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Vincent Belliveau

Cornerstone OnDemand

General Manager of EMEA

Read more about Vincent Belliveau

The guide to… rewarding staff when salary increases and promotion are frozen


Recent economic data has revealed low levels of wage inflation, indicating that many organisations are implementing low or no pay increases for the coming year. In addition, headcount freezes are reducing opportunities for promotion. Vincent Belliveau, EMEA General Manager for Cornerstone OnDemand, outlines how businesses can motivate their employees in this challenging environment.

Pay raises and promotions are tools that can be used to reward achievement, retain staff in a competitive market or give an ambitious employee the reassurance that they are progressing within the organisation. Yet when these tools are not available to HR or line managers, they need to become more creative in order to generate the same feeling of employee commitment and loyalty.

The modern employee
The character of the modern employee works in their favour. While it is true that organisations want to retain good employees for as long as possible, very few people stay with the same employer throughout their career, and the concept of a “job for life” is less likely in many organisations.

HR managers can use development-driven performance management as a carrot to retain employees by presenting training, development, coaching and mentoring opportunities as a reward for the employee’s achievements or potential.

It is essential to position this as a continuous development strategy so the employee remains motivated and challenged. However, this strategy only works if the opportunities are tailored to help the employee achieve their specific career aspirations; a generic, organisation-wide training programme will not have the same impact.

Similarly, managers should consider opportunities to offer a talented employee a lateral career move that would improve their skillset, knowledge of the business or visibility within the organisation. Ambitious, talented employees will recognise that such a move will help them make that next step in the hierarchy when a suitable position becomes available.

Talent management and career pathing
Of course, there are certain pre-requisites to delivering this strategy. First, there needs to be a holistic talent management strategy that identifies high-potential employees across the organisation. This goes beyond succession planning at the top level of the organisation or dealing with those who are underperforming at the bottom; it embraces workers that fall in the middle of the talent spectrum who keep the organisation moving.  In today’s flatter organisational structures, it is particularly common to find employees who are difficult to replace – someone with rare skills, specific market knowledge or high-value personal networks – within those “middle performers.”

It is also important that employees have the ability to identify the opportunities available to them and what they need to do to make that next career step. This career pathing information should be available on the organisation’s talent management system, enabling employees to identify all the direct and indirect career paths potentially open to them. However, all parties should adopt a flexible approach to help the employee develop their skills. For example, a specific job assignment or project secondment within the employee’s existing role may offer exactly the development opportunity they need.

Leveraging social recognition
A new trend is the use of less “formal” employee recognition. For example, Cornerstone OnDemand’s software features an Employee Recognition tool that can be used by managers to acknowledge an "Employee of the Month" with a specific “badge” on the employee’s User Profile page. Alternatively the tool can be used to enable all employees to recognise the contribution of their co-workers, such as a "Pat on the Back" badge for a recent collaboration.

In addition, enterprise social networking helps improve employee engagement and create effective communications, particularly when employees are able to share their knowledge and take pride in recognition of their expertise. This is a win-win situation, as talented employees can help drive participation in enterprise social networking, particularly if they have strong personal networks or authority in a specific subject area.
A mutual bond
Employees are most likely to buy into and remain with the organisation if they have a clear idea of how their contribution helps the business achieve its objectives. This strategy requires management to cascade achievable goals down the organisation so employees can focus on their specific task, yet understanding how they contribute to the bigger picture.

This type of commitment is not related to remuneration or seniority – everyone plays a part in delivering success.

And if an employee is fulfilled in doing that, they are less likely to look for a job elsewhere. However, managers need to consider the bond they enter into in these situations. An employee can be motivated and deliver excellent results through tough times, but ultimately they should be recognised with financial rewards and appropriate promotion as soon as is it possible to do so.

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Vincent Belliveau

General Manager of EMEA

Read more from Vincent Belliveau

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