The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer: pay and progression are not the same thing and are not even always linked. One of them (pay) needs to be satisfied at a basic level to make sure we all pay the rent/ mortgage , eat, buy clothes etc ( the ‘hygiene’ factors let’s call them). And the other ( progression) needs to be satisfied in order to motivate us.

As a general rule, people want to see growth and progress in all areas of their lives, but particular in their jobs. And often with this progress comes the expectation of some recognition for this growth. Normally pay of some description springs to mind, but this is often just the most obvious way to show it in absence of anything else.

Structuring progression up the salary ladder within a smaller business can often seem like hit and miss affair, linked to not-so-subtle hints dropped about how many recruiters have called up your team to tell them how much they could get if they jumped ship. But if you listen to most recruiters, it is rarely the salary they push when they are doing their job to go out and find people, but the progression that people want to feel in order to thrive.

The creation of salary bands, job grades and titling conventions might seem a world away to SME business leaders who don’t have the access and expertise on tap (& possibly inclination??) to undertake something like a benchmarking and job evaluation exercises to show the team different levels of role to aspire to. But the principles of showing your team how to progress within your business is one which any sized organisation should pay attention to.

So here are some tips to bear in mind with your team before conversations about pay and progression become a bit icky:

Be transparent over your pay structure

If you don’t have a pay structure (normal for many), then tell the team what your salaries are based on ( e.g based on market rate) and what they can do to progress in the business. Often this is about spelling out your company values and the kind of projects and tasks which will get them recognised internally.

Define your roles

Defining your roles doesn’t mean asking them to sign a job description with the expectation that they never deviate from that, except by written agreement: it means being clear to your team about what you expect them to deliver, what they’re going to be accountable for and then giving them the autonomy to get this done.

Benchmark them

Pay might not be a motivator, but it sure can be a de-motivator if someone thinks (or knows - remember, people talk!) they are being paid less than someone else is for the same role. So benchmark your salaries (you don’t need to be scientific about it but a quick google search is exactly what your team members are going to do….) and try where you can to pay the going rate for a role.

Evolve job titles

I used to get quite precious about this. I mean: why should we be changing someone’s job titles when really we’re not big enough to support several layers of employee type? Plus, don’t you just end up with a team full of Directors and Heads of and no-one actually doing the work on the ground?? Nowadays I am more relaxed as I realise that it really matters little to anyone else but the uptight HR person who is managing your grades. See? I know that you need to show people progression. And job titles are just one way of doing so. Not the fluffy type which are just changed because someone is peeved that their mates have got flashier business cards than them (for a start, who uses business cards anymore FGS ??) . But the ones which are changed to show that someone has progressed and does indeed know more than they did three years ago when they hired them.

Let your team showcase (and even show off) their new found skills in public

I remember how proud I was when the Brown Owl gave me my very own badge to show how great I was at ‘Housework’. Yep seriously. I didn’t know it then but that was my first foray into the world of competencies (although unfortunately for my family, was also my last into demonstrating any skills relating to housework!) and of achieving and completing a number of tasks in order to tick the box to say I could do ‘it’.

So be clear to your team on the skills, behaviors, and attitudes that your team need to do their jobs well (aka. competencies ) and which you want to see demonstrated in each role within the business & at each level and then find a way to recognise this internally to show progress made.

You don’t need of course need to give actual badges for your team to wear on their sleeves (or chest - remember there’ s a reason why one of the most successful companies on this planet uses stars to denote competence...) when they’ve demonstrated something new, but by all means borrow from their principles and nab yourself a few brownie points whilst you’re at it…..

For more tips and tricks on reward and recognition that really works download our free ebook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME

Photo credit: Girl Guides of Canada

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