Grand gestures v everyday engagement

11 July 2022

The competition for talent (it’s not a war, people) and the drive to get people out of their pjs and into the office, has led a number of companies to make grand gestures.

Parties, merchandise, nights out; one professional services firm even has a pub with free drinks now in its building .  There are a number of organisations going for broke in the effort to entertain their troops as well as get them back on the 7.35 from Hatfield and into the office.

We are also seeing a basketful of benefits thrown at candidates and colleagues, as organisations realise that pool tables and nights out after work, aren’t the biggest draw in a hybrid working world.  And let’s not forget pay – PwC most recently gave everyone a 9% pay rise at the very least.

So what is the answer?

Of course, additional pay is welcome in this period of high inflation – no doubt about it – and certainly PwC’s company-wide 8% pay rise got the attention of the media and the LinkedIn literati.  We’re also seeing a trend where people are moving roles to get salary increases of 25% or more.  We know one person who was offered a £500 increase by her current employer (they thought they were being generous), only to be offered a 50% salary increase by another.  Yep, you know what she did!

Aggressive pay rises are going to move some people from one company to another.  But it’s not sustainable for many organisations to pile on fixed costs.  So what’s the answer?  Should you make some grand gestures to show your people how much you care about them or simply focus on little things but more often?

The grand gesture is a stand-out feature, and getting people together for an amazing event or experience has so many benefits for the organisation as well as the individual. One of our clients takes the whole business ski-ing – and there’s no doubt that the experiences created from such events can create strong bonds, build lasting memories and reaffirm an organisation’s commitment to its people.

But how effective are they in retaining colleagues and ensuring they feel like they belong in an organisation? In this client’s case, the grand gesture is becoming less important (much to the horror of the leadership team) and within the colleague community, we are hearing that there are more important factors at play.

The difficulty with grand gestures is creating an experience that is for everyone.  Again, we hear from clients (even those with primarily millennial employees) that the big company drinks and events aren’t the pull that they may have once been.  In part, because some people are not so interested in drinking or drinking with colleagues; and there might be other priorities for colleagues, especially those with young families.

In analysis to understand what is driving The Great Resignation (and whether it’s actually fact or fiction), Karian and Box analysed data from 450,000 employees in surveys dating back to 2017.  The top three reasons for leaving (or intending to leave) were:

  • Manager behaviours
  • Career progression / development opportunities
  • Job security / concerns

Next up was wanting to broaden experience.  Of course, job security points to Covid, the current economic volatility, and how it’s made some people fear for their jobs.  But the top two motivations haven’t changed since, well, the year dot.  And yet organisations are still failing at the principles of everyday engagement.

People don’t seem to leave because they weren’t taken on a company jolly!

So what are some of the answers?  Focus on people managers more than ever before and create a narrative that sets out the vision of the organisation and shows the opportunities for colleagues.  There are other key interventions, as Karian and Box highlight, such as focusing on high-talent individuals and tackling areas of higher-than-average attrition.

Remember, when there’s a vacuum (caused by a lack of engagement), people try to fill the vacuum with concerns and suspicions, or simply decide to leave and find somewhere they feel as though they are valued.



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