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Employer branding

What motivates your employees might surprise you

What are the most important factors when it comes to keeping your employees engaged and motivated? For many managers, the intuitive answer to this question might not be correct, according to Lisa Killbourn, Bray Leino’s Chief Strategy Officer.

Talking to a gathering of HR experts at a recent CBI South West HR Forum, including HR chiefs from Hays, Bristol Water and Pittards, Lisa suggested that employees and their managers often have very different ideas about what motivates and engages a workforce.

Citing research from industry community Cite HR, she said that when a sample of the two groups were asked to list employment factors in order of importance, the responses proved to be almost polar opposites.

Top employee motivators – according to managers:

1 - Salary
2 - Bonuses
3 - Vacation
4 - Retirement
5 - Other Benefits & Perks
6 - Interesting work
7 - Involved in decisions
8 - Feedback
9 - Training
10 – Respect

Actual top employee motivators:

1 - Interesting work
2 - Involved in decisions
3 - Feedback
4 - Training
5 - Respect
6 - Salary
7 - Bonuses
8 - Vacation
9 - Retirement
10 - Other Benefits & Perks

Particularly interesting is the different weights given to monetary items, and this effect is more pronounced among younger employees. Generation Y, people born between 1980 and the early 2000s, became the dominant generation in the workforce this year. They are significantly more likely to be motivated by the non-monetary items on the list.

Trying to buy employee engagement in monetary terms alone misses the point that recruitment, motivation and retention are inextricably linked to the working culture you foster within your organisation and how that’s portrayed externally through your employer brand.

So what practical steps can employers take to leverage this insight? Ashridge Business School lists a number of initiatives that can positively influence engagement among Generation Y workers:

  • A nurturing corporate culture, manager as mentor and friend
  • Challenge and autonomy from the start
  • Professional, personal growth and advancement opportunities
  • Competitive salaries
  • Recognition programmes
  • Volunteering opportunities
  • Business casual dress
  • Intrapreneurship opportunities (entrepreneurs will stay longer)
  • Flexible working (both where and when)

An engaged employee represents an important advocate, both internally and externally, but they need to be given belief and ammunition to fulfil this role.

The values and mission that make up your brand, the ‘why’ of your organisation, needs to apply as closely to their specific role as it does to the business as a whole. Being clear on what exactly the mission is, the problem that you as an organisation address and how in doing so you make the world a better place, is vital for your employer brand.

What you get with a clear employer brand is an improved ability to hire people that share your values. Future recruits should better fit the bill because they already understand what your business is about and have decided it’s something they want to be a part of.

There are two key questions we try to answer immediately when working with clients on this issue.

How clearly articulated is their internal brand and how well do their people understand and live it? Also, how consistent are their internal and external brands?

Your employer culture leaks out to a degree any time someone interacts with your business. Consistency with the values you portray to the world validates your brand every time someone experiences it, whether it’s a prospective employee or a potential customer.

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