Motivation: Money isn’t everything… or is it?

Motivation – it’s one of management’s greatest challenges, how to get the most out of your staff and keep everyone happy. From setting salaries to employee of the month awards, managers are always striving to motivate and drive their staff to do their best. But what is the right approach? Do you just dangle monetary rewards in front of your people and hope for the best? What happens if pushing your team to succeed results an unhealthy competition between teams, or even worse a negative spillover to your customers?

If you are looking for an answer to this age-old question, sorry to disappoint, we don’t have it. The truth is there is no answer, each situation is different and requires its own tailored approach. The good news is that there are several tools management can use to more effectively motivate their staff.

Principle vs. The Almighty Buck
You know the old adage; ‘When somebody says “It’s not the money, it’s the principle”, they really mean it’s the money’. Well, you would think that would apply to the most classic “business deal” of them all, the employer/employee relationship, but that is not the case. There are many factors at play when it comes to hiring the right individual and sometimes it really is the principle. Whether it’s the company’s attitude towards working mothers, its environmental policy or community involvement, employees are looking for more from their employers than just a pay cheque. They want to be proud of their workplace and the company they work for. Taking the time the see things from the other side of the table when interviewing candidates and not just understanding how they work, but also why they work will give you insight into what really motivates your new hire and enable you to get it right at the start.

Moving up the ladder
For every successful executive out there, there is a story about where and how they got their break. Take the case of two candidate finalists, the experienced manager looking for a new challenge and the junior looking to move into a more senior role. For the junior, the money is likely less important than the title and responsibility that comes with the role. To be the Chief Financial Officer of a $10M small business or the Senior Budgeting Manager for a $1B gorilla may drive the same salary, but for the up and comer the chance to be the top dog will most likely make for a softer negotiating position.

One size does not fit all…
A check-up client recently complained about complacency within its sales force. They had a base plus commission compensation structure but for some reason their sales people seem to run out of steam by mid-month. It came out that the sales team members, due to their own particular circumstances, were not motivated by the pay structure to reach for the stars. One was independently wealthy and saw the role as “something to do”, another saw the position as supplemental income and was only motivated when their bank account demanded so, yet another was in the process of moving out of town and had mentally checked-out and the fourth member of the team was content earning the base salary and so did not strive beyond.

EA restructured the sales compensation plan with a lower base and a progressive commission plan i.e. commission rates start low and grow as more sales are achieved. This ensures that salespeople have to earn their keep, rewarding over-achievers while keeping poor performers hungry and focused on getting more sales.

The Performance Evaluation
Performance evaluations are the mechanism through which staff are provided formal feedback concerning their performance and guidance as to how they can continue to grow in their role, improve their performance or move up in the business. The key behind performance evaluations is that they need to occur regularly and take into account what the employee is looking to get out of the role. It is during these sessions that management takes the time to understand the employee’s needs and tries to put them on the right path to achieve their goals.

It’s called a BONUS for a reason
Often performance evaluations are used to convey to staff their bonus payouts. While money isn’t everything, at the end of the day most people work because they need to earn money. In order to be effective a bonus needs to be just that, a bonus and not a sure thing. Run performance evaluations regularly and tie them to bonus payouts. Yes, there may be some disgruntled employees at year end but that is the whole point, if a monetary bonus is their motivator they will most likely perform better next year.

The Balanced Scorecard: All for one and one for all
Performance evaluations, bonuses and other awarded perks may help motivate, but how do you foster the teamwork and collaboration necessary to succeed? Having a team of ‘A’ players does not guarantee a successful business. In fact, teams structured this way have a tendency to under-perform as the over-achievers compete and trip over each other to reach their goals.

The key is to have everyone recognize they are all in the same boat and only if they row in unison will they succeed. The balanced scorecard achieves this by assigning a weighting to the various factors of the bonus calculation. One standard approach is to apply a significant weight to overall business performance i.e. if the business does not meet its targets no one person/team/division can receive 100% of their bonus even if that entity met all its targets. Picture a business with different teams, if the largest team e.g. sales, does not meet its targets it is very unlikely that the overall business will. The balance scorecard will award the other teams a portion of their bonus based on each team’s success but hold back the overall business portion. Next year if one team starts to fall behind its target, the odds are the rest of the business will do what it can to help the floundering team succeed.