“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don't want to.”
Employee engagement is one of the fundamental pillars of a successful business transformation programme.
But how do you keep employees motivated while going through change? Especially when delivery of the transformation may mean they lose their jobs?
According to senior executives surveyed by BIE, clear communication (32%) and financial reward on point of delivery (25%) are the main incentives organisations are using to motivate employees until the end of the business transformation programme.
Just 7% said they were incentivising employees through training and development. But should this be higher up the list to help improve motivation?
Since transformation is extremely relevant in every workplace, there is a real opportunity to learn a skill that you wouldn’t necessarily get the opportunity to do by being part of a BAU team.
You could ask someone to keep doing their job and at the end of the transformation they’ll get a certain amount of money for having stuck around. Or, you could ask them to keep doing their job and provide them with a financial reward at the end, but also train and develop their transformation skills at the same time. That way, their value in the market is going to be that much higher because they’ve got more skills and experience.
Ultimately, if the people who may not have a job at the end of the transformation are involved in the transformation and in delivering the outcome, when they go to market they will no longer be a BAU employee, however they’ll know how to deliver transformation.
At the end of the day, people want to know what’s going on. This is why so many organisations focus on communication. If we asked people in a years' time what their experience of going through a transformation was, and fundamentally losing their role, they might be pleased that they learnt a new skill that has made them more attractive to other companies.
The unanswered conundrum for the main sponsors of a programme is: should we motivate people with bonuses, or should we focus on a mix of things?
The reality is that not everyone can be part of the transformation. If you’re part of it, it’s new and exciting. If you’re not, you’re just doing your normal job, knowing that the job may no longer be there for you at the end of it.
Not everyone responds to this in the same way, so there’s no one size fits all solution. It comes down to an individual’s personality. If someone is confident, outgoing and backs their ability, chances are they’re going to feel comfortable getting a job elsewhere. If they’re not, the prospect of looking for a new job is likely to be terrifying. Unfortunately, the sponsor has to take a hard line which means asking; what is the best benefit for the company and how can they soften that as much as possible?
Companies should be investigating how they can communicate the fact they can develop employees’ skills to become more attractive to the employment market. If employees are ambitious, they can get exposure to a new development in their career that gives them a skill that will be attractive to companies elsewhere and make them more employable inside the business as well.