Attracting, Motivating and Retaining Staff
when times are tough
and you can’t afford to pay higher salaries
In the new economy,
information, education, and motivation are everything.
In these tough economic times, businesses are challenged
to do more with less. There are expectations from shareholders, boards and senior management to improve or at
least retain market share, share prices, profitability, and viability. And to do it with
less money for R&D, a tighter budget, and no new staff.
While businesses globally are struggling to survive the
current economic downtown, some businesses will actually thrive, albeit at the expense of their failing
competitors. What allows these businesses to ride out the storm while others do
Answer: Good staff.
When the budget will only buy so many resources, the #1
resource not to economise on is staff. The human potential to achieve and succeed, even during
tough times, makes it even more important to recruit, develop, motivate, and retain the right
The first challenge is to recruit the best people. In a
recession, workers are less mobile, and those in secure, reasonably satisfying, fairly well remunerated
positions are much less likely to be looking to change jobs. So attracting great candidates requires more
creative strategies, such as marketing your organisation, and not just the job – promoting the company and
what you do well (truly superior products or service, great safety record, environmentally friendly,
contributing to a better local or global community, employer of choice, etc). This promotion can be
expensive, e.g.: corporate advertising campaigns; or cheap/free, such as local media stories, winning awards
and the free publicity that often follows, networking within your industry or community, or, perhaps best of
all, positive word of mouth from your current, highly satisfied staff.
However, promoting the job vacancy itself will still be
necessary, in print media, online job boards, or through a consultancy, and there are strategies to help your
role stand out from others, such as emphasising the benefits – many job ads are written to suit the employer
and what they want from their new employee (qualifications, experience, skills, etc), whereas it is
increasingly more important to promote what the employer is offering, and not just in terms of salary. It may
be helpful to keep in mind the generational profile of the most likely candidates for your role, and consider
what would be most appealing to that generational profile, e.g.: Baby Boomers generally value security
(especially now) and recognition; Gen Xs are attracted to fair rewards, autonomy, and work/life balance; and
Gen Ys find aligned values, challenging work, and a sociable workplace appealing. Even when you can’t offer
the most competitive salary package, many candidates weigh up other benefits of working for your
organisation, such as non-financial rewards, job satisfaction, and cultural fit, when considering whether to
apply or accept a job offer.
When it comes to developing the staff you already have, be
they new recruits or long-term employees, the same general principles apply – both performance and job
satisfaction levels are positively correlated to effective induction, training, and development. All new
staff should be thoroughly inducted into the organisation and their role, but equally, existing staff should
receive position- or department-specific inductions if they change roles or teams. All staff should be
trained in new tasks or procedures whenever these are implemented. And perhaps most importantly, all staff
should be encouraged to develop additional skills to equip them to take on new responsibilities, both to
improve staff retention (through offering additional challenges and therefore improved job satisfaction) and
to assist in succession planning, through developing a high quality and loyal internal talent
Motivating staff to perform at higher levels, or even just
more consistently, can be challenging in organisations or economic climates where performance pay isn’t a
viable option. However, as discussed above, when looking to attract quality candidates without necessarily
offering the best remuneration packages, it is often a matter of ‘horses for courses’.
Some candidates will only consider a role that offers a higher salary than their current role, but many other
candidates are as attracted, or even more attracted, by other benefits such as career development
opportunities, flexible working hours, encouragement of work/life balance, values alignment between the
organisation and employee, positive working environment, great location, generous leave provisions, etc. As
many of us spend a third of our lives at work, it can be more important to get a good cultural fit than just
a good salary.
Retention of quality staff need only be a real challenge
for organisations when effective recruitment, development and motivation strategies aren’t in place, because
it is much easier to retain good people when you already have them and are taking care of them. If you have
appointed the best person; inducted, trained and developed them appropriately; and recognised, rewarded and
motivated them effectively; why would they leave?
By Trevor Neville,
Principal, and Kirsten Ferguson (Human Resource Management Consultant), TranZition Professional and Executive
Recruitment, Level 3 Waterfront Place, 1 Eagle Street, Brisbane Qld 4000. Email: email@example.com Web: