Money as a motivational tool.

As you may have noticed, I’m doing these blogs in order! They get more recent every week, this weeks is from the May 2007 edition of our newsletter, Perform.

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Many people, managers and academics, believe that money is the prime motivator. Motivating people is a complex business with multiple environmental influences. Money is universally translatable into just about anything. If you are worried about feeding your family today then money is an essential. There are many people around the world lacking the necessities of food, water and security. The motivation to acquire these necessities is overwhelming. Money may be the way to create a safe haven in this harsh environment. We, in 21st Century European society, are not in that harsh environment. The old and recently developed countries provide their citizens with physical security, allowing the development of higher self-actualising needs. We have the security to play piano as a hobby and not worry about tomorrow’s basic life needs.

This article looks at money as reward for work done in a developed country environment. This encompasses everyone from City of London bankers with million pound bonuses and football stars like David Beckham all the way to the unpaid volunteer at the local hospice. Money means different things to different people. Our surveys indicate that hirers and firers regard pay as the most important factor in recruiting and retaining staff. This is despite the fact that 60% of job leavers want to get away from their boss and are happy with their job! The unpaid volunteer receives some non-monetary reward for his or her effort.

The best-managed organisations in the voluntary sector make sure these rewards are readily accessible by their helpers. Your salary, the money you get in exchange for your effort on your employer’s behalf, is just one of the rewards that is possible. That many organisations are poor at developing the other reward dialogues is obvious. It leads them to pay more than is needed to retain unenthusiastic, disengaged people. If the only language in the reward discussion is money then the discussion can only be about money.

There are lifestyle factors to be considered. The maxim to hire someone with three kids and a big mortgage suggests they will work hard and be fearful of dismissal. At different times in our life, we have different financial demands. But do people work harder when the local tax bill drops through the letter box?

Paying different salaries for similar jobs causes enormous ire. We use our salary to rank ourselves against our peers, our neighbours, our college friends or even our family. When company cars were fashionable (ie tax efficient!) the big auto manufacturers produced a vast range of finish options. You could judge how you were doing against your neighbour by the size of your engine or your trim level!

Salary can be a measure of how well you are doing in the job. It shows progress toward the next promotion, with a view to having a good salary to produce a comfortable retirement. Perhaps this is an idea past its time. Then there are payment-by-results schemes.

Sales bonuses, piecework or ultimately self-employment all offer this style of reward. This does attract some people. The value of the reward is an indication of how good you are, relative to your peers. Is it the spending power of the reward or would a pile of marine snail shells show your relative performance just as well? Newspapers tell us that some people will take huge risks to achieve wealth. Sufficient wealth to achieve a change of lifestyle is usually outside of day-to-day salary levels. With the opening up of EU borders to the recently acceded countries, you can see their citizens taking employment to achieve just that. It is still possible to work in the UK for a year or two and save enough money to buy your own business back home. In this circumstance it is a life-changing amount of money for them. The wise organisation makes sure its pay levels are not below the normal level in their locality. I recommend that, as you expect your people to have above average performance, you pay them accordingly from the outset.

We all communicate what we expect and we get what we communicate! Do we train our children to regard a tangible reward as the only motivator? How many of us have been guilty of attempting bribery to get a child to tidy his or her room? There is a trade-off between how much work you are prepared to do for as small a salary as you will accept. This leads to the understanding that “bad” jobs should be well paid. The battle between Arthur Scargill and Margaret Thatcher (now Baroness Thatcher) over the pay of the UK coal miners was a point of change in social history. While I do not like the methods adopted, I think the miners deserved a lot of money! It is not something I would do for even a lot of money myself. Sadly, for the UK mining industry, there are many people in other countries that dig coal for a lot less than they wanted.

In conclusion money does motivate some people some of the time. To get the best from your people ensure you follow these best practice pointers every time.

• Use the full range of motivation tools and do not rely excessively on money, or you will pay more than necessary.

• Have an equitable pay policy, within and without your organisation. Inequity is never forgiven or forgotten.

• Show you care by being flexible in your reward packages. There are many schemes, which swap salary for gym membership, shorter hours and so on. Take the trouble to offer them.

• Recognise achievements in non-financial ways too. Have some other marker, a “Golden Banana” reward for example, to celebrate success and take the focus away from the money.

• Set your pay rates just above the going rate.

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One thought on “Money as a motivational tool.

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