All They Care About Is Money!

So is money a requirement for motivating employees? For years we have been asking students in our Performance Management classes to tell us why people leave their jobs, and for years they have told us that most people leave for more money.

Actually, research has consistently shown that while salary increase is important, it is usually far down the list of reasons why employees decide to leave for another job. Significantly more people leave because they want more or new challenges, they are not happy with how they are treated by their current supervisor or they believe their contributions are not valued. Money is obviously important because it allows us to meet our basic needs and achieve some of our life goals, but it may not be as important as other factors that are in the direct control of supervisors.

Using Extrinsic Motivators Effectively

The best supervisors understand that money is just one of the extrinsic motivators that they have at their disposal and that the way they use these motivators is more important than the motivators themselves. Because of this, they follow what we call “The Contingency Rule” in the application of all extrinsic motivators. So what is this rule?

The Contingency Rule: Tie the extrinsic motivator to performance. Extrinsic motivators that supervisors have at their disposal include such things as money, praise, job assignments, training opportunities, etc. Making the receipt of any of these contingent on successful performance is critical to their motivational impact. For example, it has been well documented that cost of living increases act as a satisfier and not as a motivator because they are not tied to performance. It could be argued that not receiving an expected cost of living increase could act as a motivator to look for another job, but in this case it would be a de-motivator for improved performance in the current job.

"Best Bosses" are clear about what they expect from employees, and they are also clear about the relationship between accomplishment of those expectations and extrinsic motivators. When people know that successful performance leads to increase in pay, praise, desired job assignments, etc, they are much more likely to put out the effort required to receive those things. Failure to understand these contingencies will only lead to employee confusion, dissatisfaction and lowered motivation. It might also lead the person to look for another job.