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Money Can’t Buy My Engagement Into Your Culture


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I was having a conversation the other day with a friend and the discussion of engagement, engagement surveys, and culture came into the mix. My friend was telling me high-level the results of their recent employee engagement survey and that employees had indicated they did not feel they could share or were tied to the success of the organization. As a result, the company immediately began looking into giving select employee levels the opportunity to now be in the organization’s bonus program.

My initial thought when I heard this was “are you kidding me?” Essentially it sounds like you are trying to buy people into the company’s culture by now offering the opportunity to take part in an organizational bonus program. I asked a few questions to get a better understanding as to some of the specifics with this bonus program.

  • Were there other items being evaluated to determine if money was the resolve to have employees feel like they share the success of the organization?
  • Was the bonus program going to be tied to individual goals that influence employee behavior to increase performance?
  • Had anyone discussed with employees to understand what this meant to them?
  • Was this a short-term or long-term option – meaning, could the bonus program go away if the company didn’t perform or they didn’t seen any change on the next engagement survey?

Most certainly I had more questions, but these were very top of mind for me. The answers my friend shared indicated employees essentially wanted to feel, see, or take part in the success of the organization, so the corporate leadership team determined a bonus that was tied into the overall success of the organization would get people bought into the culture. So if the business performed, they would get a part of the pie; if they business didn’t perform, they may not get as much of the pie or any of it at all.

This methodology my friend described to me really dumbfounded me. Given where we are in the evolution of the modern workplace, I believe there has been enough research which clearly shows that just because you throw money at someone, doesn’t mean you get buy-in. Especially to company culture.

Engagement is part of a culture and culture is developed as a whole, not by one individual.

Therefore, if you are looking to really understand how to get employee to value, take ownership, and empower behavior and performance to drive organizational success, here are some tips to help you begin:

  1. Talk with your employees – there is nothing worse than trying to make decisions in a vacuum or without clarity of information; if you are faced with information where employees are stating they do not feel they can share or take part in the organization’s success, ASK THEM what this means! What do they need to be able to share in the company’s success?
  2. Money doesn’t buy love – money is many times an easy thing to throw around because it is also the simplest reason for someone to give when they are leaving a company for another. Why? Because nine times out of ten, no one will question if you are leaving for more money. The thing you have to remember about money is it provides short-term results, not long-term results. Money doesn’t keep people engaged.
  3. Cascade success down – in the instance of my friend, employees did not feel they shared the success of the organization. In these situations, if you create individual goals that are subsequently tied back to goals at the top, employees will more likely see the connection. Giving someone a target that is 10,000 feet high at the very top of the organization doesn’t typically get anyone engaged or provide understanding how one person can influence it from the very bottom.
  4. Provide feedback – performance management is no good if you are not going to provide continuous feedback. Just like you want feedback from you manager, your employees want the same thing. When I speak with many managers, they tell me they do not have time to sit down and provide feedback, but the cool thing is feedback can be provided in short bursts of time. A five minute conversation here or there and you are achieving the greater goal in small chunks. Make time and opportunities work for you and the employee – it will pay off in the long run versus simply doing nothing at all.
  5. Recognize – recognize efforts!
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