“Please don’t give me any more money” said no employee, ever

guest postWhile it’s familiar territory for the Rules of Engagement, guest blogger and experienced HR consultant Sahr Willis provides her own slant on the importance of finding the right reward for your people at the right time – and the downside of getting it wrong.

“Please, don’t give me any more money,” said no employee, ever. But when it comes down to it, is cash really the enticement, reward and retention tool that many organisations still think it is?

It is true that an employee, faced with an offer of more cash in their bank account, will rarely turn it down, but it is important to consider what the organisation is trying to achieve, both for itself and its employees, before coming to the conclusion that cash is king. It might be unwittingly undermining the value of the reward.

Reward is hard.
In today’s fast-paced, high-turnover corporate life, it can be difficult to reward employees appropriately. Let’s face it; we don’t all know our employees as personally as we might want to. I’m not suggesting that we all have to be BFFs with our team members, but a small amount of consideration goes a long way.

Let me give an example: I am a bit partial to musical theatre, and a manager once gave me tickets to a performance I’d been keen on seeing but hadn’t due to work commitments.

I was thrilled. In giving me the tickets my manager was simultaneously saying, “Great job on the project”, and “I know you wanted to see this”, and “We value you”.

I remember the performance. I remember receiving the tickets. I remember the reason I was given the tickets. And I talked about it – to my co-workers, to my friends, to other organisations I worked with. I was a walking advertisement for my manager, and, by extension, the organisation.

Would I have done the same with an equivalent amount of cash? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Cash is easy.
Yes, yes it is. It is easy to administer, it is easy to give, it is easy to receive. It is also easy to forget. And might even be seen as just a little bit cynical.

I have encountered many organisations that provide cash benefits that are seen by its employees as not just impersonal, but also a bit offensive. A $300 cash reward on achieving 10 years’ service, for example, may not be received in the spirit in which it was given. It ascribes a value to tenure with the organisation, and it shows that, for those 10 years, no one was able to establish if the employee was a bit partial to musical theatre, or something of a pigeon fancier, or a tragic Demons fan.

So an organisation that wanted to recognise the loyalty of its employee has at best pumped up the cash reserves of its employee, at worst, undermined the value of the gift by reducing the gift to its face monetary value.

Appropriate reward is hard; but done right its value can far outstrip its face value, and reward both the employee and the organisation.


Sahr Willis is a senior HR professional with 10 years’ experience in corporate people management. Her consulting business, Strive People, specialises in providing analysis and strategy in the fields of Performance and Reward. She is neither a pigeon fancier nor a tragic Demons fan. She is, however, partial to a bit of musical theatre. www.strivepeople.com