Seven ways to boost engagement without the pay rise

One in two businesses will be granting staff pay rises of over two per cent in the next year, according to a recent survey by British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and online recruitment company Indeed. These findings have been welcomed, with the BCC stating that one of the influencing factors is that employers are wanting to pay a great wage to motivate and retain their teams. But is a pay rise the best way to heighten engagement and increase motivation? The simple answer according to Robert Ordever, Managing Director of O.C. Tanner Europe is “no”.

We caught up with him to see why.

“Leaders often resort to a pay rise as a means to engage staff as it’s a quick and easy solution to ‘perking-up’ a demotivated workforce. Few would complain about an increase to their salary, but it shouldn’t be viewed as the only solution to boosting staff engagement. In fact, there are other proven methods of increasing motivation levels which provide long-term benefits rather than short-term ‘fixes’. After all, once the pay rise has been ‘banked’, the golden glow it first provided will soon be forgotten.


Leaders need to think beyond the ‘pay rise’ and consider introducing the following for increasing staff engagement and improving the employee experience:


  1. A clear view of the ‘bigger picture’ – Many will have heard the story about when President John F. Kennedy visited NASA space centre and interrupted his tour to ask a caretaker what his job was. The caretaker replied that he was “helping to put a man on the moon”. Whether the story is true or not, the takeaway message is that no matter how small each person’s contribution, they are part of the ‘the bigger picture’ and what they do makes a difference. Everyone likes to feel part of something bigger than themselves and so allow staff to embrace this.  Taking the time to tell the company’s story, where it is headed and how every person is contributing, can have an incredible impact.


  1. A wellbeing programme – This isn’t about putting a fruit bowl on every desk but about considering the physical, emotional, social and financial wellbeing of employees. The organisation must put staff wellbeing at the heart of the company, encouraging a good work-life balance and providing a range of wellbeing initiatives, from stress management advice through to supplying free wearables so that staff can track their day-to-day exercise levels and sleep patterns. By rolling-out a strategy which effectively and sensitively addresses staff wellbeing, engagement levels will increase.


  1. A “thank you” culture – It’s all too common to hear about people leaving organisations because they don’t feel appreciated, and yet many companies still permit a culture of ungratefulness. Worryingly, almost half of employees* believe their organisation takes them and other employees for granted. The introduction of an appreciation and recognition programme which ensures staff feel genuinely appreciated and valued on a regular basis, can transform the employee experience as well as increase productivity.


  1. Company-wide social gatherings – When staff have strong, positive relationships with their managers and co-workers, they will be more motivated to stay at the company and do well. Encourage this by holding monthly or even quarterly social events. Such events are also a sure-fire way to boost engagement and remind employees why the company is an exciting place to work.


  1. Learning and development opportunities – If staff feel as though there aren’t any opportunities for growth and development they will either leave or become ‘switched-off’. In fact, just 55 per cent of employees regularly learn new, valuable things in their current role*, meaning that nearly half aren’t progressing in their careers. Ensure staff are given a range of opportunities to learn new skills, have a voice and be challenged, such as by offering onsite training and distance learning courses. It’s also important to consider novel ways to develop people, such as reverse mentorships in which junior members of staff mentor their managers and leaders on emerging technologies or new ideas. Such opportunities will considerably boost confidence and morale.


  1. ‘Special projects’ – Staff don’t need to be promoted in order for them to feel more empowered. By introducing projects that people can ‘own’ and lead can ‘fire them up’ and encourage them to thrive.


  1. Secondments – With 40 per cent of UK workers admitting that they’re bored at work*, organisations need to consider new and creative ways to keep talent motivated. One such way is to allow staff to be seconded to other offices. The change of scene, team and responsibilities can have a significant impact on engagement.


A pay rise may bring smiles for a few days but on its own will not provide the much-needed boost in motivation levels. And so when engagement is waning and motivation lacking, companies need to think about how key changes to its culture and approach can enhance the employee experience for the long-term.”


*Findings taken from the O.C. Tanner Institute’s 2017 studyThe 6 Aspects of Culture Every Organisation Should Be Focusing On’.