Recovery, recognition, remuneration: the conversations coming up with your team in 2021

Last year millions of employees felt lucky just to have a job but, as the economy recovers, they’ll be looking to have their efforts acknowledged, writes Matt Seadon, General Manager – APAC, Achievers

Hands up if you asked your employees to go ‘above and beyond’ during last year’s COVID crisis? You’re not alone. The worst pandemic in a century didn’t just disrupt our economy and society, it brought employers and employees together with a common goal: to keep the enterprise afloat through a period of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty.

For many employees, that meant taking on different duties, including some that may previously have been outside their remit, or below their paygrade. At celebrity chef Shane Delia’s flagship Maha restaurant, for example, front of house staff were dispatched to the kitchen to prep and pack deliveries, after Melbourne’s long lockdown forced the enterprise to pivot to selling gourmet take home meals.

While the economy is still in recovery mode, skills shortages have already begun to emerge in some parts of the economy. Employees who don’t feel their contributions have been adequately acknowledged and valued may be already assessing their options.

Meanwhile, at the top end of town, scores of employers in the legal, accounting and professional services sectors asked their teams to share the pain of the pandemic induced slowdown by accepting pay cuts of up to 25 per cent.

In the face of a sudden and sharp recession, the likes of which the country hadn’t seen since the early 1990s – who can forget those sobering television images of Centrelink queues stretching around the block in March 2020 – Australians still in work were happy to tighten their belts and pitch in.

On the up again
While many commentators were downbeat about the country’s long term prospects, anticipating a significant and protracted downturn, recovery is occurring faster than anticipated, outside of still-suffering sectors such as higher education and travel.

So much so that, in December 2020, the government revised its economic growth estimate for 2021 upwards – from 4.25 per cent to 4.5 per cent. Around the same time, the Reserve Bank dropped interest rates to near zero and announced job creation was a national priority.

In February this year, the unemployment rate was sitting at 5.8 per cent, 0.7 per cent higher than a year earlier although that may rise after the JobKeeper scheme winds up.

The worst pandemic in a century didn’t just disrupt our economy and society, it brought employers and employees together with a common goal: to keep the enterprise afloat through a period of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty.

Paying it back
Meanwhile, some major employers, including management consultancies Deloitte and KPMG, have revealed their pessimism of last year was misplaced. As a result, they’ve reversed their pay cuts and, in Deloitte’s case, have handed their staffers an additional four days of annual leave, in appreciation of their commitment during the annus horribilis that was 2020.

While Big Four employees may now be sitting prettier, thousands of other workers around the country will be watching, to see if their contributions will be recognised and rewarded this year and whether their careers will return to pre-pandemic paths.

For their part, businesses will need to grapple with a number of issues. They include when to recommence regular performance appraisals, whether pay rises can be offered – and the impact on motivation and morale if they’re deemed unaffordable at this juncture. There’s also the question of how well employees’ individual contributions can be quantified when, in many instances, they’ve been out of the office for months.

The worst pandemic in a century didn’t just disrupt our economy and society, it brought employers and employees together with a common goal: to keep the enterprise afloat through a period of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty.

Companies with employee recognition programs in place will be better placed than most to make those calls, given the wealth of insights a modern recognition and rewards platform can yield.

And those that aren’t proactive about engaging with their teams on remuneration and rewards? While the economy is still in recovery mode, skills shortages have already begun to emerge in some parts of the economy. Employees who don’t feel their contributions have been adequately acknowledged and valued may be already assessing their options.

Ensuring your team is all in for the journey
For Australian businesses, a committed and engaged workforce will be critical to success, as our economy continues to reopen and new opportunities emerge. That’s why prudent leaders will ensure they have strategies in place to recognise and reward their greatest assets.

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