Joon Tan, vice-president of talent management, global supply chain, at Schneider Electric, talks to Akankasha Dewan on how to leverage on non-cash motivators to engage talent.
As the corporate landscape gives way to a younger and more career-oriented workforce, the old paradigm that cash is the most reliable employee motivator has now come under scrutiny. Recent research suggests non-cash rewards, in the right circumstances and in the right combinations, can be a more effective motivator than money alone.
“Non-cash rewards have become very important today,” says Joon Tan, vice-president of talent management, global supply chain, at Schneider Electric. “I think in today’s world the need to find balance between work and life is key. So the ability for companies to enable that is increasingly important.”
She adds that besides a good work-life balance, employees value things such as job security and career development opportunities, especially the younger generation.
“The ability to learn continually is really important for Millennials. Job security is less of an issue for them. Instead, their mentality is more along the lines of: ‘I’d rather do meaningful work than stupid work.’ They’re prepared to quit if they think they can’t evolve or if the work doesn’t challenge them.”
The Marco Polo programme
Providing employees opportunities to grow their careers is a strong focus within Schneider Electric. Company sponsored programmes are offered to staff who have proven their competencies in the firm to enable them to expand the breadth of their experience.
“The leadership sees the importance of giving employees a well-rounded experience. We have a programme called the Marco Polo programme that’s available for relatively junior, young talent in the company who have been in the company for one year.
“It’s a short-term international assignment of one to two years. If selected, employees perform that role in that assigned location for a specific period of time. If they like the role and the region, then they localise there. They can belong from any function, like finance or logistics.”
Entrants are put through an online interview process, where they can do a virtual interview in order to describe themselves and what they’re good at. The prospective hiring manager can then view their profile online and set up a personal interview, if they wish.
Making the programme more systematic
While the programme is more targeted towards younger employees, the company is aiming to be more systematic about offering these opportunities for its senior employees. However, this isn’t without its challenges.
“In real life, the timing of the job openings and the availability of the individual may not always work a hundred per cent. We’re working through these issues to see how we can better structure the programme,” she says.
Measuring the effectiveness and returns on investment on these non-tangible programmes is an additional challenge.
“Things like employee development are difficult to quantify. But you can, if you think about things like ‘how much does it cost for me to put you through an executive development programme’, then you start thinking in quantitative terms,” she says. “Engagement surveys can also be used to measure non-tangible things like work-life balance.”
For these rewards to have the most impact on influencing employee performance, clear and honest communication between companies’ benefit providers and employees is integral.
When employees understand the connection between their reward and their performance, they will be motivated to perform optimally in the future.
“Increasingly, in the new generation, they appreciate transparency,” she says.
“If you go out and implement policies without sharing the rationale behind them, or how you arrived at them, then I think your ability to engage your employees will be challenged.”