I spend time here discussing ways to motivate employees. And so I thought I shared the story of two employees who needed a work vehicle. And what happened when the owner of a company gave a truck to one, and loaned (interested free) money to purchase a work truck to another. Not all of my clients are corporate clients, and so their motivation strategies are often a little different. (Although I believe everyone can learn something from this story – not just my contractor clients).
Any guesses what happened 2 years after these two employees owned their work vehicles? I would have guessed that the person who received a nice work truck would have been eternally grateful and happy. But that’s actually not what happened. And I believe it is specifically because he was given it – he didn’t work for it. And so that set the tone for him to think that it was all about him, not about the contribution he could make to the company. The exchange was off – and when that occurs it always trains the person to want to get even more for nothing. Which isn’t helpful to anyone. And actually is dishonoring to all involved.
Let me give some more detail.
A few years ago I had a client who had 2 great employees. One was a very skilled worker who also occasionally managed things, and the other was more a tradesman still open to learning to increase his skills and abilities. When the more skilled worker, who often went to two jobs sites during a day approach their employer about needing a work vehicle – the owner agreed it was necessary. And because the employee was going to up to 2 job sites a day, the owner went and bought a very nice used work vehicle and gave it to that valued employee. With the caveat that the employee would insure it and stay with the company for 18 months or more after date of purchase. He was also given a stipend for gas, since he did sometimes go to multiple sites during the week/ day. At some point during those two years he was also given a raise for the contribution he was providing.
Why did the owner do this? Because he felt that the employee was viewing the company as theirs as well. The employee often used “we” when describing their work. And because the owner felt that it could be viewed as a bonus for the employee’s willingness to be flexible and go where he needed to go – all in the interest of what the company needed. It was a team effort. So please note – before being given the truck the employee had a “we” attitude, and was all about contributing to the company.
After hearing about the bonus of a van to the first employee, a second employee approached the owner and asked if he could get a loan to purchase his own work vehicle. The employee knew that in doing this he could expand his value to the company, and also in return, receive a raise. (Because when a tradesman has a work vehicle they bring their tools with them, and also it can be used to pickup supplies etc.) The owner of the company gave that employee an interest free loan AND in few months a raise when value was shown to the company. He was not given a gas stipend as he generally only went to 1 job site a day.
Two years later can you guess how things were? Did the employee who was given a vehicle show gratitude, and loyalty towards the company? Nope. He actually began complaining that he should be given more money for gas, complaining about driving even to one job site a day. And then started to show attitude at work because he thought it was unfair all his gas wasn’t paid for (even though most employees did not receive any stipend, since it was policy that you don’t get paid for gas to go to your job). When offered to attend paid-for training on company time that the owner found for the employee to help him increase his management skills the employee dragged his feet. And then he decided to go look for a job elsewhere because he just wasn’t appreciated.
The employee who was given a loan and then a raise for contributing to the company by seeing where he could add value? What about him after 2 years? He was happily still working, and didn’t complain one bit. He actually continued to see how he could improve his skills in order to continue to help the company AND also knowing that would help him increase what he was learning and being paid. He was also supported by the employer whenever he showed interest in expanding his skills. (He brought the courses/requests to depend knowledge to his employer, not the other way around.)
So when looking to reward your employees – remember that people value what they work for. And they value what they generate and create with you. Companies succeed when they encourage employees to look not just at what they need, but how they can contribute to the growth of the company. (And in so doing also contribute to their own growth and financial wellbeing.)
There needs to be a “were all in this together” attitude. From management and fostered with the employees. To borrow the words of John F Kennedy “Ask not what your company can do for you, but what you can do for your company.” Anyone in your company who doesn’t foster that type of commitment might not be a good fit going forward.