Most managers believe that pay is a strong motivator for employees. After all, that’s the reason most of us are at work so that surely makes sense. Also, if managers ask their team members what their biggest motivator is they’ll probably be told it’s money, reinforcing the belief that this is the case. However, a lot of managers aren’t in a position to do anything about the salary of their team members so does this mean they can’t motivate them? A survey by the Boston Consulting Group of over 200,000 employees from around the world has concluded that base pay ranks only eighth on the list. High enough to be a consideration but with plenty of other elements that can be addressed first.

The factor considered most important to people was appreciation for their work, a simple “well done” or “good job”. This is nothing new as, in the 1950’s, Herzberg came to the conclusion that recognition and praise was the most important following his extensive research. He went one stage further to say that some factors motivate people and other factors cannot actually motivate an individual but can demotivate them. So, if pay is an issue then the person concerned could be demotivated and less productive but if the issue is fixed it doesn’t mean they remain motivated on an ongoing basis.

Of course, there is an instant boost but how long does that last? The difficulty most managers face is trying to work out how many different ways to say “well done” or “good job” without it beginning to sound insincere. Whatever the theories about motivation tell us there is a simple truth, businesses cannot just keep increasing everyone’s pay and expect to remain a profitable, stable company. The survey found that the fifth most important factor for people is the company’s financial stability, three places higher than their own remuneration! Pay will always be an issue in most businesses, not all the time but at certain points.

If managers want to keep their teams motivated then they have to focus on what they can influence as there will always be factors outside of their control which will impact, positively and negatively, their team members spirits. Staying focussed on what they can contribute to the team morale will make each manager’s life so much more rewarding and enjoyable.