The Q4 Model

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Even When I Reward Them, Why Aren’t Employees Happy?

Sep. 19th, 2017

The Situation

You are vice president at a company that uses a lot of customer support personnel. Two years ago, you hired Kim to help train new recruits who would become customer service reps in a new division of your company.

Kim turned out to be an excellent hire. She related well with these trainees, even better than the professional training consultant. Now, the training program is over, and you want to keep Kim as an employee.

To reward her, you offer her a higher position with a 10 percent raise, a large office and other perks. In her new job, she’ll help develop web-based training materials for another branch of the company.

Disappointing Results

She seemed pleased by the move up, but in the months since, Kim’s performance has been lackluster. Her work is satisfactory, but she’s not turning in the stellar performance she used to. You heard a rumor she may leave the company.

You wanted her to succeed. As a Q4 leader, what could you have done differently to help ensure that Kim would remain an all-star contributor to the company?

Your Choices:

Money talks. A 10 percent raise for Kim’s big contribution to your company’s success may not have been enough. You should have conferred with her and offered more.
Money isn’t the biggest motivator in day-to-day job satisfaction. You should have sized up Kim to determine what motivates her to perform at a high level.
You can’t make up jobs at your company to fit the people, and you don’t have money to burn. If she is no longer happy, maybe it’s time to part ways.

Choice A

Obviously, if you could go around doubling employees’ salaries to keep them happy, that might boost motivation. But no manager has that option. If you had bumped her salary by, say, 20 percent, would that have changed things? Kim’s modest raise is probably not what has dampened her enthusiasm.
Research shows that a bigger salary is not what motivates employees day-to-day to perform at a high level. All else being equal, you have to ask if Kim’s new job is meeting her intangible needs. More than raises and perks, intangible benefits are often what galvanize people to come to work with enthusiasm and purpose. See Answer B.

Choice B

Kim’s old job was going away, but you wanted to retain a high-value employee. Sizing up what motivated Kim to perform so well would probably have shown that she likes working with people. Therefore, her intangible needs of Q3 (social, belonging) and Q4 (helpful, influencing) were satisfied greatly in her training role.
It’s true that your company can’t afford to invent a job that will motivate Kim just because she’s a proven employee. However, Kim went from always working with people to doing so only about 10 percent of the time, a shift that ignores her intangible needs and benefits.
As a motivating, Q4 leader, you might have 1) found Kim another essential job with high interaction (sales, leading focus groups in marketing, management) or 2) combined several vital roles that would have provided greater interaction with people. This might entail some retraining. If you feel that’s too much bending over by your company, keep in mind that developing a proven, superior talent from within your company — in the right role — has a much higher chance of high performance than hiring from the outside.

Choice C

It’s almost always better business to develop a proven employee for a new position than to go outside. If properly motivated by her job, Kim will apply the dedication she had before. Answer B highlights how to match an employee’s personal needs to the work your company has to accomplish.