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It Pays to Listen: Management Talks

It Pays to Listen: Management Talks

Management Today

May 12, 2010

If 2009 was characterised by staff worrying about whether they will keep their jobs, in 2010 – which is showing tentative signs of recovery – the boot could be on the other foot.

This time, it is employers that could be worrying about how they manage to keep hold of the talented staff, the ones that survived the recession, but who could now be tempted to go.

But while better pay deals have historically followed economic hardship, it is not the case this time. With pay freezes still being maintained by a third of employers, according to the Incomes Data Service, and the fall-out from the excessive bonus culture still taking up column inches in the national press, (Barclays Capital was slated only last month for awarding an average Pounds 95,000 bonus to 23,000 investment bankers), one thing is clear: employers have been forced to examine more cost-effective reward strategies to stop staff jumping ship.

Another worry has emerged, though: 26% of respondents said an extra worry for them this year is managing staff expectations, with employees pressing for more perks.

Paul Banfield, lecturer and programme director in organisational and HR management at Newcastle Business School Northumbria University, explains: “This is rather converse – managing expectations seems quite at odds with the macro-economic environment. With more jobs losses and issues of under- employment, employees should still be more concerned with keeping their jobs than pressing for more perks.”

He adds: “The public sector is lagging behind the recessionary trends – but staff there need to realise the good times are coming to an end and they will have to get used to cuts and pay freezes before things get better.”

Although more than a third (39%) of survey respondents saw flexibility of reward to meet the needs of business as a major concern for 2010, a smaller proportion (28%) were concerned about the flexibility of their reward packages in meeting the needs of employees. This suggests employers are putting business need first, in front of employee need. In fact, more than half of respondents thought employees actually lacked an understanding or appreciation of what perks were on offer.

Given 59% of employers either agreed or strongly agreed staff know how to access information about their rewards and benefits, (49% provide multiple channels to communicate benefits – up from 36% in 2009), it indicates HR professionals believe they provide all the information necessary, it’s just that staff don’t make use of it. Indeed, the 36% that said they conducted frequent research to find out employees’ views and concerns around benefits provision is a drop from last year’s results. Last year, nearly a half (47%) frequently asked for feedback on reward.

Mark Carman, director at employee benefits technology provider Motivano, says: “Last year it seems employers were asking staff what they wanted. This year they are doing the telling. It could be they are communicating the changes they have made after staff surveys – but it could also be they are scared to ask what staff want in case they cannot provide it.”

So What Do Employees Really Want?→


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