Linda Holbeche: Can staff be motivated through anything other than pay?

When all around there is talk of Britain’s economic recovery and relatively low levels of unemployment, it is easy to forget that, after Spain, Britain has the highest proportion of low-skilled jobs in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 

Linda Holbeche

This is according to Industrial Strategy and the Future of UK Skills Policy, produced for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development by the Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance, which was published in February 2014. Plus, improvements in productivity and pay are still not in sight.

With so many jobs offering low pay, little interest or security and few progression opportunities, it would be no surprise if employee motivation and morale were bumping along the bottom. How can low-paid employees trust employers that award themselves large bonuses when their own pay is held down, or if there are no other rewards on offer, such as training, that will allow employees to progress to more senior and better-paid roles?

Given the widely acknowledged link between employee morale and performance, employers that value employees and want to retain them, as well as improve productivity, must find other ways of motivating employees without the promise of increased pay.  

This is about keeping faith with employees by communicating effectively and being straight with people. Managers must manage their teams’ expectations and discuss with them the benefits of a wider reward package, such as pensions or investment in learning and development, assuming of course that employers do invest in upskilling their business and its people. It’s also about designing richer roles in which employees have a chance to grow.

When business results improve, good employers share the rewards with employees, such as JCB and the John Lewis Partnership, which continued to pay employee bonuses even during the toughest part of the recession.

Linda Holbeche is director of the Holbeche Partnership