A colleague of mine — Jack O’Connor — frequently shares with his workshop participants the notion that there are many ways beyond money, to pay employees. Jack’s is a powerful notion — I call it psychic pay — that opens up many possibilities for managers who are often constrained by tight pay budgets and restricted promotion opportunities. In no special order, below are some of Jack’s categories of psychic pay for consideration. The important thing to remember is that they are all within the power of most managers to bestow.
Freedom/Autonomy — There are those subordinates who just love when you give them a task, then leave them alone to figure out how to accomplish it their own way. Assuming you believe they can handle the free space, freedom and autonomy represents a rich reward.
Responsibility — Many of us dearly love being in charge of something. We relish the weight of responsibility on our shoulders and will gladly accept it without any significant increase in pay. So consider that there are usually many ways to increase an employee’s responsibilities without making them a manager.
Skill Mastery — One path toward upward mobility in most professions and occupations is the mastery of increasingly more complex and sophisticated skills. Those with a passion for learning and growth will usually thrive when given the opportunity to stretch their skill repertoire.
Visibility — Visibility is another important ingredient of successful career advancement in most organizations. No matter how talented we are, sooner or later all of us require a stage before a live audience, to demonstrate what we can do. Providing visibility is a powerful psychic reward for many, especially the introductions you can provide to people of influence and to new environments for displaying their talents.
Invisibility — Some employees prefer the back stage areas as the arena where they will do their best work. Finding those behind the scenes challenges where they can demonstrate their talents and worth, offers a manager another non-monetary path for motivating strong performances from these individuals.
Routine — Chaos and multi-tasking is not for everyone. Many employees require routine and a defined structure for performing at their best. Finding the right structured environments for these individuals satisfies both their psychic needs and provides a setting in which they are likely to thrive.
Your Attention — All subordinates require the boss’s attention from time to time but some need it more than others. While I am not suggesting playing favorites, a manager’s attention, strategically employed, is often richly rewarding for certain subordinates.
Travel — Not all organizations afford many travel opportunities but when available, they are deeply satisfying and exciting for the wanderers among us.
Flex time — What began as a common organizational practice many years ago — driven primarily by family considerations — has lost most of its original controversial overtones among even the most conservative management thinkers. Still the fascination many organizations maintain with counting hours and physically seeing employees on the job, can restrict the use of this potential psychic reward. Granted, flexible working arrangements are often impossible in many organizations given their service or product focus but some flexibility in working arrangements can serve as a powerful motivator when it is available and justifiably earned.
Influence — Ask most employees what they want most at work beyond their pay checks and their answer generally is a version of “I want to make a difference”. Believing — often reinforced by positive feedback and encouragement — that their work matters and adds an important contribution to an organization’s objectives, thus means a great deal to many of us. It is not that difficult to provide such positive reinforcement if a manager is paying attention.
Being a Mentor — Helping others succeed is important to many subordinates. Formal mentoring programs in many organizations accomplish a great deal but offering specific mentoring opportunities to individuals with the skills, wisdom, and inclination to teach others what they know, is often a rich psychic reward.
By now you have the idea behind psychic pay and perhaps have a few categories of your own. Great! Just remember that none of this works unless you have invested the time to really get to know and understand what motivates those entrusted to your management skills. The wrong motivator applied to the wrong individual generally produces under performance and unsatisfying results. So invest the time to get this right.