Providing support when it's needed most
There are challenging parts to every job, and employers will always need to motivate teams to perform at their best. But some jobs are more stressful than others, requiring more effort to keep staff happy and motivated when times are tough.
A list revealing the UK's top ten most stressful jobs found that nine of the professions are in the public sector with doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers and ambulance drivers being just some of the roles that put the most pressure on workers.
It's not a surprise when you consider the austerity measures put in place on public services, which have seen 20,000 less police officers on their beat compared to 2009, as well as public sector workers experiencing a cut in real pay due to high inflation. Coupled with increases in national minimum wages and national insurance, which have stretched budgets for public sector employers, it's putting more pressure on services all the time.
So, what can you do to motivate staff in challenging roles, particularly when wage increases aren't an option? We look at benefits that can play an important part in motivating employees and keeping them engaged.
Support staff with the right benefits
Money worries are no stranger to the average employee, but they're particularly widespread in the public sector. Unison surveyed 6,500 public sector workers and 52% admitted they had to borrow money from friends and family to make ends meet.
Despite economic challenges, employee benefits that include discounts can be cost-effective, and show your employees that you value their input and contributions to the organisation – even if you can't offer pay increases, you can provide support which can help with their financial woes.
Offering discounts which take care of the day-to-day finances might not feel like much, but they are very popular among employees. With pay freezes in the public sector making wages fall below inflation, supporting staff with discounts on shopping and leisure activities can be very useful in helping staff stretch their pay further.
There's a wide range of benefits out there – particularly when it comes to employee discounts – and it's important to make sure they're as relevant as possible for your employees. Some benefits are obviously more likely to appeal to some demographics than others, and you'll need to consider everyone across the organisation to make sure you've got something for everyone.
For example, our own research into staff rewards found that 84% of millennials are looking for experience-based rewards from their employers, so use this principle when selecting benefits, too – cinema tickets, travel and entertainment discounts are more likely to resonate with this age group.
Recognise their hard work
Does an employer who recognises their employees' achievements see increased productivity? Yes! 69% of employees said they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated.
Simply put, the more recognition a staff member gets, the happier they are. 94% of employees who are provided with positive recognition daily – or even more frequently – say they are satisfied with their job compared to just 43% of employees when they only receive recognition less than a few times a year.
Employee recognition can take place in many different ways, whether it's a monthly meeting, a thank-you email sent to the entire staff praising a certain individual, or even a simple pat on the back for a job well done – they can all go a long way.
66% of public sector workers are satisfied with their jobs according to CIPD's Employee Outlook report - yet they also ranked the highest when it came to reporting levels of pressure and exhaustion at work, with 43% admitting they are under excessive pressure at work at least once a week.
With exhaustion levels high, why not see if you can reward high-performing staff at risk of burnout with an extra couple of days holiday? If your working arrangements are dictated by demand, then why not treat them to a weekend pampering session or spa day to let them have some much-needed R&R?
The option for extra time off shouldn't just be for top performers, of course – an annual leave purchase programme allows people to sacrifice part of their salary in exchange for extra days off, spreading the cost over the entire year for minimal impact on their monthly wages. This has the added bonus of a reduced wage bill for the organisation as a whole – which can go a long way to funding future HR initiatives and employee benefits.
Recognising employee efforts can lead to a happier team too. Employees want to feel as though they are making a difference to the organisation, especially in the public sector – and sometimes it’s as simple as just telling people they're making a difference.
Let employees choose
Even though money may be tight in your organisation due to funding and budget cuts, one in three employees said they would give up part of their salary to be happier at work. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make this happen!
We've already discussed annual leave purchase above – but there are lots of ways salary sacrifice or net pay deduction arrangements can be used to provide a boost for employees.
For example, you can give your staff the option to give up part of their salary in exchange for further training – something that many studies have found to be directly linked to employee satisfaction and productivity. Why? Because it gives them the ability to further their career – perhaps moving onto a pay grade that they can't reach with their current skills.
Or they can choose something a little more fun – net pay deductions can also be used to pay for the latest tech, a brand-new bike, or even a new car, with the costs split into affordable chunks and spread over many months.
It's good to talk
Finally, one key way to help team members enjoy work more is to talk to them openly and honestly about what they feel motivates them, and go from there. Asking staff how you can support them to keep them engaged shows you do care, and want to make changes to help.
When it comes to motivating employees in the public sector, there are plenty of options to consider – but whatever it is you're planning, it’s essential to communicate how you intend to back up your team and help inspire them when the going gets tough.