Politics over pay: What really matters to your employees?
A lively debate has started up on LinkedIn following the release of the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer. With business as the last trusted institution standing, people are discussing the importance of politics at work, and whether they could be as important as pay for effective engagement and retention.
Misinformation is running rampant
The importance of politics at work has never been clearer, and that’s due in large part to the prevalence of misinformation. Misinformation has been one of the defining influences of the past few years, from the controversy of the most recent US Presidential Election to scaremongering about COVID vaccines. And, according to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, it’s having a severe effect on the institutions people usually put their faith in.
Trust in government has taken a massive hit since May last year, when governments were the most trusted institution due to their ongoing role in the fight against COVID-19. Trust in government is down eight points globally, but the worst hit regions are definitely the US and China.
As well as experiencing 5 and 18-point drops in trust from their own citizens respectively, both countries are highly distrusted by respondents from the 26 other markets in the survey, with the US at 40% trust and China at 30% trust.
If there’s a positive here for employers, it’s the fact that businesses are currently the most trusted institution at 61%, ahead of NGOs, government and the media. But unfortunately, even that’s only a silver lining, as at the same time in several countries, trust in CEOs has hit an all-time low.
This means that people are more likely to trust a business’s ground-level staff than its executive leadership, meaning that employee advocacy is more vital than ever.
Pay isn’t the only motivator for employees
It’s true that, without at financial compensation for our trouble, most of us probably wouldn’t be doing our current jobs. Rewarding people fairly for their effort is definitely important for maintaining engagement and keeping turnover low.
But it’s also true that there can be plenty of other reasons for someone to be loyal to the company they work for besides a fat paycheck and cushy benefits packages. So, what makes employees stay in a job, and how important is a paycheck compared to these other factors?
- The importance of politics at work: According to Edelman’s findings, over 60% of employees would evaluate a potential employer based on the company’s stance on societal issues and the freedom of employees to express their own political beliefs. And globally, more than three quarters of people say they feel ‘more empowered now to take action within their organization, either by working within the system or taking issues public via whistleblowing, strikes or leaks.
Striving for corporate social responsibility can even help attract new talent. Working for a company with moral beliefs helps employees to engage and take pride in their work, because at the end of the day, most people want to feel like one of the good guys.
Just make sure you do more for your company’s apparent values than pay shallow lip service, or people may just react cynically. Case in point, the LGBTQ posts made by many businesses during Pride Month this year were largely seen as corporate cash grabs with little substance by many in the community.
So, for example, if you’re marketing yourself as a green company, then actually you need to be proactive about reducing your environmental impact if you want to be taken seriously by clients, customers and potential applicants.
One solution to this is to register for B-Corp Certification. This certification is given to businesses that meet the strictest legal requirements for things like employee, customer and environmental impact, and can be an excellent way to show your business takes its ethical considerations seriously.
- Why employee support is absolutely essential: For all the importance of politics at work these days, one thing that will never change is that people want to work for employers that treat them well.
We don’t mean that you should be giving your employees mimosas and foot-rubs, but that you should consider things like their work/life balance, career development and overall wellbeing. Do people have manageable workloads, and is there too much presenteeism and overtime? To what extent do your employees control how they work?
For example, one of the most sought-after forms of employee support these days is job flexibility. In fact, a significant number of employees would actually give up a tenth of their salary for more flexibility options, including flexible hours (42% of employees), remote work (also 42%), unlimited PTO (51%) and paid parental leave (32%).
Employee feedback can support workplace culture for better retention
So, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of politics at work. That’s all very well and good. But the question remains, how do you as an employer make sure you’re actually supporting your employees effectively and living up to their ideological expectations?
The simplest solution is definitely to collect employee feedback. A good system of feedback should enable you to regularly collect employee insights, so that you have a real-time picture of engagement rather than a snapshot in time.
This means that, rather than an overwrought annual survey that could easily suffer from low participation, you’re better off checking in with staff on the regular, using small, light-weight sets of questions. This gives employees a voice and makes them feel heard, meaning they’re more likely to bring problems to your attention than suffer in silence.
But remember, just like not reflecting political values you claim to represent, listening to employee feedback and then ignoring the insight it gives you will crush engagement in your business and make employees less open to communication. It’s vital to act on the insights that employees give you to affect meaningful change in the workplace.