Q&A with Willis Towers Watson Philippine Head James Matti on Understanding Motivation and Rewards

Willis Towers Watson is the leading human capital and benefits consultancy firm in the Philippines. Mr. James Matti, the Head of the Philippine Consulting Office, who is also President of Towers Watson Insurance Brokers Philippines, Inc., shares updates on motivating people and understanding rewards.

Q1: How has the role of money in motivating employees changed over the years?

Based on Willis Towers Watson’s most recent Global Workforce Study (i.e. 2012 and 2014) which provides a snapshot of the attitudes and concerns of over 32,000 employees around the world, Base Pay is consistently cited by employees as the topmost factor for joining or leaving an organization. This is followed by job security and career advancement opportunities.

In the Philippines, employees tend to always focus on one’s monthly basic salary (MBS). When in reality employers invest much more than this particular reward by providing Health and Life insurance benefits wherein the former more often than not includes Dependents’ coverage, Learning & Development programs, etc. Hence, we encourage employers to emphasize their Total Rewards programs through robust and consistent communications and by transforming the mindset of their employees to see the big picture and not just concentrate on one’s MBS.

Employers don’t always understand the employee reward programs that workers value most. Hence, the need to conduct Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and Employee Engagement Surveys (EES) at least every other year.

The key fundamentals — base pay, job security and career advancement opportunities — matter most to employees globally when deciding to join or leave an organization. Therefore, it is essential for employers to be both competitive and astute in these particular areas.

Q2: What’s the latest thinking on how to motivate and engage employees?

After decades of emphasizing employees’ responsibility to both know their customers’ needs and meet them, many employees are starting to likewise expect the same from their employers. From the same study, 70% of employees agree that their organization should understand employees to the same degree that employees are expected to understand their customers. However, fewer than half (43%) report having an employer that understands them in this particular manner.

There are low levels of highly engaged workers and close to a quarter of employees are disengaged. More than ever, it is essential for companies to understand the vital factors that drive sustainable engagement.

Willis Towers Watson research has shown that there are three measurable elements essential to sustainable engagement: (1) Traditional Engagement — employees’ willingness to expend discretionary effort on their job; (2) Enablement — having the tools, resources and support to do their job effectively and (3) Energy — having a work environment that actively supports physical, emotional and interpersonal well-being.

Sustainable engagement requires strong and pro-active leaders and managers. In companies where both leaders and managers are perceived by employees as effective, 72% of employees are highly engaged. For employees to remain with an organization, they must have the confidence in the ability of their top leaders to motivate and guide them in today’s dynamic and volatile business environment. Yet organizations underestimate the role of senior leaders in helping to retain employees. This particular mindset is a result of the ravages of the recent Global Financial Crisis (GFC) whereby trustworthy and confident leadership is synonymous with job security since employees expect effective leaders to astutely navigate the complex and challenging business environment. Thereby, ensuring their jobs.

Q3: How different (or the same) is motivation for different segments say millennials or managers? Sales or OFWs?

Based on the 2014 Global Workforce Study:

Regardless of employee age, base pay is universally ranked first as an attraction and retention factor.

Career advancement opportunities was ranked by most age groups i.e. below 30 y.o., 30-39 y.o. and 40-49 y.o. as the 2nd reason why employees stay in the company. It is different for 50-year-olds and above employees who ranked trust & confidence in senior leadership as their 2nd most important retention factor.

Interestingly, one’s length of commute is a retention factor for Millennial employees i.e. 30 yrs old below. This is particularly prevalent in the Philippines.

Attracting and retaining critical-skill employees, high-potential employees and top-performing employees is a consistent challenge for employers in the Philippines and throughout Asia Pacific. It is clearly evident that embedding relevant Learning & Development programs in one’s organization is vital to retaining and engaging millennials. Moreover, by providing them with a constantly interesting and stimulating job assignment or project likewise incentivizes them to stay and commit themselves to their chosen firms.

Q4: How should a company think about how to reward for acquisition versus retention?

A significant number of organizations are missing out on a golden opportunity to increase employee engagement, attract and retain top talent, or even improve financial performance according to our latest Change and Communication Global ROI Research Study. One of the reasons for this is that less than half the companies surveyed have a long-term plan for getting the most from their employee value proposition (EVP) – the employment deal that defines what an employer expects from its employees and what it provides in return.

Willis Towers Watson’s research shows organizations that use their EVP most effectively are five times (5X) more likely to report their employees are highly engaged and twice (2X) as likely to report achieving financial performance significantly above their peers when compared to companies that use their EVP less effectively.

Essentially, the precious matter being created is the EVP, which is a powerful tool for attracting, retaining and engaging employees. Better alignment between the EVP and the company brand can lead to improved employee line of sight, encouraging employees to adopt those key behaviors that will deliver on the brand.

The EVP tool is a powerful management tool when used and communicated effectively. Among organizations that offer competitive rewards, improving communication of those rewards can have a greater impact on employee satisfaction – and at a far lower cost – than additional investments in making the rewards richer.

Q5: What’s your take on putting a cap on rewards?

The key is investing finite employee reward pesos across a workforce in a way that best balances organization and employee interests, generating the highest-possible perceived value for employees at the most economical level for the enterprise.

Employers should pay attention to the relative importance employees place on rewards at key stages of the employment life cycle, to ensure the mix is appropriate depending on whether the company is focused on attracting, retaining or engaging employees: WTW global research confirms that employees look at very different things at various points in their careers or employment situation.

It is vital to redirect investments to deliver the best results to those employee segments most critical to driving growth, such as those in pivotal roles, top performers and high potentials. In other words, your critical few.

Find out how best to meet the different needs and expectations of an increasingly diverse workforce: Here, too, our research with employees is clear — the value they place on various rewards differs markedly, not only across nationalities and cultures, but also across age, gender, job level and a host of other factors. Identical reward program investments can yield widely different levels of value and satisfaction for employees. Hence, it is key to segment your talent base and differentiate rewards accordingly.

It is likewise important to find ways to rebalance the current reward mix at the current or reduced cost, and to direct rewards in ways that matter most to your employees.

Q6: What are some popular reward practices that you wish would stop? Can you share why and alternative views you can offer?

Top of mind would be Reward strategies that are not aligned with the company’s business strategy. It is essential to reward behaviors that will deliver your organization’s strategic objectives, such as customer service or centricity, innovation, quality, efficiency and brand. This essential alignment will make your employee reward strategies more relevant to both your employees and the business in general.

The need to avoid not focusing on rewards that genuinely matter to employees. Thus, when designing programs, companies should identify their top drivers of employee attraction, retention and engagement. It is vital to shape your employee reward strategies and programs around those things that your employees truly value and recognize.

Effective delivery and communication is at times not a priority in a company’s Rewards program. Hence, leading-edge companies should differentiate employee reward strategies and programs based on performance and to constantly attract and retain critical-skill and top-performing talent. One must communicate clearly about how rewards are determined and effectively equip your people managers with the necessary resources, tools and training to successfully engage with their respective teams.

(Please visit www.mansmith.net for information related to Josiah Go’s marketing seminar schedules and www.day8.org for his entrepreneurship seminars)

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