What’s in it for Me?

Employee engagement isn’t just liking or responding to something as it is in social media talk.

Employee engagement is a condition which, if properly directed, can significantly improve organizational performance such as quality, service, sales or safety. People can be engaged to do good things or bad things. Employee engagement needs to be directed.

In the last few Leadership Reports, I’ve discussed the components of employee engagement: line of sight; information sharing; autonomy/ involvement; and this issue addresses “what’s in it for me,” or WIFFM. WIIFM2 300x150 - What’s in it for Me?

WIIFM is the quid pro quo. It binds people to the business and to each other.

WIIFM is “the deal” or the contract we make with our organizations: for our contribution to the customer and shareholder, we expect this in return from our organization.

But different people are motivated by different things. Some of us look for more pay, a promotion or recognition. Those are known as extrinsic rewards. Some of us are motivated by internal drivers such as personal achievement, a sense of self-worth or a sense of higher purpose in what we do – known as intrinsic rewards.

I interviewed both brand managers and sales people at a global consumer products company. They said that in return for the results they created, they wanted more pay, vacation trips with their families and membership in the President’s Club, a recognition reserved for the best of the best sales people.

People in research and development said that what mattered to them was freedom to present papers at technical symposia, to be left alone at their benches and in their labs to pursue new product ideas and—to have their own business cards.

Different drivers. Different motivators.

A seamstress at the Ralph Lauren organization said she comes to work every day “not to sew sleeves on blouses, but to help design a prettier world.” She, her work and the Ralph Lauren brand have connected.

Housekeepers at Ritz-Carlton told me they’re “proud to be ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” They’re not housekeepers, bed makers or bathroom scrubbers. They go to work each day to deliver an outrageously high level of service to their customers–fellow ladies and gentlemen.

People also need to see a direct connection between the gains they create and the benefits that accrue to them. Many well-intentioned pay schemes profess to reward performance but the people they’re designed to motivate have no earthly idea how to make the scheme work.

I consulted with an Australian-based contracting company that had a profit sharing plan for all employees. When the company did well, the profit sharing plan pay-out was healthy. When it didn’t, it wasn’t, as it should be. However, the average front line employee had no idea how to influence the profit sharing. There was no line of sight between what the employee in the field did and the amount of the profit sharing payout. The profit sharing plan that was designed to motivate employees didn’t motivate employees.

A west coast insurance company created what appeared on paper to be a well-designed incentive plan for all employees. But the communication process used to explain the new incentive plan wiped out any benefits that the plan may have produced for the company.

Videos were developed with highly technical explanations of the plan. Managers who were charged with conducting meetings to review the new pay plan hadn’t been adequately briefed, so they stumbled their way through the discussions and couldn’t answer even the most basic questions about pay ranges or incentive payouts. The communications about the new incentive plan confused people.

When people know “what’s in it for me,” another dot connects. Knowing “what’s in it for me” requires knowing what “I need to do” in order to share in the gain.

This helps provide line of sight and gives me the information I need to make the right decisions and take the right actions when I have the autonomy to do so. WIIFM gives me the incentive to take that action.

Key Takeaway: Knowing “what’s in it for me” requires understanding what “I need to do” in order to share in the gain.


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