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When money is tight, business must look at other ways to keep staff and motivate them

Money. It’s the reason most of us turn up to work. But once the money is right (and the gender pay gap is closed) it is rarely how much we are paid that keeps us focused or encourages us to excel at the work we are paid for.

This is good news for employers because pay rises are not what they used to be, says Sam Bell, General Manager for Policy and Advocacy at the Australian Institute of Management. AIM have just released their annual National Salary Survey for 2016. Two findings stand out this year: four in five workers are unhappy at work, and salary growth has slowed to three per cent. It’s a downward trend that looks set to continue.

The two findings aren’t necessarily connected. Pay matters, but it does not top the list of reasons most people leave their jobs. In fact, 50% of us have quit a job because of the boss, according to a Gallup survey released in April 2015. Often the boss doesn’t get it. Leigh Branham’s 7 hidden reasons employees leave (2005) argues 89% of managers blame their employees leaving on money issues when 80–90% of employees give other reasons.

What is the elusive combination or rewards and incentives that employers can draw on to retain and attract talent, and to inspire them to higher performance, when a simple pay rise isn’t an option? And would that cut it anyway?

Alex Christie, Group Head of Performance, Compensation and Benefits, at Lendlease says that while money may rank in the top four or five reasons people leave the company “typically it’s not the first. You do find things like career, investment in skills and training are more important.”

Lendlease operates in 14 countries, and employs a diverse range of roles, including construction teams, investment professionals, property developers and project managers. To understand the specific motivators of individual staff, the company relies largely on a conversation framework between managers and employees about flexibility, career, work and life balance, “Open and effective conversations allow managers to help their employers to realise some of those other dimensions of their life,” explains Christie.


Company cultures that value effort and appreciate individuals have higher attraction and retention rates than companies that don’t. (They can also be nicer places to work.) According to a study at MIT, the less we feel our work is appreciated the more money we want to be paid for it.

Lendlease monitor company culture with a two-yearly company-wide culture survey. “You get a perception around how people perceive the culture and it helps you to ensure employees own the input in how they work,” says Christie.

Christie also values the exit interview as an opportunity for those who are leaving the company to give frank feedback on the company culture and other aspects of working at Lendlease.


Lendlease’s group-wide recognition program is structured around the company’s values and operating principles: customer focus, safety, sustainability and diversity and inclusion.

The online system encourages colleagues to spot outstanding behaviours and nominate colleagues immediately. Approved nominations convert into points that can be converted into a gift.

“It’s a real acknowledgement of what someone’s done,” says Christie. “The recognition that you see, the response they give and the way people feel, you can see value is arguably much higher than a one or two percent pay rise they might receive at some point in the year.”

“It’s more instantaneous. It happens when the behaviour is observed. It doesn’t wait for the annual cycle of reviews and appraisals.”

the future

Tough financial times are an opportunity to reassess the mix of financial and non-financial incentives that an employer offers, and with continued slowing in salary growth predicted, Christie says employers like Lendlease will continue to explore other elements that incentivise staff.

“The focus for us in the future includes diversity and inclusion. We have a clear strategy around that with a key element of flexibility. That’s about allowing people to take advantage of technology, of how work has changed.” In Christie’s experience work and life balance is an issue that resonates for men as much as for women. “Men have desires to spend more time with their children, participate in family activities and community. It is strong desire across the workforce.”

Five ways to incentivise your team, that don’t depend on money

(Adapted from The Harvard Business Review)

1. Responsibility

Give your employees responsibilities that allow them to grow. Provide opportunities and training to allow them to gain new skills and experience. Hire from within when possible, and give generous promotions at appropriate times.

2. Respect

People may readily forget the things that you said, but they will always remember the way you made them feel. If managers make it a priority to show outward respect for employees on a regular basis, it will lead to a strong and enduring workplace culture as well as positive experiences and memories that they will never forget.

3. Revenue-sharing

Tie a part of your employees’ wages to the company’s performance, to align their interests with the company’s revenue and profit goals. Making the fixed cost of payroll more variable according to differing business conditions makes the company more resilient and agile, while also treating your employees exceptionally well.

4. Reward

Reward your employees according to their emotional needs, beyond their monetary compensation. Recognition in front of the company, company and department parties, service projects, lunches with the boss, logo clothing, handwritten notes, etc., can all contribute to the positive culture and be morale builders.

5. Relaxation time

Be generous with time off. Provide sufficient time for sick days, family vacations, new babies, etc. Pacing workflow can be highly beneficial to enduring employee relationships. It is unreasonable to expect a continual level of pressure at 100 percent. Allow employees the chance to catch their breath from one assignment to the next with the help of team-building activities or mini break periods over the course of the day.


Alex Christie is the Group Head of Performance, Compensation and Benefits, Lendlease.


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