[Pay Is Key Driver For Employee Engagement – From Paul Hebert-VP Solution Design. Read more about him on our Leadership page.]
Wait, what? Pay isn’t supposed to drive engagement. Pay is openers. Pay is simply where we start and simply keeps us “in the house” and showing up. We don’t “engage” for money. At least that has been the story for as long as I can remember.
But an article today on Business Standard says different. The article entitled: “Pay is most critical for employee engagement” reports results from Aon’s 2013 study on engagement and shows pay is now the #3 driver of engagement – up from #6 in 2011. If we lived during the 1400s Aon Hewitt would be getting invitations from the Inquisition before you could say, well, Inquisition.
From the PDF authored by Aon:
Usually described as a “hygiene” factor of little consequence to employee engagement, pay moved up in engagement driver ranking from #6 in 2011 to #3 in 2012.
The take on this from Aon is pay has reached what they are calling a “hygiene threshold” meaning that pay – as long as it meets some minimum level of contribution to an employee’s lifestyle (can pay rent, allows one to have cable TV and cell phone, etc.) disappears into the background and isn’t where we focus as employees. For those of you who bow to Maslow – they are saying employees have slipped into the “survival bar” on the hierarchy and now are focused on security, food, shelter, etc. Pay is now a key driver of my motivations. Aon believes that the lack of pay raises, coupled with rising prices, is making pay much more important in the overall engagement equation.
I don’t think pay drives engagement but that lack of pay does create a barrier to engagement. I still firmly believe that true employee engagement blooms out of things that aren’t as transactional as pay – but are more emotional in nature and appeal to a very different part of the brain. My belief is that adequate pay allows one to focus on engagement.
Take pay down to a level where you can’t afford your daily Starbucks and all of sudden you’re not engaged any more – you’re looking for ways to make money – not meaning.
What this means to most HR folks?
If the data from this survey is correct – and that is a big if – it means that worrying about the traditional ways to impact employee engagement should be put aside for the time being. Instead, look at the sacrifices your employees have made over the past few years and ask yourself if they are now more worried about survival – hygiene factors if you will? Has pay stagnated in your organization (or gone backward due to price increases – fuel for the car is up roughly $1.00 a gallon since 2010.)?
Don’t think your engagement scores are down because you have a lousy chef in the company cafeteria. Don’t assume the “assumptions” we operate under during normal times apply now. If your company has issues with pay no amount of fixing “traditional” engagement drivers may help. This survey would indicate that the problem with engagement isn’t about engagement now. It’s about survival.
What do you think? Have employees reached their breaking point and are needing/wanting fixes in the baseline relationship with their company before we tweak the real engagement drivers. Do we need to start fixing the core hygiene factors? Are we creating greater disengagement by ignoring “hygiene” issues within the employee base and focusing on benefits, perks, incentives and recognition?
Does this study reflect your experiences lately?
As an aside – I think this has a lot of application during this week with Christmas only a few days away. It’s kind of like giving someone a new Xbox who can’t afford broadband internet – it is kind of pointless – they can’t really be thankful – and you look foolish.