Is money the greatest employee motivator?

What would your advice be when it comes to compensating employees? I’ve seen reports saying money isn’t the top motivator, but I know it matters. My company is still small, so I can’t offer bonuses or anything like that yet. How else would you suggest I show my employees that I value their input?

There’s no doubt that money is a great motivator and must be part of the equation. Why else do we work?

We work to succeed and with success, in almost every scenario, comes rewards in terms of financial compensation. But, as an employer you must be careful. It’s almost a case of the chicken and the egg. 

Do you give someone lots of money in the hopes that the person will come into the workplace guns blazing, or do you give that person the promise that if targets are met, then rewards will come?

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People are jaded, and I’ve been in this situation. As an employee, the promises of riches based on my performance have often not been met and I’ve wondered how I could have been so gullible to believe these .

I was talking to a buddy of mine just last week, and he’s decided that the top management at his business will now have to justify their pay. They must bring in a certain amount of money each month, and then and only then can he offer pay increases and bonuses.

The flaws

This is a great system on one hand, and for obvious reasons. You make the company money, you get paid more. Sounds simple enough, right?

However, this system can also be flawed because the competition brings in some grey areas. If you have two managers on the same level, and one is more motivated to sell than the other, it can create tension when manager A begins to earn more commission than manager B. From an employer’s perspective, they may just begin to look at manager B as a liability and not an asset. And remember, this was not part of the original working terms and conditions. 

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Let’s move away from money for a moment and look at the workplace environment.

Have you created a place that you would want to come to every day if you were an employee? Do you give your team a chance to make mistakes and learn, rather than dictate and shout? Is there a sense of camaraderie and is your team smiling and laughing (not all the time, of course, as work is serious business)?

These are also great motivators. Can your employees honestly say; “I love my job”? Small things make a big difference. 

I’ve said it before in this column and I’ll say it again: create an environment that allows people to express themselves and make mistakes. I say this, not because I work in a creative field, but because I firmly believe that this can be applied anywhere in any business, whether you’re making cement or reality TV shows. It doesn’t have to be a rigid system to succeed. 

So as the new year begins, try and reflect as a business owner. Money is a great motivator, yes, but what more are you offering your team? How are you making your business a place that someone would look forward to coming to each and every morning?

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The writer is a business owner and media practitioner.

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