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Motivate Staff Through Negotiation

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Motivate Staff Through Negotiation

Managers who are too prescriptive during salary negotiations risk losing the opportunity to create a motivated and satisfied workforce, says leadership communication specialist Sandy Hollis.

Ms Hollis, a New Zealand director of communications consultancy Rogen International, was speaking at a Robert Half International business breakfast, attended by 200 finance, accounting and human resources professionals in Auckland on Friday (November 24).

Salary negotiations frequently involved an element of tension, Ms Hollis said, which meant that participants found it difficult to communicate effectively. This made it very difficult to find common ground and agree on a package that would keep valuable staff and benefit the company.

When negotiating, people tended to fall back on the communication strategies they were comfortable with, but two common ones were counter-productive, putting barriers in the way of finding a satisfactory outcome, she said.

The first was the “competing” strategy, which was encapsulated in the phrase “might makes right”. A manager adopting this strategy would take a position then refuse to budge.

The positive side of this strategy was that it conveyed a sense of conviction and power.

“However, the downside is that it strains business relationships and can reduce the level of initiative that might be there.” At worst, it resulted in deadlock.

The strategy of avoiding conflict and tension, which was “very common in Australia and New Zealand”, was also counterproductive as it left issues unresolved, leading to real frustration among staff.

“Be very aware of what’s not being said,” she said. “If someone sits there not saying much, that’s a huge giveaway that there are things bubbling under the surface.”

Instead, approaching negotiations with a collaborating strategy – working together to find a solution – or a compromising strategy – splitting the difference on points of disagreement – was more likely to create a win-win outcome.

Fellow Rogen International director Rosemary Hume said it was important to look outside the core areas of base salary and bonus for areas of concession and compromise.

Gym membership, work-life flexibility, additional holidays, sick leave, car parking and many other benefits might be up for negotiation. And it was important to look at their perceived value to the employee, rather than their actual value to the company.

For example, an employee with a chronically sick family member they might have to attend to at a moment’s notice would place enormous value on a company car park, Mrs Hume said, yet the cost to company of including this in their package might be minimal. The outcome would be a satisfied employee.

Kim Smith, a Senior Consultant at Robert Half International, told the audience that 50% of respondents to a Robert Half salary survey earlier this year felt they had to leave their company to get greater bargaining power in salary negotiations.

“What if these people felt that they could reach their salary goals by staying at the same company?” she asked. “How much could companies save in recruiting and training costs?

“If employers don’t attempt to find out what their employees want, they’ll leave. And believe me, the cost of hiring and training a new employee far outweighs the typical pay rise.”


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