I recently heard an NPR story on the topic of allowance. A fairly commonplace practice in families across America. A parent promises to give their child a certain amount of money every month, usually asking for something in return, completing chores, doing their homework, practicing an instrument, etc. Doesn’t that sound a lot like a salary? A company promises to pay an employee a certain amount of money every month, while asking for something in return, their time, effort and productivity. This NPR story goes on to talk about why tying an allowance directly to certain “performance objectives” doesn’t always work. Not every child feels that they need, or even want, that money. And, if they don’t care about receiving the reward, then there’s no need to do the work. Dishes are left un-washed, beds go un-made, tubas and flutes sit idle in the corner. This same phenomenon occurs every day in companies throughout the world. Though not focused on whether employees’ beds are made or not, managers do care if employees stop reaching their business objectives. If every child is not motivated solely by money, why would every adult be?
As a leader, it becomes your responsibility to figure out what truly motivates each of your employees. Rewards and values vary greatly between individuals, so a one-size fits all motivational program is not going to work. Take the time to get to know your employees and determine what it is that gets them out of bed in the morning. Make sure to check in with them on a regular basis to ensure that they feel valued and appreciated. You may not have a lot of leeway in terms of salary or PTO, but you can help them feel fulfilled on an individual level at the very least. Salary alone is not the answer.