Key HR considerations for 2021: Rewarding and Recognising employees in a time of change

Shannon Chamber HR is a dedicated HR and Employment Law Support Service for members of Shannon Chamber provided in partnership with Adare Human Resource Management, experts in Employment Law, Industrial Relations, Human Resources and Health & Safety at preferential rates.

In his last article, Derek McKay, Managing Director of Adare Human Resource Management wrote about Employee Engagement and the main drivers to successful engagement. The benefits of an engaged workforce are far-reaching in terms of the success of the Organisation. However, a question following on from the last feature is how do you keep employees engaged, particularly at a time when many are working remotely? McKay believes that Reward and Recognition are key to motivating and energising employees – but advises that it isn’t always just about the money.

Rewarding and recognising the contribution of employees is central to retaining talent and avoiding the costs and disruption associated with recruitment processes; something mentioned in a previous article. In the past, the main focus of many businesses’ reward strategy was financial; pay increases and bonuses. At Adare Human Resource Management, we have been working with clients on developing a more holistic approach to total reward. And, given the significant impact Covid-19 is having on the financial health of thousands of Irish businesses, increasing salaries and giving bonuses is simply not feasible.

In fact, our 2020 HR Barometer Report substantiates this; “increasing salaries” was the fourth most common initiative introduced to improve employee retention. “Flexible working arrangements” was the top initiative implemented by employers. And, when we asked what would influence the decision-making process to introduce remote working, over a fifth of organisations stated “Staff retention”, so increased flexibility is certainly front of mind as a way of rewarding and keeping people.

Looking to non-financial or non-traditional forms of rewards, particularly in difficult times, is a mutually acceptable way of recognising the performance and contribution of employees. As well as offering increased flexibility, employers can look to other incentives such as Health & Wellbeing initiatives, Learning & Development and assessing increased Annual Leave options.

While it would be naĂŻve to say that financial rewards are not important, it should be part of an overall package. It is vital that employees feel that they are being compensated at market levels but research has consistently shown that non-financial rewards are just as important and can be more effective in terms of supporting long-term employee engagement.

Covid-19 and remote working have also had a significant impact on how employers may have previously acknowledged performance. Now more than ever, it is important employees feel valued and their work make a real contribution to the success of the business. Commitment and resilience during challenging times should be rewarded / rewarded and not just simply expected; it will go a long way to motivate and engage your employees.

Organisations that understand the importance of recognising, valuing and rewarding excellent work keep employees engaged and motivated and represents an effective way of reinforcing expectations and goals. This is particularly relevant at present when budgets are tight and salary increases unlikely.


Our advice to employers looking for alternative ways of rewarding and recognising the hard work and commitment of employees is to implement a “Total Rewards” approach. When developing a Total Rewards package, employers need to understand what is important to employees; what motivates them and influences their behaviours. Look at existing or new initiatives and programmes to see if they can be enhanced and improved for the employee.

Each element of the package should be designed in the context of the overall reward, rather than as individual pieces. In other words, the whole should be bigger than the sum of its parts. Some elements for consideration if you are looking to develop a rewards package include Compensation or Pay, Benefits, Work-life Balance, Performance and Recognition, Learning and Development and Career progression opportunities.

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For further information on the HR and Employment Law support services provided, to arrange a meeting or to receive a quote, contact the team at Shannon Chamber – / 061 360 611