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Human Resources

Vincent Belliveau (Europe) - Engaging and Incentivizing Employees in Uncertain Times

Many organizations have adopted a prudent line on costs; benefits have been reduced, average wage increases in countries like the UK are lower than the rate of inflation and recruitment has slowed. The outlook is gloomy, so it is even more important that organizations focus on motivating their staff in order to maintain business performance. But how can managers do this when key financial motivational tools are unavailable to them?

Fundamentally, the employee’s attention must be drawn to the less material aspects of what they gain from their job – like career progression and feeling positive about their contribution. However, this requires changes in business practices and a more constant flow of communication between managers and employees so expectations are met on both sides. Research conducted by Bersin & Associates found that there can be “a gap between the expected outcomes of performance management and the activities that support employees in reaching those expectations.” The right activity – encompassing five key steps - helps deliver success:

1.    Continuous Performance Management: Performance management does not optimize employee engagement if it is seen and designed as an annual event; HR needs to adopt processes, systems and rhetoric that underline it is an ongoing process, with the employee always gaining feedback and looking forward to new performance goals.

2.    Consider Competencies: An employee is likely to need to develop key competencies in addition to skills and knowledge.  They must be identified so it is easy to evaluate, assess and develop the individual against a comprehensive set of defined skills, knowledge and behaviors. Competencies are a powerful tool for reinforcing what a company values in its corporate culture and when employees understand and buy in to that culture they will work more effectively with their peers, improving individual and collective performance.

3.    Create and Support High-Quality Development Plans for All Employees: The performance appraisal process will highlight each employee’s development needs, but it is equally important that a tailored development program is made available so they can bridge any skills, knowledge or behavior gaps. Managers and employees must communicate effectively about the benefits of the plan so the employee wants to achieve the specific, measurable desired outcomes. Ideally, the plan will be logged on a talent management platform with integrated learning content, so the employee can be prompted to book or complete the necessary training. To achieve the maximum organizational benefit, these plans must prioritize the development needs that are most critical to helping the organization achieve its business targets.

4.    Enabling Managers to Coach: Within an employee’s development plans, classroom, e-learning and social learning all play an important role, but high-performing organizations also enable their managers to support employee development through coaching. Again, it is essential that both manager and employee are fully engaged and can understand the potential return on the time invested in coaching. One-on-one attention can deliver a real boost to employee engagement and effectiveness, but only if the manager has had the necessary training and mentoring to ensure they have the skills to coach effectively.

5.    Reflecting on Performance: Constructive, regular feedback between employee and manager - facilitated by HR professionals - can help to ensure that performance management and development plans are reviewed and updated on a regular basis.  Any gaps can be addressed in a timely way so overall performance improves and because this strategy is more likely to lead to a successful outcome, employees will be encouraged by their progress and incentivized to make further improvements.

These steps will help the average employee improve, but they also enable bright, ambitious employees to accelerate their career development, when otherwise they might leave the organization due to a lack of opportunities. In a competitive global labor market, engaging and incentivizing employees is not a “soft” strategy - it delivers real returns and makes solid business sense.

By Vincent Belliveau, Cornerstone OnDemand's SVP & General Manager of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

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