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Money is Not the Only Motivation

Updated: Sep 10


"Money makes the world go 'round." Not really, but it’s important.


Of course, this statement is not true for everyone, but it is true for most of the working population.


How can I claim this? With 20 plus years of talking to thousands of candidates’ money is discussed a lot. I started to see patterns of how money is perceived from the candidate’s and employee’s perspective.



Unless a business has all the money in the world, considering other incentives and rewards are a must.

The majority of people like to get bonuses and receive strong salaries, but are these the only incentives that cause people to do good work?

Money is a great incentive, but each of us is a bit more complex in terms of our needs. Many individuals live their lives by how they feel about what they have, not by what they actually possess.

Money is a means to a feeling and to an experience. Understanding the “experience" and "feeling" of money is important. Each person’s day to day work has a strong influence on their perception or definition of money.

Mercer did a study of 800 business executives and 1, 800 hiring leaders, as well as 5,000-plus employees across 21 industries and found that most employees value a company that gives them flexibility, are committed to their health and wellbeing, and give the employees purpose. So much so that the employees valued that over the amount of pay they received.


We can think about this in specific examples:

A sales person is driven by money because that is their job; they are motivated to make more money for their company and in turn look to receive incentives (monetarily).

  • The focus of their job is money.

  • The company expects them to bring in a lot of it.

  • The company sees these individuals increase productivity by hitting targets or surpassing them.

  • In general, society perceives that a good sales person will be someone who has a nice car, nice clothing, and a nice house.

  • This individual will be motivated by other factors, but the idea of money and finances is all around them; this perception of money is designed by the work they do.

Of course, sales individuals want to feel valued beyond money and they don’t want to earn money selling something they don't believe in. The intangible reward for them is selling something they believe makes a difference.

They also want to know what they sell will be delivered successfully by the company they are working for, holding them in the highest regard as a valued partner.

They are ambitious, risk takers, and driven. They focus on completing the task of driving revenue and helping to make the company get the highest profit possible. If a company values these same things and recognizes the employee for their worth, this leads the way for a sales person to join a company and to flourish.

Of course, most sales individuals do want equity in what they build, but it does not have to be in the form of a huge base salary. It can be in monetary rewards based on their results.

Alternatively, an engineer or designer will be motivated by the accolades they get from their work. They tend to think about things like:

  • Does the company, the client notice or the industry notice their worth?

  • Are their skills valued? Is this worthy of outside recognition?

This gives them acceptance, recognition, comfort and security. These "incentives" make them feel good; however, money is a "point system" they look at to determine if they are valued.


When money really becomes important is if their company peers are not creating what they are and yet their peers are making more money. The engineer or designer will look at other companies that will value them at a level where they feel their "points" should be set. Equality or value is the key for most of these individuals.


People in general want the feeling of being valued in a job, making a difference, and having a sense of security.

Money is important, but there are many other ways to create value and security.

We have recognized that the companies that do well and are not necessarily at the top of the pay scale tend to measure the level of how engaged or "embedded" their employees are. They are always looking at the intangible things that make people happy.

Just think about Costco, which is ranked number 3 in employee satisfaction. Most employees believe in what Costco does and are treated fairly. In turn, they are happy to work for the company.

If you want to see how your employees are feeling about their role and their perceived value. This can be done through direct communication or surveys, as well as seeing what the employees are saying on social media.

You can also ask questions that will reveal how current employees view their current role and the company:

  • Do they feel they are managed, lead well, and are being developed?

  • How do they perceive the quality of life in the company (do they feel valued, believe in the company's mission/vision, know where to get the tools, etc.)?

  • Do they know what the internal or external customers need and feel they can meet/exceed the expectations?

  • Do they feel they are looked at as unique, but part of the team?

  • Do they feel they have autonomy or are do they feel micromanaged?


Those that seem to have a clear picture and can answer positively to these questions are generally happy. They put a value on the joy they find at work, beyond cash.

In terms of recruiting new team members it is important to understand the needs of a person in their role and how they look at their job on a day to day basis.

It is equally important in the recruitment process to understand the motivations of the recruit, set the expectations for the company, set expectations for the role, and to make sure everything aligns with the value of the market for specific positions. This will set the foundation, attract the new recruit, and lead to a solid relationship that does not revert to a sole focus of money.


In the words of MasterCard, Total Compensation $xxx,xxx, Work Satisfaction Priceless.



TLR Search helps energy and chemical company hiring managers gain talent market share by bringing strong diverse talent to their door, while inspiring potential new team members to picture their future possibilities; especially with hard to fill positions. We are people experts with a specialization in energy and chemicals. We’re a woman-owned recruitment firm that partners with clients to assist them in placing decision-makers at executive levels, supervisors in functional management positions, and experienced professionals in technical roles.

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