Reward & Recognition

Grow Your Own – November 2021

Apparently the word ‘unexpected’ is out. Instead, everything is ‘unprecedented’. It’s a great example of linguistic gymnastics – unexpected presumes a failure to identify a risk, whereas unprecedented suggests no reasonable person would have contemplated it.

But like Alanis Morissette’s misuse of Ironic, a lot of ‘unprecedented’ issues are anything but. It’s simply an excuse for the unprepared and bungling, whilst others sit silently shaking their heads in disbelief.

The ‘unprecedented Great Resignation’ and the ‘unprecedented difficulties of recruiting talent’ are a case in point.

Many employers will have had no such challenges. These employers will have well established pipelines where employees can reach their full potential. Flexible and remote working would have been adopted because employees asked for it, not as a response to COVID shutdowns. The employee perks will be things employees want, not just a way for the top dogs to dodge tax on their hobbies.

For HR, talent issues were only unprecedented if you’ve had your head in the sand.


A recurring criticism of remote working is younger workers are unable to learn from their more experienced colleagues. But I don’t see that as a problem of remote work, but as an opportunity for everyone to do better.

Let me explain. By now we should all be aware of unconscious biases, and there’s one in particular which is known as Mini-Me Syndrome. It’s where we’re naturally drawn to people who remind us of ourselves when we were younger.

In a work context this means informal mentorships and sponsorship aren’t based on ability, aptitude or results, but simply commonalities between leaders and their ‘favourites’.

Remote working changes that, especially where organisations switch towards result based evaluation rather than observation-based assessment. Remote workers are assessed on outputs, not hours at the desk or informal relationships with organisational VIPs.

That involves taking another look at all our performance and selection measures. Identifying what ‘potential’ gets done, rather than what they spend their time doing. Formalised and structured routes to progression mean everyone knows how they can progress, not just those whose face fits.

Get started:

Use our Question Set to conduct your own organisational survey, including honest perspectives on progression and reward.

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Q. How do I save money on hiring a replacement employee?

A. Keep the old one.

Sure, jobseekers are doing well out of the current recruitment chaos, but there’s a group doing even better – recruitment consultants (and no doubt rec2rec consultants are doing best of all).

Most employees would be amazed how much it costs to replace them. Especially when they consider how little most employers spend to retain them.

There’s so much we could do to improve retention.

Personal development budgets. Loyalty perks. Increasing existing employee salaries to match the rate you’re advertising their roles at – this is such an obvious one that could solve half the problems we’re seeing in the job market at the moment.

You’re not saving money by keeping employees a few thousand below the market rate, just giving the most able and mobile employees incentive to leave.

A big loyalty issue, particularly in smaller organisations, is progression. A perception exists that one has to leave to progress.

It’s a perception that can be easily addressed. Upskilling employees in the absence of short term progression opportunities gives employees the chance to build the skills you know your organisation will soon need.

Utilising apprenticeship levy funding (especially through degree apprenticeships) ‘locks in’ employees for the duration of their apprenticeship, whilst solving your skill gaps.


There are a few things you can start thinking about today


Reward doesn’t just mean salary. Many employers use share schemes to encourage emotional investment in business success, ranging from FTSE100 firms like Tesco to tiny tech start-ups. A well planned and relevant suite of perks means leaving a role also means an employee losing things they use every day.

My local council produces an annual, personalised ‘Where does your tax go’ leaflet.  If you can, a similar annual report that shows the market cost of the perks, training and coaching an employee has used demonstrates how much you’ve invested in them – their total reward value, if you will.


How can a new starter get to where you are? If there’s no internal route to your position, you’re going to have to accept the loss of talent. But you can still keep close to former employees.

The reason employers like professional services firms run alumni programs for former employees is to keep them warm and emotionally involved with the business. They’ve spent a lot of money and time on developing their leavers, and the alumni scheme is a great way to keep a list of top talent who already know their way around your organisation.

Keeping ex-colleagues in the loop about your organisation and the jobs that you’re recruiting for by way of an email newsletter is a low cost, low effort way of staying close to talent, even if they have to go elsewhere to reach the next step in their career.


Facilitate portfolio careers.

People are working in ways that best suit them, and for many talented people that means side hustles, consulting and freelance work. They’re looking to express their passion for their specialism, try out new things, and help causes or businesses that they love.

Workers with portfolio careers bring a huge number of benefits to the organisations they work in – live experience of other organisations, greater understanding of how businesses work and new ideas.

But too often employers try to contractually restrict the worker’s attempts to do work for another party. They apply blanket restrictions on additional employment to their whole workforce, when they’re only needed for a few senior people.

Employers have already failed once in their attempts to control the workforce (flexible/agile working), and their most mobile and able employees left for opportunities and working arrangements that better suited them.

Whilst a full time role may suit many employees, don’t be surprised if the person you really want for a role wants something else. And bear in mind that the reason they’re the best person may be their portfolio career experience.

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