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How to reward and support staff in a crisis

For the cash-rich businesses flourishing in the current climate, pay rises may be an obvious and easy answer to a complex problem. However, most companies are facing financial challenges of their own and need to think more creatively about how staff can be rewarded and supported. Some will understandably be waiting to gain more clarity on what we can expect in terms of inflation, but that doesn’t help your staff right now.

As such, we thought it would be useful to share some ideas and initiatives that we are implementing with our clients, currently, that you may wish to consider as a solution to this conundrum.

Approaches to Pay Rises

While some companies play the inflation waiting game, others are biting the bullet and going through their usual processes. We’ve found that some businesses are adding on a percentage to their usual calculations to help to cover the cost-of-living increase, while others are taking a more flexible approach.

Alternative support packages we’ve seen are providing staff with short-term increases/bonuses. For example, one business has committed to splitting a proportion of 2022 Q3 profits across the months of 2023 Q1, providing staff with money to tackle fuel bills throughout the coldest months. Another is giving a cost-of-living bonus as an increase of salary for a fixed term of six months. One is applying its own method of means-testing employees, based on salary and travel expenses, to make informed decisions about the level of support they might need.

Flexible and Hybrid Working

We’re all aware of the value that many staff have placed on the flexible working arrangements that have been introduced since the pandemic. Those practices may now be harnessed to assist your staff financially.

For many, hybrid working means cash in the pocket that would otherwise be spent on pricey fuel bills or travel ticket prices. Flexible hours could mean the difference between picking the kids up early or paying expenses for child-minding or after-school clubs. Be clear on the scope of your policies on flexible and hybrid working, so staff know exactly what is on offer, and so you can maintain control.

Valuing Holidays

Giving extra time off, though it doesn’t always directly increase earnings, can be greatly appreciated. For those with caring responsibilities, it can mean less spent on childcare. For some it may be highly valued as much-needed time off at this stressful time. To balance the commercial needs of the business, you may decide to give extra time off at a time of low productivity. For example, Christmas Eve (or the closest working day) was an easy option for some businesses when work typically involved more mince-pie eating than order-taking.

Holiday selling schemes can provide significant monthly increases for those who decide money is more important than time off for them. However, do note that this is only possible for businesses that operate a company holiday scheme, and is not viable for statutory holiday days.

Education and Signposting

Financial wellbeing is a branch of the wellbeing tree that isn’t quite so commonly addressed as others, such as mental health, exercise, or mindfulness. However, there are a wealth of resources available, both free and for a fee that could be of great value to your staff.

You might arrange for financial advisors to provide a talk or give one-to-ones. You might choose to provide access to webinars, or create a page on your intranet that signposts staff to useful resources that can help them to best manage their finances, now and in the future.

Cashback Schemes

If you don’t already have a cashback scheme for your employees, this can be a great way to contribute economically to services that can be costly for your staff. For a small monthly fee per person, which can be topped up by individuals if they wish, your staff can receive cashback on essential services, such as dental and optical, for them and their families.

Other considerations

One important point to consider when putting your new reward system into place is to put a value to each element and to let your employees know the overall value of the package that you have put together for them. They will appreciate knowing and feel further supported.

You may also want to weigh up the benefits of consulting with your staff to find out what they would find most valuable. When doing so, it’s necessary to manage expectations from the start, otherwise what could be introduced as a great package may be perceived as a let-down. Listening to your staff shouldn’t stop once the new initiatives have been announced. Iterations may be necessary to gain the greatest impact.

Lastly, do think carefully about the longevity of these rewards/benefits. If you intend for any arrangements to be temporary or discretionary, ensure this is clearly communicated in writing.

Victoria Beadle

Victoria Beadle

A director of our strategic HR consultancy, Vic is a CIPD qualified HR leader who is passionate about organisations creating cultures that empower people to be successful. She is an advocate for employee engagement that gives people a voice.

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