Reward is a complex topic now isn’t it? Because it’s arguably become less of a ‘factor’ over time… but we do talk about it. A lot. Have the ‘days of austerity’ changed for good our feelings towards reward as employers; employees; customers; the public/taxpayers/press-readers?
Has reward ever really been a motivator? Has it’s importance as a hygiene factor increased in light of the economic situation?
For me, generally attitudes and behaviours towards reward have evolved notably over as little as the past 2 years. Maybe faster. And there are huge inconsistencies at play.
As somebody who is ‘rewarded’ for hiring talent on behalf of organisations, and/or advising on and enabling career moves, I challenge this thinking daily with both the employer and employee. Quite often the focus is on motivation vs. hygiene.
Of course, I take on board that attitudes are very different across industry, across role/job function, but not so long ago there were much clearer, more consistent behaviours. Deliver more = earn more = work harder = deliver more. “More money? Yes please, I’ll take it. When would you like me to start?”
And to give you some insight from a recruiter’s viewpoint, until quite recently there was a common (outrageously sweeping) generalisation: contractors/interims are money driven; permanent employees ‘career’ focussed. But, in my experience, this pattern no longer holds true.
I have (apparently money-grabbing) career contractors regularly telling me “I will take a cut in rate if the challenge, scale of complexity, accountability etc., is right”. And no, these aren’t people who are desperately out of work either! (a topic for another blog, but whilst we’re on the subject, some of the most talented people I have met are currently ‘out of work’)
On the flip side, I have had ‘career focussed’, permanent employees tell me that salary/reward is number 4 or 5 on their priority list. “It’s not the be-all and end-all… It’s not a show stopper”. However, when it comes to receiving an offer of employment and signing a contract, guess what we end up focussing 95% of our conversation on? You probably guessed right. (And rightly so in my opinion! To coin a fairly well known slogan, we live in financial times!).
Unfortunately, I’m just scribing a blog (during the England match would you believe) so I am drawing upon mainly anecdotal evidence and little empirical data to support these shifting patterns of behaviours and attitudes. I am relying on you, the reader, as subjects!
What I did find interesting, and one of the drivers to write this blog, was a report I read by those clever chaps over at PwC. One of their findings was that participants would take a 28% pay cut for ideal job. Granted participants were the media-darling executives that everyone loves to hate, but nonetheless, nearly 30% is huge. Is this indicative of a shift in attitude more generally? Or just further evidence of gross overpay? Does this apply, to a greater or lesser degree, to the ‘lower ranks’?
Furthermore, these people ‘said’ it. In a survey. Was conformity not a factor in these results? I’m interested in how many people have actually taken or are taking a 28% pay decrease for a ‘better’ opportunity.
I know there are some glaringly obvious factors at play when we look at inconsistencies in attitudes towards reward…
On one hand, gone (or going) are the days of inflated salaries and ten-a-penny jobs (my point about great people out of work), so people have to be more flexible when it comes to reward, and open themselves to wider opportunities. On the other hand times are tough… so when it comes to negotiating, negotiate hard!
Away from economic factors…
How big a factor is reward on motivation these days? Have we ‘evolved’ in this sense?
In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink argues that traditional carrot and stick motivators have seized to be effective, and that in 21st century work there are three more important factors: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
Purpose is an interesting one. Because with ever-increasing competition comes a shift towards true customer-engagement via multiple touch-points. In this sense, are the days of traditional incentive schemes numbered? Can reward ever really drive behaviour that is truly customer-centric?
There are a million questions when exploring reward – I could write a lots of blogs from lots of different perspectives. I’ve not even mentioned the public’s attitude towards executive pay! I won’t drag you through it all…
Instead I will ask for your contribution…
What do you think about attitudes towards reward?