In today’s modern workplace, it’s common for organizations to be comprised of several generations of workers, ranging from baby boomers to millennials and Gen X’ers.
Some of these employees may feel they have no opportunity for advancement, while others might be getting ready to retire or move on to a different role, therefore providing promotion and pay raise opportunities for other employees. A widely held belief by many organizations is that employees are motivated exclusively by money.
And yet, whatever the case, it’s not all about money. A recent study by LinkedIn found that 48% of Baby Boomers value making an impact over salary and titles, while 30% of millennials and 38% of Gen X’ers agree.
Gallup also found that 45% of millennials are more likely to prioritize roles that allow for development and advancement opportunities. Ceridian echoes that sentiment, finding that 83% of employees whose organizations provide them with development and advancement opportunities are more likely to remain in their existing jobs.
"Consider organizational culture, recognition, work/life balance, flexible working options, salary, benefits, or learning and development as key elements of a role where employees can still benefit from working with you, beyond promotions and raises."
An employee’s decision to join an organization may not hinge solely on salary, but a lack of advancement and development opportunities could make or break your company’s retention.
That could explain why 51% of companies are shifting their priorities to develop future-focused people strategies.
What happens, though, when there are no promotion opportunities or an employee has been promoted as far as possible in your organization?
How do you keep employees motivated and engaged to prevent them from jumping ship?
Make them an offer they can’t refuse
If an employee believes a role is a good fit but sees little opportunity to advance, no number of raises or annual bonuses is going to keep them on board.
That’s where a stellar job offer comes in. In other words, you have to make employees an offer they can’t refuse.
While studies have shown that promotions are a highly effective way to motivate employees, not every organization can offer employees regular promotions - or any promotion at all. Some companies, for instance, might be large enough that they can create new roles or offer advancement, while others (like startups or mid-size businesses) may not have the same ability.
If, however, an employee’s role provides the right elements and opportunities for personal and professional development, the promise of a promotion may not be necessary to prevent disengagement.
Consider organizational culture, recognition, work/life balance, flexible working options, salary, benefits, or learning and development as key elements of a role where employees can still benefit from working with you, beyond promotions and raises.
Encourage employees to master their skills
In his book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” author Daniel H. Pink relates that we are all motivated by three things: autonomy, purpose, and mastery.
In many cases, employees can build upon their existing skills by working alongside others in their work environment, or when they work on new tasks and projects. That doesn’t, however, indicate that employees are developing new skills, expertise, or knowledge.
If a promotion isn’t a possibility for an employee, consider the three elements we mention above.
Autonomy - employees crave autonomy, control over their own work, and the results which stem from their efforts. By allowing employees to take the reins and work autonomously, leaders can foster a more trusting and productive culture that may boost engagement and job satisfaction, too.
"A widely held belief by many organizations is that employees are motivated exclusively by money"
Purpose - without purpose, employees can quickly become disengaged and dispassionate about their contributions to your organization. The key is to ensure employees are aware of how they contribute to organizational success even without having to be in an executive position to do so.
Mastery - learning and development is a key motivator in most people’s decision to accept or reject a role. Provide your employees with opportunities to hone their skills, but don’t forget to support them and allow them to apply what they learn to new tasks!
Focus on experiences rather than roles
By nature, many of us aren’t job hoppers but would prefer to find a role in which we can learn, grow, and develop. However, without a shot at a promotion, most employees change jobs and even migrate to different companies in search of greener pastures. A vast majority of companies are thus focusing on experiences when working to attract talent to their companies!
By sharing experiences - training opportunities, remote work options, mentorship, travel, etc. - the perception of opportunity and development with your organization only increases.
A great way of determining what type of experiences your organization can offer prospective employees is to ask existing ones. Gather feedback while asking for ideas and input from your current teams so you can attract the talent you want and ensure they see the benefit of working with you.
Encourage knowledge sharing and exploration within your organization
A lateral move or promotion occurs when an employee is offered a role with a similar level of responsibility, autonomy and payscale as their current role involves. Lateral promotions may provide employees with the opportunity to join a new department and learn new skills, but not all employees may not see it that way.
Instead, when a promotion is not an option, offer employees the opportunity to work with different teams in your organization or join special projects with other departments.
In doing so, you’re providing them with the chance not only to share knowledge but also to tackle new tasks and increase their existing skillset for when a promotion is an option.
Knowledge sharing is important for organizations because it encourages collaboration and ideation. If employees can learn from one another, they become exposed to more facets of your organization and expand their knowledge, therefore becoming more prepared to take on additional responsibility for any future promotional opportunities.
Practice recognition every day
Promotions signal to employees that their work, dedication and efforts have been recognized and rewarded, but promotions and pay raises aren’t the only way to motivate employees. When promotions aren’t feasible for your organization, recognition can truly save the day.
Recognition is one of the easiest things to give and can help foster an environment of security and loyalty. When just 15% of employees agree that their leaders make them enthusiastic about their future, recognizing your employees can assist in keeping them engaged and excited about their future with your organization.
"An employee’s decision to join an organization may not hinge solely on salary, but a lack of advancement and development opportunities could make or break your company’s retention."
But that’s not at all.
Recognition can encourage employees to voice their perspectives, opinions, and ideas because it nurtures trust in leadership and colleagues. When employees have a voice and feel their input and honesty is valued, the enthusiasm they have about your company can only grow. In fact, you may find that recognizing your employees fuels them to contribute their best work and take initiative!
BONUS: Make work fun. Yes, fun!
You’ve heard that a thriving organizational culture is key for employee experience and engagement. Part of a strong culture is incorporating a little fun into your everyday operations.
Many startups will incorporate fun into their everyday workplace culture, but not every organization can rely on ping pong tables or slushie machines to make work fun. On the other hand, without a fun-loving culture, many employees may view their jobs as nothing more than something they do from 9am-5pm, five days a week.
There are a few simple ways you can make your workplace fun and contribute to the overall employee experience and culture in your organization!
- Consider weekly lunches in or outside of the office, where all teams can have a meal together, interact, and spend some time away from their desks or workspaces
- Let employees participate in weekly team activities, from fitness classes to working from the local coffee shop as a team for a few hours each week!
- Run quarterly ‘competitions’ at work so employees can flex their skills and work together. For example, challenge your teams to create a new product prototype or create a new service offering, then let the winning team(s) choose their prize
- Send weekly newsletters throughout your company which incorporate appropriate humour and include tips, tricks, or events submitted by fellow employees