Money As a Motivator: Not What You Think

by Jeannie Walters

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money as a motivator: green goldfish are betterWe’ve talked about how important it is to create a powerful employee culture to deliver a superior customer experience. So how does money as a motivator work?

It doesn’t. At least not the way you think.

I’m really excited today to review Stan Phelps’s new book, What’s Your Green Goldfish: Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways To Drive Employee Engagement And Reinforce Culture, which highlights the best ways to develop outstanding cultures for organizations. Stan cleverly crowdsourced the examples in this book, enlightening us on companies which are not the typical ones. In example after example, Stan inspires the reader to think of creative, sincere and unique ways to reward employees, create amazing cultures, and as a result deliver an exceptional and memorable customer experience. I literally FLEW through this – and know I will be returning to it all the time. How can you read about all these amazing and creative cultures without getting a whole slew of ideas for your own organization? (Hint: You can’t.)

Creating a powerful culture is about helping your best employees feel so engaged they will remain loyal. Workers are expensive and difficult to replace. Keeping your best ones is in your company’s best interest. WYGG is about understanding that money as a motivator is not the aim – it’s the special things companies do to help their cultures thrive.

A few favorites from the examples:

  • Semco, a Brazilian manufacturer, has had some years where employee turnover has been as low as 1%, thanks to several innovative cultural ideas. They don’t let employees sit in the same place for two days in a row. This encourages more collaboration and helps prevent managers from micromanaging.
  • Google’s Conference Bike has four wheels and five riders, perfect for team-building.
  • ZocDoc forgoes fancy furniture to stay frugal, but caters lunch for workers. Part of the motivation is to help “ZocDoc-ers” from various departments get to know each other.
  • Morningstar offers sabbaticals of six weeks paid time off every four years. Employees also get “as much time as they want” for vacation.

This book does a great job of highlighting the small ways any organization can use relevant perks to create special cultures. Today’s employees care about money, sure, but they care about so much more than money. As a motivator, flexible work schedules, access to the CEO or workplaces that are actually fun create more lasting loyalty.

In fact, 57% of employees reported the most meaningful recognition was free. This comes down to understanding what the expectations are for your employees and exceeding them by doing something special – just like your customers. A handwritten note from the CEO or manager can go a long way.

So go buy this book! It’s one of those you can pull out when you are searching for ideas on how to create the best culture you can. The best advice you can take from all these great examples is to create an experience for your employees that is just as a special as the one for your customers.




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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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