Show me your money – A sure fire way to reduce employee engagement in your organisation!

Pimlico Employee EngagementDid anyone else see this? Charlie Mullins’ radical approach to establishing a level playing field for wages at Pimlico Plumbers certainly was a worthy publicity stunt but left me wondering, what exactly was the point in all that?! The channel 4 documentary followed the boss of this London based plumbing company as he exposed the salaries of all its employees to colleagues and a nationwide TV audience. What followed was a week of turmoil, with disgruntled underpaid staff feeling rejected and undervalued and senior managers being placed in the tricky position of being asked to take a pay cut on behalf of the lower paid members of the team… the answer, unsurprisingly was no!

Pay increases are undoubtedly a tricky thing to justify in the current climate and this novel approach sought to show that the company could be ‘fair’ in the way it distributes its’ salaries. What it failed to offer was any sort of incentive for lower paid staff to remain at the company in the long term. With a base salary for call centre workers and mechanics how can Pimlico Plumbers expect to maintain employee engagement in the future? Where’s the incentive for these staff members to strive to out perform their colleagues? Why should they put in 100% if they feel the person sat next to them coasts along from day to day… after all, they get paid the same anyway.

Employee benefits are a cost effective way for employers to deliver ‘perks’ to staff that are universal and won’t cause animosity amongst colleagues. They are available to everyone and it’s up to the individual to make the very most of what’s on offer. If Employee A were to make £700 in savings on their shopping bill and childcare costs over the course of a year (perfectly feasible) , whereas Employee B failed to sign up to the scheme and make equal savings the responsibility lies with them. The employer has given them the opportunity to stretch their salary further and as long as the programme has been communicated effectively these sort of benefits can equal the value of an annual pay increase.

The demotivating impact this experiment had on the call centre staff involved must be huge. How would you feel knowing that engineers at Pimlico Plumbers can earn up to £150,000 a year, when you are on the phones all day booking appointments on behalf of those plumbers (and therefore lining their pockets) earning a meagre £21,000? If you can’t afford to give employees a pay rise this year seek out cost effective alternatives such as employee benefits or focus on recognising the great achievements of your staff, don’t expose all the skeletons in your closet!

Check out a review by The Telegraph here


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.

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