Facing the prospect of more tribunals, many employers are taking a fresh look at their policies and processes to ensure employees are being treated fairly and know exactly what is expected of them. But could they be doing more to maintain a happy and well-motivated workforce?
Establish an open and honest culture
As many employers realise, if left unresolved, today’s grievances can quickly escalate to become tomorrow’s disputes – not only incurring costs but potentially denting workplace morale. The key to preventing this is to establish an open and honest culture where issues can be aired and worked through informally before they turn into a tribunal claim. Creating an open and honest culture requires strong leadership from managers who have adopted the right behaviours and can develop their teams accordingly.
Don’t assume you know what people want
Another key way to minimise the risk of disputes arising is to create a rewarding environment, where individuals feel valued. For small and medium-sized businesses, however, it can be easy to fall into the trap of assuming managers know what people want. All businesses, regardless of size, should be prepared to conduct in-depth research to establish what motivates workers and design a reward and remuneration structure to suit.
Take a tailored approach
Identifying real motivators is not always straightforward however. Some common terms such as ‘flexible working’ will mean different things to different people and a simple question or answer may not therefore deliver accurate insights. Dig deeper, for example, ask if flexible working would be of benefit and, if so, what kind of flexibility would really work for the individual. If you don’t probe enough, you can start off with a good intention but end up with the wrong answer.
Get the basics right
Of course, pay and remuneration are important to every worker. From the employer’s perspective, it is important to get to a point where pay is not an issue for individual employees – this will help to ensure they feel valued and rewarded. Once this is achieved, however, simply increasing pay will not be sufficient to tie a person into the organisation and further means of engagement will need to be established.
The rising cost of private medical insurance is off-putting to some small and medium-sized businesses, but employers should avoid writing it off altogether. In a competitive employment market, sometimes it is important for SMEs to match the benefits offered by larger corporates. In this sense, PMI can still be a good way to attract and retain talented people. For larger businesses with more than 500 employees, it may be worth setting up a ‘Healthcare Trust’ as an alternative to a traditional PMI scheme. While these Trusts place more responsibility on the employer and have more fixed costs attached, they can be delivered cost-effectively.
One for all
As an employer that is seeking to engage and get the most out of its workforce, it is important to be inclusive. On occasions, this might mean taking the time to listen to serial complainers or those with a ‘glass-half-empty’ attitude to ensure they feel that they are being heard. Taking an inclusive approach also helps to instil a culture of tolerance, which can be important in helping to maintain a happy and productive workplace.
Tie in future leaders
In order to build a strong and sustainable business, employers need be adept at identifying talented individuals and developing their potential. This requires long-term thinking and reward structures to match. For this purpose, SMEs could consider introducing a tax-beneficial share option scheme, such as the Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) scheme. This initiative allows businesses to reward staff in a tax-efficient manner, by allowing them to purchase shares in the company at some point in the future. Not only is the eventual sale of these shares taxable at 10 per cent, but the status of being a shareholder within the business promotes a sense of pride and ownership likely to encourage longevity.
Ed Hussey is director of people solutions at accountancy firm Menzies LLP.