A paycheck is not a thank-you

David Brennan is a man of strong opinions. “First of all, I’d like to apologize to any accountants,” he said in his recent webinar, “Obtaining and Sustaining Executive Buy-In,” “but they ruined engagement.” Although technically, they weren’t the ultimate problem, he ceded—it was direct deposit.

Before direct deposit, he explained, the payroll department had to physically hand out checks. Every two weeks (or thereabouts), there was a clear connection between work and reward. That connection was severed with the advent of direct deposit, David argued. “Before, you had to look an employee in the eye and hand him or her a check that essentially said, ‘this is what your work was worth.’ But now, who actually knows how much their paycheck is worth? Do you know how much gets deposited? I don’t.” Furthermore, he argued, when the money just magically appears in an employee’s bank account, it automatically turns into groceries and bills without any acknowledgement of where it came from or why.

Why salary is not enough

Consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  It’s a psychological theory that posits that people needs their base needs (food, water, shelter) met before they can achieve higher goals (friendship, self-esteem, self-actualization). In short, people don’t worry about achieving their dreams while they’re concerned with finding something to eat.

In the same way, David argued that Employee Success™ can be aligned in a pyramid. Base salary is at the bottom, he said. “Salary is expected. It’s the bare minimum. If the base salary isn’t meeting an employee’s needs, he’s going to look elsewhere.” Don’t even bother implementing a rewards and recognition program if your base salaries are insufficient, he said—but also don’t assume that if base pay is good, your job is done. You’re just ready to move to the next level.

Dave’s 5 tips for getting buy-in

“CFOs love to spend money,” David—himself a CFO—said. “They just want to spend it on something with a measurable result.” For example, he loves to write commission checks, because a sale is evidence of a real business result. The key, then, is to explain how employee rewards and recognition contribute to measurable business results. Remember these tips to make the most of your pitch:

  1. Talk to them in their terms. Rather than emphasizing morale (a good thing, but not a business result), talk about the cost-benefit analysis, bottom-line returns, and strategic objectives. For example, you can justify the expense of providing lunch to employees by running the numbers about increased productivity, since they’re more likely to stay at the desks during lunchtime.
  2. Make the business case. You probably already have a rewards and recognition program, albeit maybe not a very effective one. In that case, money is being spent, but not measured. Tell them how you can spend that money better; CFOs find it hard to say no to managers who want to reallocate their budgets to get results.
  3. Share industry best practices. Our website is a great resource.
  4. Tie back to corporate goals. The CEO is obligated to the board to make sure the company fulfills its mission, so explain how your program can accomplish that.
  5. Survey your employees. Collect ART data: absolute, relative, and trend. Not only will this give you a good idea where to start, you’ll have a benchmark to see how your program performs over time.

Want more advice? Check out David Brennan’s on-demand webinar, “Obtaining and Sustaining Executive Buy-In.”