Years ago I was invited to Friday night drinks by a friend of mine. Her employer, a prominent advertising agency, was positioned on the harbour, in an office with beautiful sweeping views in the centre of a bustling district.
I remember at that time thinking how great this place was, providing free drinks in a dedicated office bar. Not just beer and wine, but any spirits too, with a DJ thumping out the latest beats while you drank and partied. It was like having your own club right in your office.
Are you providing your team with something of value?
I look back on that time now and find the scene far less appealing than it did to me then. But that’s natural – I’m much older now, and that stuff has lost its allure.
Even back then, it wasn’t hard to see that these people were making a trade. They were trading very long hours and relatively low salaries for free drinks and entertainment. Of course, they were also able to attend functions put on by large brands, occasionally rubbing shoulders with the industry bigwigs.
So what are you providing your team with? What do your team members get from working in your organisation and your team? Is it something of value?
Understanding what your team members value is the first step
In order to provide something of value to reward your employees, you need to know what that is. Too many times, I have seen organisations taking the easy way out – free food, free drinks, invites to fancy functions.
But these are tokens. They don’t provide lasting value – if your employees are actually motivated and enthused by these things, then you are lucky.
Everybody is different, so even if 80 per cent of your team loves free food, there are 20 per cent left that don’t find any value in it. You can’t pretend you are rewarding your employees when some of them don’t value what you are offering.
Make a list of your team members and write down two or three rewards that they value. Don’t know? Meet with them one-on-one and have a discussion about it. If they aren’t sure, then let them go away and think about it, letting you know later. Even the simple act of asking your team what they value is powerful, because it shows them that you’re interested.
So what might “something of value” be?
There are a million things that an employer could potentially provide for their staff by way of rewards or development opportunities. I’ve grouped them into broad categories here for you to consider. You may not have access to the resources to provide some of the things in these categories. But you’d be surprised how many of them are low cost, or even simply require some of your time.
Entertainment – free food, drinks, parties, functions, events. This is a category that many employers use liberally, because it’s easy. Often functions take place out of work time, meaning that there is no impact on the team’s work. In my experience, these benefits don’t provide much lasting value, but they do take people’s minds off work for a while.
Coaching and mentoring – putting in the effort to have coaching and mentoring conversations with your team can be extremely valuable, and all it requires is putting aside some time. Many leaders are short-sighted, considering time spent coaching and mentoring as a waste when you could be completing work instead. The longer term benefits of coaching somebody to improve their performance are often underrated and overlooked.
One of the most powerful things one of my former leaders did for me was to sit down and coach me on project management years ago. He had been doing it for years and it was valuable information. It didn’t cost anything, except a few hours of time, but it made a lasting impact.
Training – training courses cost money, with training budgets often the first to go when times are difficult. Look outside of the box for this one. There are many free resources available that could be considered a form or training. You don’t need a fancy certificate to have been “trained”. You simply need to have learned new skills.
Most importantly, make sure your team are learning skills that they can actually apply in their jobs. Failing to do so will seem like it is training for training’s sake and not something that is actually relevant to the employee. Spending time learning things that aren’t relevant is actually extremely boring.
Flexible working arrangements – do you really need your team to be in your line of sight all the time? Are they perhaps able to work from home periodically or come in later on some days? You’d be surprised at the difference this can make, because this flexibility lets people balance their commitments more effectively outside of work, helping to reduce stress.
Time to work on new initiatives – innovation is the catch-cry that we’ve all heard recently. “We have to innovate”, leaders cry. But often all innovation side projects are OK out of work hours, but not when there is other “real” work to be done.
This can be as easy as setting aside some time for your team to work on something they find interesting for an hour a week. Make sure that it is relevant to the work they do, with the view to potentially using it in a real project in the future. This doesn’t have to cost money, it could simply be research and experimentation – but if you don’t sanction it, it won’t happen.
Interesting work – sometimes all people want is to work on something interesting and that can be reward enough. If your team members are consumed with never-ending drudgery consisting of the same tasks every day, you can bet they’ll be bored. Even if they don’t quit, there is no doubt they’ll be listless and not performing to the level that they could be.
See if you can change it up for them. Have them work on a side project, or learn new skills working on something that they don’t normally get a chance to put their effort into. Variety is key.
Career opportunities – some employees see the most value in having career opportunities such as being given more responsibility or to lead an initiative. This doesn’t always need to be a formal promotion, but could simply be something that adds weight to the CV of the individual.
Financial benefits – staff discounts, special deals or salary sacrificing can be attractive benefits for team members if they are available. Some people are driven more by experience and learning motivators than purely by money, but the ability to make home life just that bit financially easier should not be overlooked.
Additional leave – Whether it’s purchasing additional leave to go on that big holiday or being awarded additional leave due to having been at an organisation for a number of years, additional leave provisions can be a good way to improve satisfaction (even if the employee is at work less!).
Are the employees at your organisation receiving something of value?
It’s quite well documented that money is not the best motivator for many employees. Often a high salary will soon be forgotten if the work is unfulfilling.
If you think your people should be happy just being paid, then you should think again if you want to actually get the best out of them.
Look around your team – do you know what they value, and are they getting it? What could you do to introduce something of value into their working lives?