Staff Motivation: Money isn’t Always the Answer

CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamOctober 31, 201811min

There is an article on PeopleHR.com that will give a manager food for thought.

Despite the scrapping of nursing bursaries, student nurses in the NHS  are still motivated to stay within the profession. In the 2017 NHS staff survey, the staff was asked a series of questions which were translated into an index.

The decrease in motivation index is relatively tiny, from 3.92 to 3.90. Why is this so? The hours are long, staff is overstretched, and there has been a pay freeze for several years. By rights the drop should be more, yet motivation is still strong across the board.

Could it be that money is not always a motivator?

We all work for money. At its most basic level, employment is a financial transaction. It illustrates that in order for the effort to be expended, employees need to be paid. 

How often do we hear colleagues saying out loud in frustration “I am not paid enough for this” or “This job is way above my pay grade”? This also seems to indicate that if paid enough, we can be motivated to accomplish certain tasks; and if we are not paid enough, we will not feel motivated.

Money is the answer to some of the questions

The gender pay gap has been a contentious issue for some time but it is gaining traction lately due to several high profile cases. Mark Wahlberg was paid a cool $1.5 million to reshoot a few scenes in a movie whilst his female co-star received an extra $1000. 

Claire Foy, the lead for Netflix’s successful series The Crown was reportedly paid £10,000 less per episode compared to her male co-star, a backpay of some £300,00. Then there was the BBC, which was in hot water when the salary lists of its presenters was leaked and it showed that males were paid a lot more.

In the cases above, it is not so much about the amount of money, but the principle behind it. Such a huge disparity illustrates the disrespect for the talent and all the hard work that the women put in. In a more “real-life” situation, salary is a thorny issue. In general, people like to be treated in a fair, equitable way. Any news of a discrepancy between staff may cause friction and will cause demotivation.

The function of money as a motivator is complicated

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs illustrates that on various levels from the base of the pyramid to the apex, a person has needs that should be met. Money falls at the base. Without money, it is unlikely that a person could meet basic needs such as food and shelter. 

Once these are met, a person moves up a level and different motivating factors come into play. Higher up the pyramid, getting more pay is not as strong a motivator. Employees at this stage of the pyramid crave other things like recognition for their expertise or self actualisation. While the move up the pyramid looks linear, it has to be noted that a person’s needs could change at any time. A major life event may have a strong impact and their needs may regress downwards, instead of upwards.

Herzberg’s Theory of Hygiene Factors offers another slant. A person’s salary has always been considered one of the hygiene factors, but in the parameters of this theory, money is not a good motivator. While a good salary can initially motivate the employee, over time he will get used to it. 

When it becomes a standard, the motivational effect will wear off. In certain cases, having money as a motivator can have the opposite effect. For example, if employees are used to a five percent increase in pay year-after-year, it becomes an expectation. They are likely to be very disappointed and demotivated if they subsequently receive less.

In an article in Harvard Business Review, Dr. Tomas Charmorro-Premuzic touched upon intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and discussed how money is an extrinsic motivator. He argues that the effect from an extrinsic motivator, such as a pay raise, is likely to be brief and then goes on to explain how our relationship with money can also have an effect on motivation. Besides what is termed the “psychological symbol” of money, the individual’s income goal also plays a factor on motivation.

So what really motivates us to work?

Dr. Tomas also discussed how intrinsic motivation, such as having a sense of purpose or meaning, is likely to have a more lasting effect. Perhaps this will go some way in explaining why nurses and doctors are still dedicated to the NHS.

What is interesting in both the NHS survey and Dr. Tomas’ article, is that the quality of leadership plays a huge role in employee motivation. In the NHS survey, the staff is more satisfied with support they are getting from their line managers. They found the quality of appraisals and training better, and their confidence in raising issues was also good. In his article, Dr. Tomas also mentioned that incompetent leadership will lead to staff disengagement.

In view of the above, a leader has a big role to play in employee’s motivation

What is also clear from the various motivational theories, is that one size does not fit all. Different employees will have different motivating factors – not all of them money. Thus motivating should begin at an individual level. A leader should be able to identify the different factors that drive the individuals and work out the best way to motivate and gain their commitment. 

For example, a team member who is starting on his career could be motivated by the provision of training that would upgrade his skill set while a more experienced team member could be motivated by giving him a mentoring or coaching role that would recognise his experience and skills.  

Tailoring motivating techniques according to each individual is a huge task. It will mean the leader will have to invest time in getting to know his staff – a very worthwhile venture bearing in mind the benefits that will come. Often motivation changes depending on the individual’s situation. 

By maintaining open channels of communication, the leader can be aware of this and tweak their motivation techniques. Motivated individuals who are happy at their jobs create a positive ripple effect that will affect the whole team.  

Without motivation, an individual or a team could possibly still do the job they are tasked to do but there will be growing dissatisfaction. They will feel that their work does not matter or their efforts are not being recognised. It would be difficult for the leader to get buy-in or commitment from the team member if they feel that they are not being appreciated.

Once each individual person in the team is happy, the leader could then focus on motivating the team as a whole. 

In conclusion…

Money is not always a motivating factor. People are individuals with their own hopes and dreams. There is no one-size-fits-all and there are many other ways to motivate a team which does not involve monetary rewards. The best leaders would know how to motivate each individual member of their team and it does not necessarily mean giving them a pay rise every other month.

 

 

 

 


CXM Editorial Team

CXM Editorial Team

Published for all CX professionals, the digital Customer Experience Magazine is packed full of industry news, blogs, features, video bites and international stories all focusing on customer experience. CXM will help you learn what makes an outstanding customer experience that wins both awards and the hearts of customers. And sometimes we share some cool music as well.




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