Bin the bonuses for a happier workplace

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Bonuses are a blunt instrument that can unintentionally reward negative behaviour

The phrase ‘money can’t buy happiness’ is a rule worth remembering when it comes to employment, however counter-intuitive it may seem. I am convinced that it’s by focusing on what money can’t buy that you can build a better workplace, and that’s what we’ve done at Click Travel.

Happy staff provide better service, and our non-commission-based and bonus-free team has increased our company revenue by a third every year for the past three years.

I’m confident that if businesses bin the bonuses and build an environment that fosters quality interactions, everyone will reap the rewards.

Bonuses are a blunt instrument that can unintentionally reward negative behaviour towards customers, and we need to always put our customers’ needs first. A bonus scheme would risk introducing tension; we want staff to be motivated by what’s best for the traveller rather than their personal bank balance.

‘Putting the customer first’ is a tough metric to quantify, which means you can’t consistently apply a fair bonus structure. That would create further tension – imagine the morale disaster if two staff members find they’ve been rewarded differently for doing the same thing.

Be fair: pay a fair rate for the job in the first place, and then make every interaction employees have while working a positive one.

Be social: office socialising is critical, and must be more imaginative than a monthly enforced trip to the pub. There are many tools that can help integrate socialising into the regular working day. For example, workflow management programme Slack can incorporate dedicated non-work channels to encourage interaction.

We find regular themed social events also help boost engagement. Annual summer and Christmas parties are complemented with celebrations like Pancake Day, Easter and even Cinco de Mayo as an excuse for a taco party!

Be connected: a significant proportion of our team works remotely so it’s crucial to be inclusive. As a tech-focused business we make extensive use of video conferencing to keep people involved.

Be caring: CSR is crucial and is the ‘money can’t buy’ incentive that our team perhaps values the most. We encourage every individual to give up 1% of their working time to causes that matter to them. For instance, one of our team is a foster carer and our 1% initiative means he has been able to spend time taking groups of foster children out for the day. You simply cannot put a price tag on the value that has for him.

Recognise top talent: highlight across the business when team members have done outstanding work – whether that’s sharing updates via your intranet or starting meetings with reward shout-outs. Recognition makes people feel valued as well as demonstrating to the wider team what ‘excellent’ looks like. Remember to also plan career paths and offer promotion opportunities to existing staff. Around 50% of our reservations team are promoted within their first year. Give people a goal and they’ll reach for it.

Make engagement a KPI: what gets measured gets managed. A colleague’s relationship with their line manager is probably the most critical factor behind workplace happiness, so we’ve made staff engagement a KPI for all management. Make sure you also provide your managers with the training they need to succeed. We bring in external coaches who work with major international names to ensure we get the best possible results.

Your team will be best motivated when they feel engaged with the business and enjoy the interactions they have in their working day.

Jill Palmer is CEO of Click Travel and a former HR director for international blue-chip manufacturers

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