Daney Parker reports on how employees can be retained without breaking the bank

With current pessimistic predictions for the economy, many company directors are under pressure to be meaner with pay rises and perks. They may hope employees will understand the reasons for this, and might even feel grateful to have jobs at all. However, it appears that talent remains as in demand as ever and should people feel disgruntled enough to leave, finding those with the right skills to replace them is getting no easier.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Recruitment, Retention and Turnover Report 2008, based on nearly 800 replies to its annual survey, shows 86% of organisations are experiencing recruitment difficulties, and 80% report having retention problems. Yet, there is little money spare to offer large salaries and costly benefits to keep people on board.

motivation within budget So how can marketing functions maintain high staff morale without spending money that isn’t available? According to Guy Tomlinson, co-author with Tim Arnold of The Marketing Director’s Handbook, there are two key factors for motivating staff. The first is to outline a clear picture of where the organisation is heading and the strategy for getting there. In general, people need to understand where an organisation is going so they feel comfortable and able to do their jobs. The best jobs also offer freedom and autonomy with prospects for career progression.

The second factor is to align rewards with achievement. Marketing departments are full of talented people who are motivated by more than money – this is at the heart of the theory of motivation developed in 1959 by Frederick Herzberg, a psychologist who found that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction acted independently of each other. While some form of financial motivation helps, offering benefits which increase an individual’s sense of participation and self-esteem can be more important. Adds Tomlinson, “Above all, this is not time to cancel the Christmas party but a time to celebrate successes. There is much evidence to show that those that do this will weather times of gloom and doom better than others. They will also emerge stronger when the good times return.”

Echoing the importance of making people feel they are a valuable part of the organisation, Guy Hepplewhite, managing partner at integrated agency Space, says there is a danger marketers can sometimes feel “lost in the machine”. He explains: “The reality is that the truly skilled practitioners aren’t happy to sit quietly in large agencies, while they wait for the next interesting project to turn up. Instead, they seek constant creative and strat-egic stimulation. They prefer to be their own bosses, or to work in smaller nuclear groups with like-minded peers.”

rewarding input In large organisations, whether agency or client-side, the trick is to ensure talented individuals can see the difference their input makes to the business. This should make a difference to the profitability of the whole organisation. Chris Elmitt, managing director of conference facilitators Crystal Interactive, says it is the people within the business who can suggest how to best ©make changes to it. “We researched senior managers and directors responsible for internal communications within major companies, and discovered that the best and most open communicators among them reported that at least 90% of their new product or service ideas are internally generated. This is over four times more than the average figure for internally-generated ideas.”

listen to feedback Maintaining a good communication network within an organisation that generates feedback is motivating in itself as it helps people to feel more connected with the business, and its aims. Communication is also vital in finding out what will motivate different sectors of the workforce and what training will suit individual needs.

Quentin Crowe, managing director of the Marketers’ Forum, has experience of working with a range of organisations with diverse workforces. He says that no matter what the challenges are in training, the aim is usually the same: “To improve customer service, thereby increasing profits.”

Crowe has found that short sessions of training are often more motivational than a one-off session where staff “turn up, do their duty by appearing for training and then return to their every day lives.” Crowe suggests the solution is to find ways to reinforce certain ways of working all the time. He explains: “We use simple images to remind staff of key learning points. We also explain and demonstrate techniques to enable them to switch on to a positive state of mind before they deal with clients or customers, generally helping improve body language.” He gives the example of placing a smiley face at points in a hotel where staff move from back office to customer facing areas – this lifts their body movement to present a more positive image.

Assuming that staff feel they are being listened to and individual training needs are being met, instigating the right incentive schemes should usually pay for itself. Vouchers are often used as a key benefit, as these are straightforward to use. But this does not mean that a voucher system is always easy to put in place. There are hundreds of different vouchers to choose from for a start. Derrick Hardman, © managing director of Capital Incentives & Motivation says that it is a mistake to go for just one voucher for all staff: “The most important thing to remember when choosing an incentive award is that choice motivates and that is why multichoice cards and vouchers are usually preferred. In every incentive campaign, there will be a wide cross-section of participants of different ages, with different lifestyles and needs.”

A family affair In addition to offering incentives that are relevant to different age groups, Catherine Forrest, business incentives manager at House of Fraser, suggests that the employee’s family should not be left out: “Many people are seeking a better work/life balance, and are keen to spend more time with their families and friends. As such, offering time off for family occasions such as a child’s birthday will be popular, as will company days for the whole family, not just employees. Companies seeking to motivate and retain personnel should also offer the opportunity to involve other family members in day trips and holidays earned or won.”

Matching the reward to the company benefit means that the effectiveness of an incentive scheme is relatively easy to measure. A harder cost to justify is entertainment, as this is often considered more of a bonus than a necessity. Alex Hewitt, managing director of events company, AOK Events, claims that cutting the hospitality bill is a false economy. “With the credit crunch biting ever harder employees across London and the South-east are sensibly rolling their sleeves up and getting their heads down.”

Hewitt says that lifting spirits when workers are feeling stressed is imperative. “As we all know, being fearful of your job prospects is not conducive to good productivity. Retaining your best staff is crucial right now and senior managers would be crazy to think that cancelling the Christmas party or company off-site event makes commercial sense. Employees expect to have to work harder when the going gets tough but in return expect some sort of thanks from the management.”

It is no surprise that the corporate hospitality industry is keen to keep marketers’ spending no matter how tight their budgets are, but there is no denying that it is much cheaper to keep staff happy than to recruit new talent . Motivation schemes and staff entertainment may not always be a priority, but the cost of having a workforce whose only aim is to find another employer is some-thing the business might not be able to withstand. v In a knowledge company, talent is vital to achieve a competitive advantage. To hold on to talent, companies need to know what an employee’s long-term career vision is, and often individuals don’t know this themselves. Therefore, providing career conversations for employees benefits both them and their employer.

Training can be especially effective at stopping talent drain when/ v A training budget is allocated for top talent or when the employee contributes the same amount v Necessary skills are defined and measured v Appraisals are treated seriously and result in personal development plans, followed up with targeted training v Staff skills are encouraged through mentoring However, investing in learning makes employees more marketable and could increase the chances of them wanting to leave or of being poached. Other retention strategies, such as flexible working, job redesign and flexible rewards, are also a must for long-term retention.

I believe that the key to retaining talent in your organisation comes down to engaging with your employees – recognising their talents, nurturing development and rewarding achievement, ultimately motivating staff so that they want to be loyal.

The companies that succeed at this are those that run incentive schemes to motivate their staff in order to meet specific objectives, and reward them individually for a job well done. They are also the companies that communicate regularly with their employees about the benefits they can access, choices available and how best to enjoy them. Our experience in the incentives and benefits market tells us that good reward schemes will not only conserve talent, thereby reducing staff attrition, but also help companies to save money on recruitment and training/induction costs.

Yvonne West Manager of Sainsbury’s Business Direct Incentivising and rewarding staff is extremely important if you intend to retain good employees in a diverse workplace. We all understand that happy and motivated staff can help to drive sales and ensure that employees remain loyal. However, it is imperative that every member of the team is motivated by the reward on offer. It has to be relevant to them, which can be extremely tricky, especially if you’re dealing with a wide demographic. I would recommend varying the incentive frequently, so one month you could offer shopping vouchers, the next an iPod – this way you are keeping it fresh and interesting, while at the same time not excluding certain people. It is also worth bearing in mind that the reward and recognition process should be achievable with targets that can be attempted by all members of a diverse workforce.

Last winter’s annual chief executive bonding event for international commercial property development Goodman was critical due to the acquisition of a European division, especially as many of the chief executives had never met in person. The challenge for Quintessentially Events was to create a networking trip that would encourage the group to bond and work as a team. The Australasia and UK business approach was different to that of the European markets, especially in regard to relationships between agents, brokers and developers.

Prior to going, each attendee was sent a pair of branded mountaineering gloves and invite that read “action adventure” and simply instructed guests to bring warm clothes and meet in Geneva airport. Guests were then transported to a mountain station where they were greeted by famous Swiss mountaineer, Stephen Siegrist. Stephen gave a talk on the parallels between business and adventure sports. He recounted the numerous risks involved in extreme conditions and the obstacles thathad to be overcome in order to conquer the challenges along the way. He outlined the lessons learned, especially in situations when decision making could have been fatal. He also described the emotions felt by a team once they reached the summit and experienced the views from the top. The group was then guided to the start line of their physical challenge. Throughout the day, the further up the mountain they went, the more challenging the tasks became and the more the group had to work together to succeed. Afterwards, the group was taken to the tip of the glacier for lunch and celebratory drinks in a hut with remarkable views, the remainder of the (metaphorical) ice was broken and the real networking occurred.

The European chief executives walked away from the experience with a better understanding of the company’s ethos and international approach to business. Within weeks this message had trickled down to staff. Goodman is extremely pleased with the results of this event as much stronger team alliances have been nurtured.

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