Five ways HR departments can keep their workforce engaged on a tight budget

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 20 Jul 2016

Pay and benefits are not always the most important factor in an employees’ happiness

A recent survey by showed widespread dissatisfaction with jobs in the GCC – almost half of the 20,000 employees surveyed said they are unhappy with their job. Some organisations have had to make cutbacks, such as reducing health insurance policies and tightening up on other perks. People Management spoke to motivational experts to get their advice on how to keep employee morale high – especially if HR is on a tight budget.
1. Stick to the terms of the psychological contract
David Jones, founder and managing director at The Talent Enterprise
“Our research shows that when it comes to sustaining motivation in employees, pay and benefits are typically less important than the opportunity for workplace development, positive working relationships, or gaining a sense of meaning from your work and recognition of your efforts,” says Jones. “None of these aspects of the psychological contract cost any significant amount of money and can be critical when organisations are striving to make their workplaces more positive and more productive. Many of our clients are seeking to redress the balance between what their employees give and what they get, and expectations should be managed accordingly.”
2. Build trust and understanding with regular communication
Annalinde Nickisch, HR consultant and partner at The Thought Factory‬
“Job dissatisfaction is commonly caused when an employee’s expectations have not been met,” says Nickisch. “This could be caused by many factors – a delay in receiving a salary increase, an expected career progression, or an anticipated benefit entitlement. Once a sense of distrust has occurred, it is difficult to recover goodwill. For example, if it is unlikely the company will give annual bonuses due to budget constrains, it is important to immediately and openly communicate the impact this may have on employees and the reasons why the measure was needed. When spending cuts force an organisation to reduce monetary benefits, companies must look at alternative, non-fiscal benefits, and evaluate the possibility of reducing working hours or the option of working from home. These measures may alleviate the dissatisfaction and should not increase spending.”
3. Ask employees what they want
Annalinde Nickisch, HR consultant and partner at The Thought Factory‬
When developing cost-saving strategies that affect employee benefits, include the key business leaders in the decision-making process,” says Nickisch. “By including management and individual employees, the HR department can get a better understanding of the benefits employees consider a priority. It’s also important that HR openly communicates the reason for the budget cuts. When employees have been included in the decision-making process they are more likely to understand the situation rather than feel frustrated at being kept out of the process. Additionally, HR should anticipate questions relating to the duration of employee benefits being cut, and explain the organisation’s strategy to employees.”
4. Don’t wait for your employees to come to you with problems
Elias Dib, partner, Middle East & Africa at Aon Hewitt
“It may seem obvious, but in the day-to-day of HR activities, are HR professionals only speaking to those employees who come to present problems?” asks Dib. “By proactively seeking out different employees’ views, HR can identify problems before they arise and even more importantly, identify pockets of good practice and positive engagement that will save HR from being the organisational doomsayer.”
5. HR should avoid the temptation to go it alone
Elias Dib, partner, Middle East & Africa at Aon Hewitt
“Engage managers in planning and setting up annual HR programme, deciding how to measure engagement, action planning for the survey results, and so on,” says Dib. “Also engage managers on their units’ unique challenges while keeping them aware and raising their understanding of the business challenges overall.”