Engaging Your Team Members

written on October 13, 2010 by Jeff Nischwitz

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Mad Men, one of my favorite shows, follows the internal workings and relationships of an early 1960’s advertising agency in New York City.  In the most recent episode, Don Draper (one of the lead characters) is engaged in a heated discussion with a frustrated and unappreciated employee (Peggy Olson) who is venting that Don never gives her credit for her ideas.  At the heat of her frustration and anger, Don tells Peggy that her recognition will come later and that he (the firm) “pays her for her ideas.”  Peggy responded “You never say thank you,” to which Don replied “that’s what the money is for.”  If you immediately “got it,” then you know how misguided Don’s comment is.  If not, then perhaps you still believe that team members should simply accept their compensation and do their job, without expecting anything else (e.g., acknowledgement, appreciation, gratitude, thanks, etc.).  The truth today (which has been for many, many years) is that team members are looking for more than compensation in order to be satisfied, fulfilled and, most important, fully engaged and committed.

For years every employee survey has produced the same results … employees rank fair compensation as fourth or fifth on their list of employment priorities . If they’re not being paid fair compensation, then increasing their compensation to a fair level is their top priority, but given fair compensation their top priorities (in no particular order) are:

• Being a part of something
• The opportunity to grow and development,
• The opportunity to make an impact in the organization (purpose)
• Being appreciated and respected for their contributions
• Fair compensation

And of course they also want to work with a good boss (someone who provides these things), a compatible culture (that aligns with them), and an aligned team (people DO care who they work with).

Many employers, however, claim that these survey results are wrong because their employees are solely focused on compensation.  This apparent inconsistency is easily explained; when employees are primarily focused on compensation there are two possible drivers: (1) the employees are not receiving fair compensation; or (2) they are not “receiving” the other non-monetary benefits, which “moves” compensation to the top of the list.

Is that what’s the money for … to be the sole basis for employee satisfaction, commitment and engagement?  Obviously not, and simply reading this question highlights its absurdity.  This is yet another example of how business emulates life.  We ALL want and desire to be appreciated and valued; in short, to matter.  How many personal relationships are damaged or fail because of a simple lack of appreciation?  Business is not business; business is groups of people working together to deliver a product or service in the context of achieving organizational objectives.  No matter how far technology advances, people will always be the heart and soul of every business, and empowering, valuing and appreciating people will always be a success essential for businesses.

“That’s what the money is for?”  I think not!  Your business future depends on a team of engaged, committed and valued team members, and genuine and communicated appreciation will always be a key ingredient to achieving this objective.

Jeff Nischwitz
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