Perks connect employees and employers during challenging times

Employers watch out. The latest CIPD/Halogen Employee Outlook report has discovered that job satisfaction in the UK is at its lowest level for more than two years. It’s fallen across all sectors but the trend has been particularly evident in the private sector.

The same report reveals that the number of employees looking for a new job has reached a two-and-a-half year high. Almost a quarter of employees are looking to change roles.

And if that’s not enough of a challenge for employers to be facing, the latest quarterly CIPD Labour Market Outlook survey of over 1,000 employers shows the median pay increase planned between March 2016 and March 2017 is 1.7%. It’s below the government’s official inflation target of 2% and the report suggests it’s looking like many employees won’t be getting a significant pay rise until the end of this decade.

Combine all these factors and it’s fair to say that employers have their hands full when it comes to attempting to keep employees engaged and willing to stay.

What options do they have? With employment costs rising for many businesses, partly due to recent legislative changes like the national living wage, it’s safe to assume that most employers won’t be intending to throw money at the problem to solve it. As research adviser for the CIPD Claire McCartney says, employers need to think of new ways to keep their employees engaged and committed. And that might not be such a bad thing.

Create emotional connections

In the article mentioned in the opening paragraph, chief people officer at Halogen Software Dominique Jones refers to the importance of regular one-to-one conversations between line managers and staff as a way of helping to improve employee engagement and satisfaction. Employers must remember the importance of nurturing authentic genuine relationships with one another. The key to engaging someone doesn’t lie in giving them a hefty pay increase then expecting them to tolerate a miserable working life for the rest of the year. Being able to afford a couple of fantastic holidays might be great at the time but not much consolation for the other 48 weeks.

As long as people have an acceptable rate of pay, there is so much more that can be done to help them stay motivated. And in fact, to help them stay. The evidence tells us employees value a great deal more than money alone. Instead, think about all the ways you can create emotional connections between colleagues, managers and subordinates.

Nurture a culture where people can take the time to get to know those who work around them and for them. Provide learning opportunities. You could take a leaf out of Air-IT’s book and train up your employees to coach others. Encourage colleagues to listen to and respond to one other’s needs. Where do you start? You can consider using a social recognition platform that enables employees to show their appreciation of one another and to facilitate far greater communication across organisations. Encourage managers to make a point of knowing what’s going on in employees’ lives and to be supportive of those challenges, issues and passions in a tangible way. That might be recognising employees by finishing a couple of hours early to pick up the kids. It might be giving them the chance to pitch an idea to a director or write a company blog. Different things for different people, yes, but all very meaningful to the recipients. Rewards such as gift cards and hard cash are great but are not sustainable, nor do they do anything to build stronger manager/employee relationships.

Those reports mentioned earlier tell us businesses are facing some tough challenges. Now’s the time for HR to get innovative, to think about what it is that creates a great environment to work in and to make sure line managers and employees have ways to do exactly that.