Rewards can be very subjective for top performers, not least due to varying motivational factors, accepted reward parameters within each market sector, and personal circumstance. Within the public sector for instance, where financial rewards may be more controlled, above all else communication, empowerment, and job satisfaction are key (Cuthbert & Ward).
A holistic approach to each individual’s needs and expectations from the outset assures the most appropriate pathway for performance, incentive and reward. Once an organisation understands each employee’s personal goals and needs, these can be aligned to their role within the company.
The first thing is to understand and listen to each employee. Of course, financial incentive is often a predominant factor, however personal needs, such as flexibility, might be an essential influence and should also be considered. If, for instance, family circumstances require more flexible working conditions, this could be a prime motivator, and could have a direct effect on job satisfaction, retainment and personal performance levels. In a survey conducted in 2015, Social housing emerged as “one of best sectors for employees with children or caring responsibilities, with 57% of respondents saying their department actively supports staff who have people to care for at home. The average across all public services for this figure was 37%” (The Guardian).
If making a positive difference to other people’s lives is what attracted an employee into their role, can they be supported and entrusted to make higher level decisions, and take on more responsibility to achieve this? Are there any gaps in their skills and experience that can be addressed using training, mentoring and other employment progression tools that could give them a competitive edge, and a hand up towards advancement into a higher level position within the organisation?
“When employee’s skills are developed, other ‘soft’ human resource practices such as employee involvement and performance-based pay are both appropriate and more likely to be effective since they encourage and reward staff for using their skills.” – Cuthbert & Ward, 2009)
Does every member of the team ‘feel’ supported and empowered? According to CIPD(2016) “public services can only be more responsive to the needs of service users if employees on the front line are trusted to innovate and empowered to act with more autonomy.” There appears to be a need for fundamental structural change from old-style hierarchical leadership to a more modern approach that allows distribution of leadership across organisations, creating the space for our innovators and future leaders to flourish. Empowerment does not mean handing over decisions blindly to those in a less senior position, but rather entrusting and supporting individuals to make decisions using the experience they gain from their roles within the organisation.
- Job Satisfaction
One of the most important fundamentals in perceived job satisfaction, especially when working within a challenging environment, is to feel appreciated. There can be a stark difference between sitting at a desk all day or being on site simply ‘going through the motions’ and being under intense pressure yet feeling highly valued for the work you are doing. How much do you value your employees? Do they realise how much you appreciate their unique contribution? How might you reward them in a way that is affiliated to their personal motivational factors? If there are gaps in status of individual job roles, how can you address these by giving an undervalued, under utilised team member more responsibilities aligned to their unique talents? What do they really enjoy doing? How can you harness this enthusiasm to keep them motivated and benefit the entire company?
Conversely, one should also consider what may be causing unhappiness within the workplace (Herzberg’s Motivators and Hygiene Factors, Mindtools). If you are able to listen, understand and address any underlying dissatisfaction the employee may be feeling, this can have a deeply beneficial effect on the overall contentment, job satisfaction and subsequent performance of not only they themselves, but the entire team.
To summarise, a completely holistic approach to rewarding your top performers is key to understanding what truly motivates each individual, and allows necessary adjustments in a fast moving, transient industry, both within the public and private sector. Financial motive is no longer the only incentive and top earners do not necessarily become top performers. If harnessed correctly this knowledge could transform the entire public sector, and set a blueprint for future best practice.
Alma collaborated with Daniel Short, Director of Greenacre Recruitment on this article, which is part of a 10-piece series on Retaining Top Performers.