Money as a motivator

Stack of money

Stacks of money (from

There was a very active discussion in the Linked:HR forum recently about the importance of salary in engaging employees. Lots of experienced HR professionals made comments to the effect that ‘money is not the most important motivator’.

This idea is tossed around very freely, and there have been some studies to support it, but it requires a very important qualifier.

I coached a person who was earning $250k and he went after a $150k CEO role in the nonprofit sector, because the new role was better aligned with his values. On the other hand, I’ve also worked with a guy earning $60k who quit a job because he felt undervalued, he and his wife want to have a family, and he needs at least $80k to support them.

So – this is basic ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 101’ – if you have enough money to take care of your basic needs, you can afford to think about other things, like self-actualisation. If you are in ‘survival’ mode, self-actualisation might seem like a distant luxury and money definitely can become your most important motivator.

This means a ‘one size fits all’ approach to remuneration is unlikely to work for everyone in your organisation. When you think about engaging and retaining staff in your more junior  or lower level roles, salary is probably a much bigger factor than it is for staff in your mid and more senior level roles.

When you think about remuneration for staff in different tiers of the organisation, you might also want to think about how this impacts on their basic living requirements in different ways.

ANSON offers a range of services to help you develop competitive remuneration and total employee engagement strategies for your organisation. If you’d like to discuss any of these in more detail, please contact me or visit the ANSON website.

About Jonathan Smith

Turning strategy into reality
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