I was talking with someone today who doesn’t have more money they can give employees – they’re stretched financially. So the question becomes: How can we motivate our employees?

This is a very common trap that people fall into. But if you think about it, you know that money isn’t everything. It’s part of a complex mix of factors which can be different for each individual.

But before we get to that, it’s critical to first answer: Does each employee feel that they’re being paid a fair living wage? For many (most?) hourly workers, the answer can be no. In which case, getting to fair compensation must be your first priority. Without that, you’ll be battling employee turnover until your business ultimately fails.

So now let’s get to those who ARE being paid decently. What motivates them?

Well, this has been studied quite a bit – one of the strongest being Gallup. The answers are pretty clear:

  • Am I doing work that is enjoyable and challenging?
  • Do I feel that my work actually makes a difference – does anybody care?
  • Is my boss supportive – not only of my work but who I am as a career?
  • Does this job help me build a future?
  • Do I trust the people around me?
  • Is the culture engaging?

Not that pay is unimportant, but often these dimensions can really make the difference for whether someone wants to stick around, grow, and bring their best work.

Where do you start? Well, by having some honest one-to-one conversations with your employees. Get a sense for how their minds work and what their priorities are. You’ll start seeing patterns.