Kelecton is a small company with ambitious goals that consistently enjoys between 15% and 20% growth rate. That is a good result, but in facilitating this growth, the company seems to have somewhat neglected its employees. A recent employee survey revealed some troubling worker concerns that can and should be addressed. A modest investment in restructuring Kelecton’s work environment could help improve productivity, attract and develop new talent, and ultimately generate more value for the company.
According to the results of the survey, 78% of the employees were satisfied with the amount of freedom and oversight they had, and 70% were satisfied with their workload. The rest of the survey results were rather negative: 89% of the employees felt there were no opportunities for skill improvement, 87% felt there were no career advancement opportunities, and 74% felt dissatisfied with management, performance reviews, and seemingly arbitrary and nepotistic treatment of employees.
Additionally, 45% of employees felt unsafe on the plants during product installations, and 56% were unsatisfied with their benefits. The impression that these numbers create is of a stagnant workplace environment with an “establishment” of managers that do their jobs poorly. The highly specialized technical skill set that is required by the company is rare, while the executives seem to want to attract only experienced employees. That is understandable since the clients want the best product possible, but there is another way that can benefit both Kelecton’s employees and its bottom line.
Effective human resource management means striking a balance between optimal company performance and the needs of its workers. It appears that the company is doing relatively well, while the employees’ needs are not sufficiently met. From the employee’s perspective, having opportunities to grow as a professional is a crucial motivating factor. Van Triest (2018) discovered that explicit pay-for-performance benefits do not motivate employees as much as implicit ones.
One of the essential implicit motivators is the chance of being promoted in recognition of the employee’s hard work and commitment. Schlechter, Thompson, and Bussin (2015) come to similar conclusions and claim that non-financial incentives are more useful for motivating employees. The existing work environment fails to take that into account, which likely leads to less employee engagement and creates stagnation. This finding also means that benefits are not a priority for this particular strategy and can be safely shelved until after the more critical issues are addressed.
The solution to this problem lies in job enrichment, which entails laying more responsibilities on an employee to challenge them and make their work more interesting, meaningful, and engaging. Choudhary (2016) presents a job enrichment model based on job characteristics and describes its possible practical implementation. The five core characteristics are skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and job feedback. Interpreting the results of the survey and inferring from the business model of Kelecton, autonomy, task identity, and task significance are already sufficient. That said, improving skill variety and job feedback could prove beneficial to employee satisfaction and engagement. To do so, Kelecton needs to significantly overhaul its job structure.
The first thing to do would be a comprehensive performance review that would rate individual employees’ productivity, technical knowledge, and interpersonal skills. It appears that there is either a lacking management structure or a stagnant and dysfunctional one. Existing managers should be demoted or phased out, possibly based on the reports of nepotism and poor performance. Existing employees with a blend of high interpersonal skills and productivity should be promoted into several tiers of management.
It would give workers new positions to strive for, which, coupled with an increased priority on performance reviews, could create a skill-based hierarchy. It also could motivate software developers and engineers to learn managerial and leadership skills in order to be promoted. Having come from the rank and file, these new managers will likely be better suited to answer their team’s needs. The management positions should come with an unconditional increase in base pay, which would be cheaper than hiring new managers from the outside.
Another significant change should be a shift from hiring experienced workers with already-developed skills to attracting young talent and teaching them these skills through mentoring. Baran (2017) suggests that mentoring is beneficial for overall work engagement, especially for younger employees. Giving high-performing and knowledgeable employees a chance to take apprentices from a pool of potential new hires can help them upheave their routine and develop further.
The mentor status should also mean an unconditional increase in base pay, which would add another dimension to employee motivation. It would pressure them to perform research and structure their knowledge, which could facilitate learning. These structured knowledge bases and mentorship programs could be made available to all employees who wish to learn, creating opportunities for skill development.
The problem with that approach is that new hires need time to develop into skilled workers. However, it is still a preferable approach because there is not an unlimited pool of already-experienced employees with a specialized set of skills. Shaping the professionals that Kelecton needs can invigorate the existing workforce and create a more dedicated team of young specialists a few years down the line.
Naturally, these two changes are too radical to implement all at once. The only action that should be taken immediately is the performance audit, as all other plans are contingent on knowing which employees are worthy of receiving promotions. If done by the in-house HR team, that would carry no additional cost, and it is thus the cheapest. After the audit, elevating regular employees into line management and higher should prove more cost-effective than hiring new ones. A proposed base pay increase range for both mentors and managers would be 15-20%, which could only potentially go to approximately 20% of workers, per the Pareto principle (Reh, 2017).
That would only increase company spending on base salaries by less than 5%, making it the middle-expense measure. Hiring young and inexperienced developers and engineers could save money, as junior-level vacancies require smaller salaries than positions for experienced professionals. However, the new hires will likely not bring value until after they gain skills and experience, which makes investing into their training the most expensive and time-consuming change in this plan.
Regrettably, the safety issue is out of Kelecton’s hands, as the plants are responsible for worker safety themselves. If the company only sends its engineers to extremely safe plants, that could alleviate these concerns but will cripple the company’s growth. Kelecton could collect engineers’ testimonies and deliver them to clients, which might urge them to consider plant safety, but that is about the only thing Kelecton can do. Finally, the number of employees concerned with benefits is likely to shrink after new professional and educational opportunities present themselves.
Kelecton is not a lost cause in any shape or form, but it needs to implement certain changes. Shifting to developing young talent instead of tapping a very limited group of established professionals could grow the workforce more efficiently. Elevating high-performing employees into mentors and managers can give them opportunities to advance their careers and acquire new skills. It would also phase out ineffective managers that created a stagnant management culture.
Baran, M. (2017). The importance of mentoring in employee work engagement–based on research of company employees in Poland. International Journal of Contemporary Management, 16(2), 33-56.
Choudhary, S. (2016). Job enrichment: A tool for employee motivation. International Journal of Applied Research, 2(5), 1020-1024.
Reh, F. J. (2017). Understanding Pareto’s principle—The 80-20 rule. Web.
Schlechter, A., Thompson, N. C., & Bussin, M. (2015). Attractiveness of non-financial rewards for prospective knowledge workers. Employee Relations, 37(3), 274–295.
Van Triest, S. (2018). Are performance-based incentives related to effort? Evidence from large-scale survey data. SSRN Electronic Journal. Web.