Don’t show me the money

Nov 19 2012, 19:32 IST
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SummaryThink of the last time you felt really charged up about work, and what made you feel that way.

Monetary gain ceases to be the only motivator in an employee’s life; a supportive workplace with an ecosystem that provides individuals with the opportunity to innovate and add value to the output holds more significance if people are fairly compensated

Nandita Gurjar

Think of the last time you felt really charged up about work, and what made you feel that way. I’ll bet it wasn’t money.

I am not suggesting for a moment that money doesn’t matter. It does, but only up to a point. There’s enough academic and empirical evidence to show that once people are paid enough—and let’s take that to mean, are compensated fairly and to the extent that they can maintain a certain standard of living—money is no longer the motivator it is made out to be. Bestselling author, Daniel Pink makes this point very convincingly in his talks on employee motivation in which he says that while higher financial reward elicits better performance of mechanical tasks, it actually worsens the performance of jobs with even the slightest cognitive content.

Actually, motivation works in inscrutable ways and often contradicts the laws of expected behaviour. How else would you explain why workers earning a fixed salary put in more hours than those on an hourly wage? Or why unpaid volunteers in a cause are so enthusiastic about showing up at work? So, if it’s not money, then what do people get their buzz from? My short answer: supportive workplace, purposeful work.

If I had to name just one thing that inspires employees to raise their game, it’s finding meaning in what they do. What makes an ordinary job meaningful? One, when it serves the larger interests of significant others, such as customers, influencers, or even communities. Two, when it adds value to the people doing it, by enabling them to polish their skills, acquire new knowledge, make a contribution or—I kid you not—even find their own identities. If you knew that what you did between nine and five made a real difference in the real world…what greater high is there?

I have seen this play out over and over again within Infosys. Some of our coolest innovations have come from the team in charge of a green initiative we launched a few years ago to develop new ideas in sustainability that we could replicate within the organisation and share with the rest of the world. What sets them apart is that they

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