Apparently, It Is All About The Money!

To have highly engaged employees who must do what?

Come on. Come on.  What have you been told for the last 10 or 20 years?

I’ll give you the synopsis:

1. Recognize solid performance

2. Provide challenging and meaningful work

3. Give frequent feedback

4. Give employees a voice in decision making

5. Flexibility

Apparently, that’s all bull shit!  From the folks who teach other companies how to become Great Places To Work, Quantum Workplace, released a study last week that show from your most engaged employee, to your least engaged employee, they really only care about one kind of recognition — MONEY!  Here’s the chart:

engagement pic

Fascinating research, check out their white paper, it’s one of the better ones I’ve read in the past five years!

Also, it looks like your personalized pleather portfolios aren’t the bang for the buck you hoped for either!   That’s alright, neither is the spin you’ve been fed the past 20 years about people getting super psyched for additional responsibility, or the annual holiday party or summer family picnic.  All the crap blows as well.  You know what doesn’t blow?  MONEY! Yeah!  So, I’m really, really the best employee, with great performance?  Great! SHOW ME THE MONEY!

Also, you leaders who think your team just wants some words of praise, motivation and encouragement?  No they don’t.  They want you to hand out $100 bills, and shut your stupid mouth!

So, why have you been told a great big lie the last 20 plus years?

Advising leadership that all they have to do is hand out more money doesn’t really sell well!  Also, most companies are horrible at pay for performance.  They are unwilling to truly pay for great performance, and kick bad performers in the teeth with nothing.  We want to reward greatness with 5% and show those bad performers how serious we are by giving them a 1% increase! Take that bad performers!

What do you think gang?  What’s is your most important form of recognition?  Are you sure?  Or, are you just telling yourself that lie?



18 thoughts on “Apparently, It Is All About The Money!

  1. The next generation of surveys has to have a conjoint element weighing gains and losses against each other. If you can come up with a version that is good in macro across organizations and then also helps a company decide where to invest to tailor total rewards… well, you’ll hold all the cigars.

  2. Money is tangible praise. It is strong signal of value because employer’s do not like spending extra money.

    Give someone a pay increase or a bonus outside of the normal annual process and it means something. People know that employers do not want to increase their costs and dislike doing things outside of the normal processes.

  3. Great post, Tim! I think it’s definitely true that the majority of employees say they want money (after all…who doesn’t?) But in terms of engagement, there’s an argument to be made that there’s a difference between what they SAY will engage them and what actually WILL engage them. We talk about it in one of our most recent blog posts:
    Would love it if you could give it a read and offer any feedback.

  4. Fun is always best and a good sense of humor goes a long ways, too. Money gets us there, and wasn’t it interesting that a pay cut was very detrimental to productivity. The people that jump ship for fifty cents or a few dollars more must need the money.

  5. Just the fun now – no cigars… and unfortunately – I aspire to live the lifestyle my family has grown accustomed to – so yeah – money does matter… but it’s the start not the finish.

  6. No one forgets the core is working for money Matt. That is a given. We’re talking about how you get people to move from doing the minimum they feel is needed to make the salary/effort exchange equal. It’s not about maintenance or hygiene factors – it’s about what pushes us past the minimum effort.

  7. We forget that the real elephant in the room is that we go to work to get money in the first place. If not , go volunteer somewhere!

    • Matt! That is a bold face lie! I go to work because I love my co-workers and the challenging work and great feedback I get, and because my work helps me become a better person. I would come every day without pay…said no one ever.

      We all go to work for money. Unless you’re like Uncle Paul, he goes to work for fun and cigars because he married rich, and won the lottery! The rest of us need money.

      Where we work for that money then becomes a choice – which is why engagement is important to employers.

  8. Agree – but it’s difficult – by telling folks they may have an issue with answering a question – or highlighting how they think is like asking someone to “don’t think about a white elephant” – that will be all they can think about.

    The questions that make more sense are along the lines of – “Think of time you were most engaged with your job/company/co-worker – what elements were present during that experience – or what do you remember about that time” – or something that makes them think back on the event to engage their memory and their emotional part of their brain.

    That is where real insight lies.

  9. Tim – I know you didn’t make it up – I’m saying that self-reported data on what engages people is notoriously wrong so taking it at face value and saying all the OTHER research is BS is the problem.

    Their outcome is no different – as the study I linked to showed as well – when we ask people what they think will drive performance they often say something they “think” is right but doesn’t play out in the real world. I’m not questioning the survey out comes – I’m saying the outcome isn’t accurate based on the way the human brain works and how other research has shown the difference between what we think is right and what actually works.

    I know they got that answer – always will because the people filling out the survey are flawed – just like you and me. I’m suggesting that before go and make a claim that CASH is the answer – we analyze the process and the process of asking people what they want is bad science. What you say you want and what a company should do to drive performance are two different things.

    • So, it would seem we need to design better engagement surveys which help our employees understand this shortcoming, which also helps to develop their understanding of what truly engages them. This will in turn, make our engagement programs more effective. I don’t see organizations spending much time here.

      Thanks for the comments – very enlightening

  10. Tim – there are as many studies and research that show definitively that paying people more decreases performance across the board. There are studies that show that when asked employees say give me cash or die – yet don’t (or won’t perform) when you do. There are studies that show that non-cash can move the needle more and for less than the cash does. All of those studies should I guess be ignored because in a study that asks people what they want they say cash?

    BS is the fact that we continue to think employees actually perform better when they get what they ask for – the research (more than one by the way) shows a completely different picture.

    But it goes against our rational brain so we ignore it. Truth is money motivates. Yep. It also creates mercenaries who will move/leave/sell you out at the drop of a hat. That’s what money gets you – not loyalty – but more greed.

    Don’t get me wrong – there are times and situations where cash is the right answer. But not every time and in every situation. It’s not BS to offer something besides cash. It’s BS to believe that you can build a long-term relationship with a large group of employees with cash.

    People (whether they say it in a survey or not) want more than $$.

    BTW – I have to go get a birthday present and and an anniversary present – or should I just slip a benjamin in the envelope since EVERYBODY wants cash?

    FYI – Here’s a post on a great experiment that shows the cash isn’t always right – actually is shows it is a problem even when the people say they want cash.

    • Paul –

      I didn’t make this stuff up, this came from more research by Quantum Workplace, who is in the business of selling their services to create great places to work. You know they didn’t want to see this come out either, it’s hard to sell consulting services when you just tell them to pay more!

      So, where was this research flawed? How did they get this outcome?

      Before we just crap all over it and talk about research and studies (which this is just one more), why did this result of their research come out?

      I don’t believe is truly all about the money, I’ve been in the game to long and taken jobs for the money that sucked. I get it. But why would people say it is, in this study?

      It’s definitely interesting data.


  11. I had to go to Quantum Workplace to get to their white papers. Your hyperlink didn’t really work … I’m just sayin’
    Oh & you were right, too. Only got the top six in the white paper!

  12. Your right telling an employee “You have been great here’s a 2% increase oh and by the way your health insurance went up 10% this year!” does not make for a happy employee.

  13. After 20 years of bottom-barrel salary increase budgets, it shouldn’t be a surprise what employees want. There are a lot of surveys that show other priorities, but they also tend to ask HR teams, managers and executives what they think employees want.

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