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Beyond the bonus: recommendations

Helen Mayson

Beyond the bonus: driving employee performance

This research shows that financial incentives are relatively ineffective motivators for the majority of staff. Instead, a focus on improving the workplace and developing management relationships is more likely to lead to effective and well motivated teams. ILM has outlined four steps you can take to improve productivity across your organisation without relying on financial incentive schemes

Job enrichment

Employees indicated that enjoyment of their job was the single most important factor in motivating them to perform in the workplace. Whether someone likes what they do is influenced by a variety of factors, but well-considered job design and the structure of a team can have a huge impact on how motivated an employee feels. Allowing employees to have autonomy in a role (important to 22% of respondents), frequent interaction with other colleagues and a chance to innovate can all improve their sense of job enjoyment and increase their level of motivation. Training managers to motivate staff and create an atmosphere where they are listened to, coached and given autonomy to perform can all impact on how much an employee enjoys their work.

Base pay, not bonus

Our research showed that additional financial incentives outside of the base salary package are relatively ineffective motivators. Despite this, financial incentives are still commonly used by employers in an attempt to generate high performance. While performance-related bonuses were largely ineffective, a fair financial package (base salary, benefits and pension scheme) was highly valued by employees and ranked as an important motivator. Instead of costly and ineffective bonus schemes, the research shows that increasing base salaries and investing in improving an employee’s basic enjoyment of their role would be more effective ways of improving performance. Non-financial recognition and reward, improved office environments, team and company away days and schemes that encourage innovation and creative thinking are all more effective drivers of focus, effort and commitment.

Embrace part-time

Part-time workers in this research were more positive, motivated and engaged with their teams than their full time counterparts. A growing proportion of the UK workforce are employed in part-time roles, and organisations that employ part-time staff are reaping the benefits of a talented and engaged workforce. Employers should not be afraid of creating a ‘decimal point’ in their workforce, designing and recruiting for jobs that fall outside the traditional 40-hour a week standard. Embracing a more positive attitude to flexible working will also help employers retain talented staff who move from one stage of their career to the next and whose work preferences change.

Develop interpersonal skills

How well employees got on with their managers, how well they felt they were treated and valued and the sense of control they feel over their work were all important to employees in improving their sense of motivation. Our results show that managers can never do enough of the basics of good management, so developing your managers’ people management skills is essential in improving and maintaining motivation. Train managers to use coaching styles, give effective feedback and encourage a culture of innovation where employees feel free to contribute ideas. Appraisals were also identified as a weak point in the research, with many employees giving examples of poor practice. The challenge facing HR and L&D teams is to design and implement an effective appraisal process that clearly links performance with review and to ensure managers are trained in administering it effectively. Without these, appraisals will continue to have little impact on motivation and performance.

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