Charles Cotton: Is money still the most popular form of employee motivation?

Employees are attracted, retained and engaged by a whole range of financial and non-financial rewards, which change with their personal circumstances. Depending on what life stage they’re at, the financial elements of a reward package may not be the only thing of importance. For instance, people at the beginning of their career may be just as interested in gaining access to training and career development.

It is clear though that the pandemic has changed the reward landscape. Demand for non-financial benefits appears to have increased the most, perhaps because staff are conscious that many employers can’t afford pay rises right now.

This is most apparent in the popularity of home and hybrid working. Numerous media stories have reported that employers facing staff shortages are using the offer of flexible working to recruit, while other employers say that new starters regard flexible working as a pre-requisite.

Wellbeing has also, understandably, shot up the list of peoples’ priorities since the pandemic started and employers have responded accordingly. Not only have they focused on communication with their staff, we’ve seen more investment in health and wellbeing support. For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) gave its staff a year’s subscription to the Headspace app. Similarly, given that many people have taken a hit to their income during the pandemic, they may also want to receive more financial wellbeing support.

It is important however that employers don’t just offer a reward package because that’s what others are doing; it needs to work too. The most effective reward packages are aligned with the needs of the business, staff wants, and reflect the organisation’s purpose and performance. Ideally, employers should be asking their people what attracts, keeps and inspires them and then they should be helping staff to pick a mix of financial and non-financial rewards.

Charles Cotton is a senior performance and reward adviser at CIPD