It obviously makes good sense for companies in those sectors hit hardest by
the economic downturn to look beyond share options and bonuses as a way to
motivate staff. Organisations including
IT company Compaq and British Airways are among those who have introduced gifts
such as theatre or sports tickets, as well as putting more emphasis on
recognising staff’s achievements.
Such low-cost rewards may well help boost morale when trading is tough, but
they can only work as part of an overall HR approach. If HR departments are
relying solely on gifts and giving employees more recognition to shore up
morale during the recession they are going to be disappointed.
The events of 11 September are usually credited with giving a new impetus to
the current recession, but it is worth reminding ourselves that the terrorist
attacks may have an impact on employee attitudes beyond concerns over falling
share prices and redundancies. Many commentators have argued that the tragic
loss of so many lives will lead to many staff reappraising their own lives and
demanding that their work is meaningful and worthwhile.
I would not want to teach anybody’s granny to suck eggs but it is worth
jogging our collective memories about the theories of humanistic psychologist
Abraham Maslow, a staple of just about every management course in recent
decades. Maslow’s "hierarchy of human needs" puts security needs at
the bottom but no doubt while jobs are being axed such needs are uppermost in
the minds of employees.
More importantly, Maslow puts self-actualisation at the top of his
hierarchy. Gifts and positive strokes are fine, but HR functions serious about
motivating staff are aiming a lot higher: they are matching the aspirations of
talented staff with the values and culture of the organisation.
By Noel O’Reilly