Money for Nothing

Incentives & Rewards

One of the classic “chestnuts” of HR management in the 21st century is that money is way down the shopping list of employees these days – especially Gen Yers.

There is no end to the number of esteemed employee surveys opining that “money ranks 13th” or thereabouts on the list of factors that drive engagement/retention / incremental performance etc etc

I am not convinced.

I tend to think that money is the number one reason and that the surveys are simply listing everything ELSE. The other responses being the rationalizations after the money is taken care off. Labeling money as merely a “hygiene” factor in this regard is unhelpful, misleading and can lead to poor decisions for incentive compensation planning.

An example of the “it’s not all about the money” myth that caught a lot of attention recently was in Australian Rules football. A young player (barely 20 years old) named Tom Scully was poached by a newly established football club in Greater Western Sydney (“GWS”). GWS reportedly contracted Scully for six years at $1 Million per year. This is the LARGEST ever AFL contract for any player by a wide margin. At the press conference announcing the contract, Scully informed an incredulous media pack that money was an important factor but one of MANY reasons why the move was attractive to him. Of course, you don’t need to be a mind reader to know that GWS needed to offer a premium to lure Scully in the first place. All the other wonderful reasons Scully mentioned were absolutely irrelevant if the money on offers wasn’t massively higher than the offer from his old club. In other words – they weren’t reasons – they were rationalizations.

To be sure, this is an extreme example. But I think it illustrates a point. I am not saying that nonmonetary factors do not have REAL value. Clearly, they do. I just get a bit weary when I hear people parrot these surveys as though money really is the 13th most important driver – what bunk! A total employee value proposition with money at the core is realistic – anything else is a just wishful thinking.

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