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Engagement on a Shoestring

We’re all having to face up to more austere times, both at home and at work. It’s clear that businesses can no longer function as they did pre-2008, despite the fact that many of the same challenges remain.

For example, hiring, engaging and retaining people remains top of the agenda for most businesses, but the resources that were allocated before the recession are simply not available. Many training departments have probably been disbanded, and discretionary bonuses have all but disappeared.

So how do you compete? The employment market has been revived over the last 12 months, mainly thanks to the frustrations of individuals who were ‘sticking it out’ in their jobs through the recession. This means that engaging and retaining people is a challenge that many businesses are failing – yet one at which others are excelling.

You don’t have to give out cash rewards

One truism that came out of the recent recession is the fact that you don’t actually have to pay money all the time to reward people. As David Fairhurst accurately pointed out in HR Magazine, cash rewards are often used for something as menial as paying bills. Non-cash rewards, however, are remembered for the gesture.

There are businesses who have offered ‘thank yous’ to employees with gifts such as a week’s use of the Director’s parking space, or simply a compliment from another colleague in a weekly colleague newsletter.

Indeed, it is leadership who can drive these non-cash rewards. Simple praise or added responsibility cost nothing, yet the psychologically positive effect can outweigh that of a cash bonus.

Highlight what you already do

You may not know it, but you might actually already be a great employer. Don’t hide your light under a bushel, and find differentiators that could set you apart from your competitors.

For example, do you offer benefits schemes that relatively few people are taking up? Push them. A cycle-to-work scheme that offers tax-free bikes for your people highlights you as a progressive employer, not just from a tax point of view, but from a health point of view.

Do you contribute extra towards pensions? If you do, say so. Don’t be afraid to sing your own praises, because not every employer is up front about benefits when recruiting, and this can give you the edge in retention.

Talk, talk and talk

Dialogue between senior management and the workforce is crucial, and this goes right from the top. Senior management have to allocate their time to listening to the workforce, spending time on the shop floor and demonstrating their importance.

The only cost implied here is the Director’s time, but the rewards here are explicit – the employees feel appreciated, and senior management get a greater picture of what’s happening on the ground. Think about taking ‘Senior Management Roadshows’ and opening up the dialogue on a regular basis.

Employee engagement cannot stop just because the funds have dried up. Those businesses who want to play ‘Moneyball’ will find benefit in taking the time to do something a little different – taking the time to find what they already do but don’t shout about – and taking the time to sit down and talk to people.

  • 7th April 2012
  • EAP
  • HR
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