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Is your company putting pennies over people?

Money is a fascinating motivator. At one level, everyone accepts that money’s important and that they should be paid for the work they do. There’s also an older belief that people only come to work to make money, yet ironically it’s a view often held by people who could afford to stop work. We know it’s more complex than that old adage, but how often have we stopped and really thought about it?

Yes, everyone needs what money can provide at a deep motivational level, and that is to provide shelter, food, warmth and basic health. Following this money gives us the chance to enjoy a good lifestyle, enables us to spend time with our family and friends on holiday, to save for our future, invest in education, and to be able to make a difference – to help people.

Undoubtedly, money becomes more important as a motivator as our personal circumstances change. When we’re becoming parents, when we’re buying our first house, when are children need funding for education and when we approach retirement. Beyond that it’s also about a sense of ‘fairness’. Humans have a very interesting sense of fairness, but often it comes down to ‘how much I contribute and am paid, vs how much they contribute and are paid’ – or ‘if you want me to do that thing I don’t want to do then pay me this to make it feel worthwhile.

Given this, what is the role of pay in creating strong sustainable businesses?

Most obviously, if you aren’t paying employees enough to feed themselves well and live securely, they won’t do good work; this damages businesses. When people feel that they are paid productivity increases and employee turnover decreases because people feel valued and rewarded; nobody wants to stay somewhere where they feel undervalued or taken for granted. As Dan Pink’s book revealed, if someone’s baseline rewards aren’t; adequate or equitable, their focus will be on the unfairness of the situation and the anxiety of their circumstance; ’Pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table’.

Fairness not only keeps employees with a business, but also makes them work harder. Somebody who feels well paid will experience a sense of responsibility to work at that level; rewarding staff well will encourage them to live up to their pay grade! This works even when increased pay is given unexpectedly, and you can likely relate to this by recalling feelings of joy or renewed drive in response to an out-of-the-blue reward or bonus at work.

In a recent web conference with Motivational Maps® Practitioners run by Aspirin Business, perhaps the most significant understanding money was revealed; it gives opportunities. As we get older money becomes not only a tool to buy the latest iPhone or fastest car, but also a necessity to take comfortable holidays with family or friends, support children through education, or to prepare for one’s later years. Money is not only directly rewarding, but also an incredibly powerful means of giving people the security and autonomy to be comfortable and happy in aspects of their lives outside of work. This is what will help create a strong business community for employees, which we believe to be the bedrock for sustainable and agile businesses.

Don’t value your pennies over your people. Investing in your internal business community and valuing the needs of your employees will breed loyalty, productivity, and ultimately a better business for all. Pay them enough to take the issue of money off the table and/or find out exactly what’s important to them.


Jan Feeley, MSc
Jan Feeley, MSc

Assistant Psychological Therapist by day, coach by evening and weekend! I'm a firm believer in collaborative working both clinically and more generally, and am keen to use people's expertise about themselves to make meaningful and energising changes in their life. Passionate about mental health, wellbeing, and self-care; determined to make a difference. Connect with me on LinkedIn

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