No Image Available

Bill Alexander

Red Letter Days


Read more about Bill Alexander

Jobs increase, pay stagnates: Solving the employee engagement challenge


“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou[1]

A recent report in the Guardian revealed that "unemployment fell to a five-year low in April but Britain's workers were squeezed by a dramatic slowdown in pay growth, according to official figures”[2]. In fact, the number of people in work “increased 780,000 from a year ago, but pay growth has been on a steady decline”, reaching an abysmal 0.7% in April 2014.[3]

What we are currently seeing in the labour market is an increase in opportunities to work, but a real-time decrease in the ability to improve salaries and bonuses. This begs the question: if you cannot provide staff with monetary rewards or incentives, what approach are you taking to ensure your employees remain engaged and motivated? And, are financial rewards always the best way to attract, retain and motivate your staff?

The challenge:

It goes without saying that employers want staff to be engaged and find their jobs fulfilling, but when financial constraints limit your ability to provide substantial financial incentives, challenges may arise. Yet, there is a way forward.

Through the implementation of thoughtful and strategic employee engagement programmes, you can ease reliance on monetary rewards to inspire staff. When you utilise innovative ways to motivate your staff, you find that monetary rewards, like annual bonuses, become less of a hard and fast measure of employee satisfaction or contentment.

The solution:

As a leader, you may find that keeping employees engaged and motivated may be your biggest challenge. Recently, Fast Company reported that 74% of workers want to walk away from their jobs[4]. Whether this is based on burnout, a perceived lack of appreciation (monetary or otherwise), or disconnect between personal and company values, if people are not sufficiently motivated and inspired by their jobs, they will become disconnected and disengaged.

Employee engagement is the principle which dictates that staff care about, and are invested in, their organisation’s goals. Putting this belief system into practice has become standard for some of the most successful organisations in the UK. You don’t have to search high and low for examples of this; companies like Google, Iceland Foods, Bourne Leisure, and BDO all have an exemplary commitment to ensuring that their staff are consistently engaged, motivated and recognised.

It is therefore not a surprise that these companies annually appear on the Sunday Times ‘Best Companies’ List. What these organisations have in common is a dedication to ensuring employees feel appreciated, are rewarded for their loyalty and motivated by their jobs. They know this can't be left to chance, so they really work at it.

It is easier to give staff a sense of employer pride when they believe that their company is making a genuine effort to encourage connectivity, support and inclusiveness. You must insist on working with your teams to create a culture that supports fairness, curiosity, inclusivity and vibrancy. When you do this, you develop a workplace culture that is more than just about collecting a salary.

Taking financial rewards out the equation, it seems to me that employment engagement starts as a good leadership decision and is maintained by good leaders. Which leads me to the final point; as Daniel Pink has surmised, “Traditional rewards aren't always as effective as we think.”[5]

It’s time to think outside of the box, stop relying on money to entice our employees and put more heart into our employee engagement programmes. This will undoubtedly (positively) affect your organisation’s bottom line.[6]


Get the latest from HRZone.

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.