How to reward valued employees is a complex undertaking. Some companies feel that a mere well-timed “thank you” is sufficient. Others will equate reward to compensation.
Still others think that simply working for the leader in the industry is sufficient and they don’t have to address discontent.
After all, what do employees have to complain about? The discontent will go away. But it won’t.
Compensation is important, but managers also need to create an environment that challenges employees with new opportunities to keep them motivated and that that prompts them to do a better job than necessary. People thrive on “stretch” assignments where they can learn new things and work with different kinds of people.
Having worked in corporate environments and now serving as an executive coach, I firmly believe that a balanced approach to rewarding employees is most successful and fosters greater communication among everyone.
Let me provide a story about what occurs when all the pieces do not come together, when the rhetoric and reality are not aligned.
Promises Not Kept
A well-respected, long-term employee with a Ph.D., who was responsible for all operations leading to the production of a world-famous medication, was continually discontent. How he felt he was being treated was far different from the value he was told he added to the corporation.
Signs that caused him dissonance were:
- He was never provided with the promised office other senior managers had.
- His boss left him out of meetings, going directly to my client’s staff.
- Other senior officers had open access to the EVP; my client had to make an appointment, which was usually canceled.
Against these perceived slights, he was a high performer:
- Reviewed an FDA proposal that led to the FDA reversing its position.
- New technology was adapted readily by his group and ahead of other peers across the organization.
- He was the “go to” executive when difficult analyses had to be completed, and these normally required him to travel and work non-stop for weeks at a time.
Listen to Employees
All this leads to the question of why? My coaching focused on my client speaking up. I wasn’t sure he had made his discontent known with enough power and focus that senior leaders took him seriously or realized how unhappy he was.
Granted, the company had a responsibility to recognize and reward his achievements. They needed to take their promises seriously. In my client’s case, he did talk to senior management about getting an office, but it never happened. The company didn’t follow through on its promise.
Companies think they can get at employee discontent through employee engagement surveys. But often fearful for their jobs, employees aren’t always going to be honest in their responses. That’s because they’ve been over this road before when nothing changed after the last survey.
There is a gap between what companies promise and what’s real. There needs to be an honest dialogue about reward systems. Employees need to be heard about the rewards that matter to them – compensation, a positive work environment, ever-increasing responsibility, and the feeling they are part of the larger picture. They want to know that their personal effort is making a significant contribution to the company’s success.
Employees are talking and management needs to listen.
Frank has held senior positions for several of the most prestigious companies in the world, including JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard Worldwide and Marsh, Inc. He combines his business background with his coaching experience to help develop resilient, relationship-driven leaders, abrasive executives recognize and improve their behavior, transitioning executives create realistic action plans, and build productive relationships between technologists and their business partners.