John Sylvester, motivation expert and Executive Director here at p&mm motivation, speaks to Power and Energy Solutions Magazine (www.pes.eu.com) about how an engaged workforce can benefit the solar industry and contribute towards its growth…
Maximising staff performance is fundamental to the success of any organisation, no matter what their industry, but it is of particular importance when cost controls are at a premium yet the pressure to develop and expand remains high.
Improving employee engagement is fundamental to unlocking the full potential of staff members, and once achieved, will prove to be commercially beneficial. At the same time it benefits staff, helping them to feel fully immersed within the business operation, and that their contributions are valued by senior management and colleagues alike.
However, the challenge in the current economic climate is that staff may often feel less engaged, particularly if financial pressures mean that the company neglects employee recognition and reward; something which is often overlooked in times of austerity. If employees’ hard work goes seemingly unappreciated, the resultant low morale will mean that staff struggle to perform to their maximum potential. This in turn, leads to presenteeism (where an employee is at work, but only giving a half-hearted effort), absenteeism and high staff turnover, all of which have a detrimental impact on the bottom line of any energy supplier. In order to get the best out of every employee, it is important to have a well thought out engagement strategy.
Employee engagement is often overlooked, yet it can vastly improve staff motivation and productivity, and thus business output.
Striving to ensure that employees feel a sense of purpose, both personally and professionally will enhance their attitude towards their work.
In fact, a survey revealed that 65% of workers would be driven to work harder in their role if they were given a purpose or target to achieve; whilst 64% said it would increase their loyalty towards the company.
One particular challenge faced today is that financial rewards may not be viable. Therefore giving staff a clear sense of purpose is part of the solution when monetary incentives are not realistic.
Reward and recognition
Employee recognition and reward schemes are a fantastic way to drive staff performance. They have the ability to motivate a wide cross-section of the workforce, providing that the targets set are realistic and achievable, and that the rewards offered appeal to everyone.
Incentive rewards can help staff feel that they are valued by giving them something to strive for, can help to improve morale by injecting excitement into work, and will therefore be instrumental in maintaining high levels of engagement.
What do they really want?
Where pay rises are not feasible, there are other money-saving opportunities on offer to staff through benefits schemes to demonstrate that you value their contribution. For example, being given the option to save on day to day costs at the supermarket will be welcomed by many an employee, particularly those trying to make their budget work harder. Alternatively, some employees may enjoy an experiential reward, such as a trip to the cinema, which is viewed as a treat that can be enjoyed with friends or family, is memorable and also low cost.
Of course, these rewards have to relate to each individual positively in order to truly engage them, hence why it is essential to discover what interests and motivates them before launching any employee recognition scheme. Find out what really inspires them.
In addition to offering tailored rewards, employers should also ensure that they offer choice. It is vital that employees feel they have a selection of tailored rewards available, as this will help them feel that their employer not only knows them well, but by offering choice, will also give them the chance to work towards a reward that they really want. Staff will remain engaged and motivated, and feel driven to produce strong results.
Cash may be the most obvious answer, however, several studies conducted over the years have shown that cash is ultimately not as effective a motivator as non cash rewards. The problem being that cash soon disappears into the household budget and often has no long term memorable ‘trophy’ value. In fact, compared with cash, non-cash rewards can be more beneficial in increasing staff morale, enhancing teamwork, raising customer satisfaction and re-establishing values and culture.
A solution to suit everyone
Another motivating reward that is effective in any employee recognition scheme, and offers convenience to employer and employee alike, comes in the form of a pre-paid card.
The introduction of pre-paid cards has been one of the key innovations in the employee recognition and incentive market in recent years, where gift vouchers, travel and merchandise have previously dominated. The arrival of ‘reloadable’ plastic cards as an alternative reward mechanism has added a new and exciting dimension for reward professionals to explore.
A pre-paid card has the power to provide huge choice for the recipient and thereby encapsulate all the different tastes of a workforce. For example, an employer can load a pre-paid card with funds as and when an employee displays desired behaviours or reaches key milestones. It can also be used as a benefit tool to facilitate savings for the employee, while the employer benefits from easy administration and branding opportunities.
Keep your eye on the prize
A key consideration to make is the way that prizes, rewards and incentives are structured within any scheme.
To complement any high profile ‘star prize’ (a holiday to the Caribbean, for example), there should also be the chance for people to win many other prizes at a lower level. Incorporating a regular prize draw, with short term rewards, will help to maintain momentum throughout the programme lifespan and avoid alienating those who feel they can not yet achieve similar levels of those highest performers – remember to recognise performance improvement as well.
It is not only sales performance that employers can incentivise. Alternatively a peer-to-peer employee recognition scheme may be introduced, giving employees the opportunity to nominate one another for hard work, ‘going the extra mile’ or a job well done, resulting in a prize for nominations which have been approved by management.
Effectively communicating any incentive scheme is essential. The overall impact that any scheme makes will depend on the quality of communication and how effectively and frequently it is conveyed. Communication should be carefully planned and timed, and the choice of rewards on offer should be presented clearly. It should also be communicated using the media that best suits the audience; face-to-face, print, email or social media.
The communication of a scheme must have the whole hearted public support of senior managers. You must ensure that they are fully aware and able to relay the details (whilst conveying their commitment) to the remaining team members. A problem can sometimes occur when a programme is communicated through management and the message can become diluted.
Furthermore, the programme’s launch must engage staff and enable them to feel it is both applicable to them and within their reach. Therefore simplicity is key, they must be able to comprehend what is required from them.
To boost the chances of programme success a range of motivational props could play an instrumental role. From our experience at p&mm, incorporating tools which are displayed publically, such as a Vortex machine, Reward Tombola, Dream Holiday Board or Golden Call booth, can drive up interest and participation within an incentive programme.
A rewarding and positive future
Developing a well structured incentive scheme, and providing clearly defined objectives to develop the skills of staff will have a notable impact on the commitment employees have to your business.
Aspirational incentives for achieving reasonable goals should include both short and long term initiatives. But for any business, ensuring staff are engaged should be the most important target of all.
The structuring of any reward based incentive programme requires a high level of strategic planning, particularly in this environment. In terms of rewards on offer, it is essential that the initiative has real impact and is either well matched to an individual or enables them to make their own choice.
It is important to get staff on side by making incentive schemes exciting and interesting. A personalised reward for each employee will make them feel valued within the team, and help to grow their confidence. Incentive rewards can help staff feel they belong within the business, improve morale and even generate some excitement.
Employee engagement is about staff feeling as though they are able to contribute to the business and that their contribution is welcomed by managers. The boost offered by rewards is only part of the equation, but it will have a positive effect that can only serve to improve engagement in the long run.
John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.
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