“Meaning” is the New Money

Compensation & rewards are important. All important? Are they enough to drive the right behaviours? Are they enough to keep employees?

There is no doubt that rewards are a very important part of the “employment deal”. And, there is plenty of research to show that it is one of the key factors when it comes to attracting and retaining employees. But then, more & more rewards alone does not necessarily drive engagement and high-performance, as there are other factors at play too. Earlier on, I read with keen interest the book “Drive” by Dan Pink, where he examined the three elements of true motivation – Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. If you still are not familiar with this, I highly recommend that you watch this video for a quick (and cool) summary.

Dan Pink discussed research which shows that rewards are a good motivator when it comes to jobs that are “rudimentary” or require basic skills only. But, as complexity in job roles grow, then more rewards may not necessarily fuel performance. While compensation and rewards are important hygiene factors, more of them may not necessarily lead to employees putting in discretionary efforts for their organisations. More recently, I came across this article on the Harvard Business Review Blog. The author rightly titled it “Meaning is the New Money.”

Working in a world of extended collaboration asks individuals to contribute through a different and, in many ways, more complex set of activities. Workers must deal with rich content that flows through infinite links. Individuals must make intelligent, well-informed decisions about what to share with whom (and what not to) with less guidance from the hierarchy to simplify the patterns of interaction. And they must dig deep within themselves to form innovative ideas and put their best thinking forward.

To a large extent, the conduct of these activities is not something managers can prescribe or even monitor. Unlike process-based work, in which the goal is to perform synchronized tasks consistently and reliably, extended collaboration occurs asynchronously and is often aimed at discovering or developing something new.

Perhaps most significantly, extended collaboration requires high levels of discretionary effort. People have to choose to do it and have to want to do it well. Leaders can create a context in which that is likely to happen, but collaboration cannot be mandated. It requires high levels of employee engagement.

For many today, meaning is the new money. It’s what people are looking for at work.

So, what can potentially be done? Aligning people to the shared purpose & values, building a sense of role significance, connecting individual roles to group goals, giving them autonomy in their roles and helping them to build mastery in their chosen areas are some of the most important ways in which organisations can really “win” the employees – engage them, retain them and build a high-performing culture. What are your thoughts? How are you hacking established management practices to build a high-performance organisation?

2 thoughts on ““Meaning” is the New Money

  1. Pingback: PWC Research : The Talent Race « Mumblr

  2. Good one. After reading the first paragraph i had a feeling that you are going to relate with RSA Animate video 🙂 . If you want to motivate employees, than give them challenging work, instead of rewards, I second that.


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