Not unlike a car wreck on the other side of the highway, I can’t stop myself from slowing down just a little and gawking at the latest “better motivations than money for your employees” article. And it’s not that I don’t believe any of that, but somehow the articles never quite nail the real question in my mind. Here’s the latest list of things you can do instead of paying your employees more money:
- Be generous with praise
- Get rid of the managers
- Make your ideas theirs
- Never criticize or correct
- Make everyone a leader
- Take an employee to lunch every week
- Give recognition and small rewards
- Throw company parties
- Share the rewards and the pain
Although it might be great sport, I am not even going to pick at each recommendation. Each could be be useful at times, though I would be reluctant to universally apply any of them. I am also going to restrain from pointing out the obvious conundrum between #2 and #5 (oops, I guess I just did… dang.)
I do want to offer one constructive thought, since we are all banned from criticizing or correcting by #4.
Compensation and motivation/morale are two vastly different things.
If you don’t believe me, find a company that has the highest morale and the most motivated employees you’ve ever seen. Then have the CEO announce that the company is bankrupt and that anyone who wants to stay and work for free can do so starting Monday. I am not saying no one would show up, but I doubt it’d be business as usual.
Most employees need to work to live, sustain their families, and otherwise pursue their personal version of the American Dream. That’s why the size of their paycheck matters to them. They also want to feel good about where they work, who they work with, and what they do. Here’s a news flash though: the latter is, to a large extent, out of your control as a company leader/exec for two reasons:
1) you can’t possibly predict or control the complex interpersonal relationships that develop in the workplace.
2) in many organizations (though I am sure not yours) there is an innate skepticism from employees around all new management initiatives. The “real” reason you’re taking me to lunch, throwing a party, or praising me is always lurking in the back of some of your folks’ minds.
And if anyone even mildly suspects that any of these parties, praise or changes is intended to be a “replacement” for a raise or bonus, you will be well on your way to the exact opposite outcome of what you set out to do.
Instead, just try being Fair, Honest, Transparent and Unflappable. That’s five less things you have to remember to do, and none of them require you to go to the Olive Garden six times a month…