Monday 20 January 2020

For Love or Money 4: Impacts on Reward

I've had a chapter on reward included in MuseumEtc's book, 'For Love or Money': Re-engineering the Way Museums Work. However, I would hope the content will be relevant for people working in other sectors too.

For many museums this type of re-engineering may mean a need for less core employees, but with these and other staff being higher paid, as well as for looking at new opportunities in broader reward and recognition.

As shown in figure 4, Barker Langham expects to see:

   The core workforce receiving most of their pay through a high base salary with progression being based on time served and the acquisition of skills to compensate this group for their ongoing commitment and involvement in a broad range of discretionary activities. They may also receive some variable reward linked to overall organisational performance to support their collaboration with other staff in projects, communities and networks but this is likely to be quite limited as incentive pay is not generally a key motivator in the museum sector.

   Peripheral staff receiving a lower base than core employees with pay progression based upon their overall contribution in their jobs and on projects, with, where it makes sense, additional variable payments based on the performance of their departments or the whole organisation.

   Contract staff being paid mainly on a project basis, either for their time if an employee, or for their outputs if a contractor, with pay in either approach reflecting the value of their accumulated experience and expertise. These staff may also be given additional retainers to keep them linked with the museum between projects.

   Contingent staff paid mainly for completing tasks and projects as well as maybe some payments for ideas and innovations and other impacts. These staff may not be paid that much by any one museum, but have the potential to generate high levels of revenue from across their broader portfolio of work.

Museums also need to ensure these different reward approaches are seen as fair by each of the different groups. This will be aided by greater pay transparency, enabling each group to understand the different reward approaches used for each group, if not the actual pay structures used within them.

To support collaboration across the workforce we expect to see reducing pay differentials within museums so that on an overall balance sheet based perspective, there is both a reasonable pay ratio between the most valuable core employee, and perhaps the lowest paid contingent worker (on a pro rata basis), and that this ratio is also perceived as fair within each of these different categories. This will also respond to increasing shareholder and public concern about executive pay and increasing pressure on both minimum wages and the immigration of cheap labour in some geographies, including the US and UK.

However, as identified earlier on, pay is not the only motivator in any organisation and museum staff in particular are motivated by a range of other factors. We therefore expect to see more use of benefits and other personalised support, helping to meet the varied needs of a more diverse workforce, together with increased use of recognition and maybe other approaches like gamification to maintain levels of engagement, for at least as long as levels of pay remain low.


Re-engineering the work and staffing of museums aided by digital technologies and approaches offers the potential for museums to find ways of moving from a focus on efficiency and saving money (a bad jobs strategy) to one focused on value and experience (a good jobs strategy). Whilst museums should follow this approach to ensure their own success and engage more customers positively in their domain, it would also support fairer rewards for the staff working in this sector.


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