Know your employees and reap the dividends

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How well do you know your employees? Do you know, for example, what what might drive them towards a promotion? New research has found that more money is not a catch-all motivator and it may be as simple as offering more responsibility – and that doesn’t necessarily cost a lot.

The SHL Workers and Good Management research found 22% of workers want more responsibility and 9% want to be given charge of a special project when next promoted. The study also revealed 36% of managers consider their involvement in the strategic direction of the business as part-and-parcel of being promoted.

“It’s more than just salary that will motivate people to do a good job and keep them engaged with the business,” Stephanie Christopher, from global talent management giant SHL, told HRM. “It may be more responsibility, it may be having more control over their work and more of a say in what they’re doing.”

For others, it may be more professional development, or perhaps more recognition for doing a good job. This speaks to two key points, Christopher said. One is the importance of the line manager in motivating and engaging their team and individuals; and secondly it’s that motivation is different for every individual – everyone is motivated, not necessarily by different things, but different things in different proportions. “It’s naive of a manager or an organisation to assume that people are all motivated by the same thing,” she added.

However, money does still talk – the research revealed that 67% of workers expect more money out of a promotion.

With remuneration budgets tight, is it possible to offer further duties without remunerating accordingly? Yes, Christopher said, but employers must be open with employees and perhaps position it as a necessary step for future promotion

“Have a conversation with employees – this is where we are, you are contributing at a high level, I would like to recognise your position within the organisation right now. The salary review process looks like this, so we’re going to look at that as two separate things – is that going to work for you? For some that could be very de-motivating because they’ll feel they’re not getting recognised for the level they’re operating at. Whereas others might say, ‘I’m so excited the organisation demonstrated trust and faith in me, I’ll step up and prove my worth’.”

However, when challenging employees to take on additional responsibilities, employers must understand what drives individuals to perform, Christopher continued. SHL’s research found that a quarter of employees turn to their colleagues for motivation and 17% need the company to acknowledge their hard work to spur them on. Twenty percent of workers indicate monetary incentives motivate them.

Every employee has a certain level of "discretionary effort" in how they approach their work, and motivated employees are more likely to go the extra mile, she said. “Objectively assessing rather than guessing what motivates each employee enables managers to tailor their approach to get the best out of each employee."

And, of course, it must also work for the organisation, not just the individual. “Be very clear on what the direction of the business is, and what the capabilities are that you need from your workforce to be able to take the business in that direction. It’s good for an organisation to have a snapshot of what their talent looks like now, and then have a plan for that talent – and it might be giving them opportunities to participate in projects that will contribute to the strategic direction of the business,” Christopher said.

 Top five tips for motivating employees:


  1. Don’t assume employees are all motived by the same things; find out what specifically motivates each individual and tap into that
  2. Give employees more responsibilities and challenge them to continually develop their capabilities by providing additional tasks that develop skills
  3. Make sure recognition hard work is given in a way that is most receptive to the employee – do they want a song and dance at team meeting or a quiet pat on the back?
  4. Involve managers in the strategic direction of the business
  5. Provide a team environment for employee so help them draw support and motivation from their colleagues


Key statistics from 2012 SHL Workers and Good Management research:

What employees want out of a promotion:


  • 67% want more money 
  • 22% want more responsibility
  • 18% being involved in the more strategic parts of the business; 36% of managers
  • 12% want a title change
  • 11% perks such as car-space, phone, laptop
  • 9% want to be given charge of a special project


What motivates employees?


  • 26% support of colleagues/team cultures
  • 20% bonuses and monetary rewards
  • 17% company acknowledgement of hard work
  • 9% support from their manager
  • 6% rewards/perks following busy periods
  • 6% improved chance of promotion


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