No employee is going to work harder and smarter, the goal of most employee engagement initiatives, for someone else’s gain for very long unless they are gaining more themselves as well. It is not an altruistic relationship.
Eventually they will go somewhere they can gain more or they will stay and “work-to-rule” just doing the bare minimum to get by. Ultimately, that’s why only 8% of the workforce in this country is categorised as highly engaged.
It doesn’t matter how many engagement initiatives an organisation puts in place, if it is fundamentally perceived as treating employees unfairly for the amount of time, effort and attention they put into their work, they’ll start rationing their effort.
Perks, recognition, bonuses, open-days, etc., count for nothing if employees see a “them and us” culture of remuneration and prioritisation of shareholder return over employee recompense and limited opportunities to advance.
The challenge is that most people think businesses make six times as much profit as they do on average. Which means, even if profits are fairly distributed between employees and shareholders, employees will still perceive it as unfair unless there is complete transparency about the performance of the business and how the rewards are split.
But transparency isn’t enough either. Most people don’t understand how businesses make money, generate cash and build a strong balance sheet. So you can’t just show employees the figures; there also has to be financial education to train them to see how their day to day activities impact on the financial performance of the business.
There are then three requirements for an engaged, productive workforce that over-delivers discretionary effort: financial transparency, financial education for every employee and a fairer distribution of the fruits to every stakeholder in line with their investment of time, expertise and money. The intention behind these changes and the culture change it creates will take care of the rest.
One last word. The financial education has to be fun because, let’s face it, it’s not going to be most peoples’ idea of an enjoyable experience. That is until they try it our way.