After paying good salaries – what else?

A friend of mine regularly attends annual international conferences outside Ghana and as part of the sessions; participants are always asked open questions like: “What is your topmost motivation as an employee?” For years his answer to that question had been “cash!” When asked why, he would say he did not want his employer to think that he was on a “volunteering mission – money pays my bills!” Though that is true, is money therefore the game changer for employees in spawning motivation?

If a higher compensation were such a motivator, why does it not always do the trick? I work in a high-paying industry with competitive reward schemes in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, majority of employees are still dissatisfied with their pay / remuneration. In my studies on reward practice, I have observed a lot of misperceptions, myths and misunderstanding (‘3Ms’) surrounding rewards and compensation in the mining industry. The ‘3Ms’ may be a microcosm of what happens everywhere else and they rob employees and managers when we sit at the dining table of rewards and remunerations. Let’s walk through four of my ‘3Ms’:

Workers always want higher pay!

This is a common misperception – either on the part of top management or staff. A friend once lamented that he had been short-changed in his job offer because he had discovered people in similar roles were receiving a relatively higher salary. The real issue is: employees may never be happy with their pay, if they perceive unfairness around salaries and benefits. Unfairness is the bane of most salary agitations around rewards and could sabotage the generous packages offered by employers.

Salaries are confidential.

Are we really sure that our pay is confidential to fellow employees, Social Security staff, Tax authorities, Auditors, spouses, and reward managers? Some corporations attempt to conceal salary information to prevent comparison. However, expect people to volunteer information to at least, their colleagues or spouses. Yes, salaries are personal and private but not confidential. To deepen a sense of fairness, can employers tone down on secrecy and explore more transparent approaches? After all, no one expects the CEO to be paid the same as shop floor employee?

The biggest motivator is the money, the rest are subservient!

According MIT, research conducted in 1985 shows: students who were offered financial prizes to solve complex puzzles were less successful than a control group doing the puzzles for fun. The phenomenon whereby extrinsic rewards inhibit motivation to perform a task is classified as “Oversimplification.” They noted that by paying the puzzle enthusiasts they became externally (rather than internally) driven. They concluded that to elicit creativity, innovation and peak performance, employees need to derive ultimate pleasure from the task itself and not to be distracted by the cash. As scuh, companies where innovation is a corporate goal, companies have learnt to detach creative ventures from salaries by giving paid time to employees to enable them to just think and create. A good example is Google and LinkedIn. Our inability to work in an area of our passion leads often to what practitioners call underemployment. “Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” (Anon). You can however be placed in unchartered territories as a challenge to unearth hidden talents – that also has its place.

Men work relatively harder than women!

No one may own up to believing that in this century, but data on gender pay inequality gives credence to it. I have worked under women whose performance at senior management level outmatched their male counterparts. One of such women is Joyce Aryee, former Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines; the first female to hold such a position and also one of the foremost Ghanaian women named in the list of 100 Global Inspiration Women in Mining in the world, a couple of years ago.

Remuneration must be rigid and routine.

I was in a job evaluation class years ago when the trainer – Kwadwo Asare Bediako (an HR guru and one of my distant mentors) intoned: “In Ghana we are too rigid with rewards but so flexible with our structures (“organizational structure”) – why is that?”. The debate went on for a while in the class and it became apparent that the we needed to reverse the approach in order to nib workplace agitations in the bud. Business Leaders should be flexible with rewards and firm with structure. Organizational behaviour theorists have indicated that flexible reward practices are more incentivizing than the ones that have become routine. The magic therefore is to keep alive the surprise element in your reward and remuneration strategy.

The will of business leaders is at the heart of the matter in causing a meaningful change in the remuneration rhetoric. Reader, answer me this: after paying good salaries, what’s next? After paying good salaries – what else?

HR Practitioner

Asanko Gold Ghana Ltd