With unemployment hovering near double-digits, employers are kings. Benefits and raises take a back seat to cheap, touchy-feely motivation.
This article accompanies Facing the Future: Announcing The 2011 Top Employee Benefits Consultant winners.
Don't fool yourself. The dilapidated state of the economy has given the American employer a white-knuckled grip over its minions and indentured servants. All this talk about the job market turning around, about demand overtaking supply, about employees retaking power over the hiring process, is complete consultant-speak.
So is the line that HR consultants have fed us over the last few years: that benefits packages are key to retain and attract top talent.
Employees, top and bottom, care about one thing: better give them their money! We are not a barter society. We consume. And to consume iPads and BMWs, steak dinners and trips on Walt Disney cruises with the kiddies, we need money. Our credit cards are maxed, so cash only, please.
Let's be honest. Healthcare benefits aren't an attraction for most employees. They are a ruse. They are the excuse that the employer gives for a measly 3.5-percent raise (if you're lucky). I'd dare posit that most workers don't even notice their healthcare benefits, unless something medically horrific happens or their employer really downgrades its package -- say, by offering a high-high-deductible plan as the only option.
Like I said before, the employer is king in the current climate. Most likely, in a country where the boss makes 1,001 times the salary of the company peon and 13.5 million people are reporting themselves unemployed, the employer will remain king.
That doesn't mean, however, that the employer cannot make us feel good at our jobs and motivate us. I recently had the honor of attending a "think tank" on the virtual workforce put on by the Disability Management Employers Coalition. Among other things, we discussed ways to motivate the remote worker. Turns out, like many things with the virtual workforce, motivation is pretty similar to the unvirtual, chained-to-a-cube workforce.
If you, the employer, wants to motivate an employee -- without giving them their money! -- the top ways include giving them a sense of control over their work, making them feel like a part of the team, and providing them opportunities for growth and career development.