HR & Motivation Beyond Money

Today we talk once again with Amanda McKenzie ( and Chuck Olsson ( from the First United Human Resources department to discuss human resources and how business owners can motivate their staff beyond money. How can you find what best motivates your staff? What are some creative options? We discuss several options in this episode!


Man: Welcome to the “What Matters Most Podcast,” presented by First United Bank & Trust. That’s my bank. Visit us today at

Eric: Hello, and welcome to “What Matters Most,” the podcast all about finances, community, savings, and security, for you, your family and your business. This podcast is brought to you by the helpful folks at My Bank, First United Bank & Trust. I’m your host, Eric Nutter. And in today’s episode, what matters most again is human resources, and what about motivating employees beyond money, and how can you capture that motivation for your associates? And for this helpful discussion, I’m once again thankful to be joined remotely today by Amanda McKenzie, human resources services manager, and Chuck Olsson, chief human resources officer. Hey, guys, how’s it going?

Chuck: It’s very good. Thanks, Eric. Thanks for having us.

Eric: Yeah, I appreciate you coming.

Amanda: Hi, Eric. Thanks for having us.

Eric: How’s it going? I appreciate you guys joining me again for this discussion. I think that in part of our human resources topic, a line of topics that we’re talking about, I think one of the things that kinda came up as we were discussing potential things that would be helpful to our listeners, motivating employees was one of those. And we’ve talked internally about what are the best ways to continue to find that motivation within our staff and make sure that everyone, you know, we’ve talked previously about culture and finding the right fit and that sort of thing. But once you get those people in here and they’re all living the brand, and they’re part of the culture, how do you keep them motivated to keep moving forward? And some people are self-motivated but, you know, there’s motivation, and oftentimes people just default to money, just giving them a raise, that kind of thing. But we wanted to talk a little bit about what more is there to motivation for employees? So, Chuck, why don’t we start off with you, and tell us a little bit about how do you learn what’s the driver for staff internally at a business? What motivates staff members?

Chuck: You know, and maybe as a good starting point, there has been, you know, years and years of studies about this subject. Obviously, you know, everybody is believing that money is the key motivator, but what these studies have always shown is that the number one reason people work at high levels and will retain and stay with a company, it’s who they work for is number one, and then who they work with, their peers, their managers and peers, is number two. Money typically comes in at three, and benefits comes in at four.

So, an organization that understands that it’s their management and the peers that they work with as kind of a starting point then in terms of really understanding what motivates staff members, that already is dealing with the concept that this is way beyond the money proposition, but yeah, there’s a lot of ways then that you can understand what motivates your staff members, and that could be very structured from, you know, and what we do here is we’ll run periodic in, what we call employment engagement survey, or we’ll actually confidentially poll our employees with lots of questions that could be kind of giving this empirical data and an understanding of kind of where segments of our employees, depending upon what kind of demographic cuts we want to run in the surveys, to really get that kind of understanding.

It’s interesting, you know, companies that have strong leadership and really defined cultures, the answers to those surveys usually come back, oh, we already knew that, but what is the best way though? You really have to have this as being kind of a focal point of your managers, and you have to teach them, in my mind, how to look for those cues to understand where motivation comes from, because everybody’s going to be different. You know, money is the same, but what truly motivates people when it comes to their work and the relationships within work are always going to be individualized, so you just gotta look for it.

Eric: Right. So, let me see if I can restate what you said and simplify it a little bit. Ask them.

Chuck: Yeah, exactly, just ask them.

Eric: How do you find out what motivates people? Ask the question.

Chuck: Ask them. Thank you.

Eric: So, I mean, obviously, you know, surveying and doing things like that, you’re, you know, depending on the way you lay that out, that can be a little challenging because if you ask people what motivates you, and you put money on the list, people may be inclined to choose that option, so there’s probably also some logic behind how you ask the question so that you don’t get some of those default answers like, “I want to mark money, because if I don’t say that, then they’re not giving raises” or something, you know, some line of thinking like that. So, Amanda, are there any other creative ways that managers or businesses can learn what motivates people?

Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. And I think even sometimes if you’re direct and you ask the employee, sometimes they might not have actually taken a look at themselves on that level to figure out what does motivate me? Outside of, you know, the potential, the first thing people normally would think is money, but studies show that that’s not it. So what can we do as managers and as leaders in our companies to try to understand how to motivate our team, because every staff member is going to be different. You know, a big thing that I do is observe your team. Observe their performance. Do they have preferences or habits that you can see? You know, what work do they really get excited about when you maybe ask them to do something, they jump right on top of it and put everything else to the side, or what tends to fall to that bottom of the to-do list that you can tell it’s not the favorite, they really have to motivate themselves to do that work. Those are all key things that we might be able to help that employee figure out what’s motivating them.

You know, do they like to work by themselves? Do they like to work as part of a team? That’s going to be something that can motivate them. If we can line up the work that, if they want to be part of a team, all right, great, we have somebody that wants to contribute and likes to work with others. How can we utilize that, not only in the department, but outside of the department for a corporate need, maybe on a team or a committee? You know, ask them about their career goals and what direction do they want to go, so that you show a personal interest in their growth and development.

A lot of times, staff members are gonna be motivated by just knowing that you want what they want, and you’re going to help them get there even if that means that it might not be in the same department. Sometimes it might not even be in the same business. They could figure out that their ladder is kind of against the wrong wall and they’re in the wrong line of work, but what a success if you’re able to help somebody work through that? So, those are a few things that I think are creative ways that, you know, it’s not money, but what is it that’s driving the person and, you know, leaders can help figure that out by doing those things with our team members.

Eric: Yeah. Well, and the cool part about this conversation is that for businesses out there that are struggling with this or that are interested in doing this but they’re just not sure where to start, it’s not rocket science. Like we said, ask people questions, but then Amanda, to your point, it’s take the time to learn about them. Like, if you actually care, and if they perceive that, if that is a genuine care and you want to learn about them on a personal level, you’ll get the answers is what it sounds like. Is that accurate?

Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. And I know there’s always a lot of fear between, you know, okay, I’m a manager, I’m a leader in a company, and, you know, those personal relationships. And it’s okay to get to learn about your employees on a personal level. You know, it all comes back to relationship and we’ve talked about that and in our brand, we’re talking about it and motivating employees. It’s all about building your relationship with your staff. And if it’s all business all the time, they’re not going to feel like you are committed to them and they’re not going to be committed to us.

So learn about their interests, learn about their hobbies outside of the bank. You know, that’s gonna give you clues as far as how that person ticks. And you might be able to take some of that that you learned about them personally, and apply it into the workforce, especially if you find out that they are actively involved, or have a huge passion for animals. And you know, here at First United, we’re always doing community service events. What an honor if you go to that person and say, “We have this upcoming event. I remembered that you have a passion for doing this. Would you like to help participate in this event, or maybe even lead the event and help get that organized?” You know, that person is gonna feel so good, and is gonna work so hard towards that event, and that’s just going to be a kind of a stepping stone. So definitely take the time to step back and learn about your employees on a personal level.

Eric: Love it. Love it. So, let’s actually talk about some of those ways, because maybe some folks, as they hear this, it makes sense, but, you know, coming up with those creative ways to motivate people outside of just a paycheck is, it can be challenging. So, to Chuck, do you have some ways that staff can be motivated outside of money? Like, let’s talk about some of those.

Chuck: Yeah, and Amanda really touched on a few of these, but I would say the one that I’ve seen the most success, especially at our industry, has been, you know, the things about developing employees. You know, people want to learn and grow all the time, and, you know, and she’s hitting it on both fronts because there’s two kind of levels of growth. There’s personal development and then there’s professional development. And again, we recognize that, both in terms of the opportunity that we want to give our employees. But I think one of the greater successes our company has had is the opportunity to understand that we’re all are growing all the time, and that constant learning and the development is something that’s an ongoing process, no matter who the person is, at what stage of their career.

So, we’ve adopted what we call an individual development plan, and it’s a process that all employees personally own, where this conversation that they have with their manager, typically in a ongoing coaching protocol, where they sit down and understand kind of what they want to learn in the job, who they might want to learn it with, the opportunity then to be empowered to obtain knowledge, to apply knowledge, really is something that goes way beyond the paycheck. And again, you know, back to some of our hiring protocols, when you hire people that have natural curiosity and learning, in fact, the millennial generation coming into the workplace, this is almost a requirement now, because they have such a thirst for growth and knowledge, that if you build your development systems, and that could be very simply done a lot of cases, is by asking that employee, you know, where do they want to go? What do they want to learn? And then giving them that opportunity to do it, you know, either through, you know, cross-training, job shadowing. Just even creating mentor connections within your organization could be extremely motivating for people, where they get the chance to look at different projects or different, you know, opportunities in your jobs through the lens of another employee, that’s really, you know, more senior, more experienced there, could, like, can share their knowledge then at that point. Huge opportunity, very cost-effective to do. And again, one that I think helps grow people, and it’s usually through that growth that they end up getting more money, so it really kind of is a means to the end.

Eric: Right. And the neat part about the conversation is how, I mean, we’ve talked in previous episodes with both of you about culture and how the motivational aspect can kind of still tie back to the culture. Like, the culture here is very community-minded, and what I hear you saying is that in some cases, the motivational aspect is tying it to the community. And so, you found a person that wants to do things in the community, and even though the job doesn’t really have anything to do with that, we want to make sure that from a cultural standpoint, we’re tying community into their role.

Chuck: Right.

Eric: That’s really cool. Good deal. What about incentive, and incentivizing, like, bonuses and things like that? I mean, oftentimes, you know, cash bonuses are a thing that happen from time to time for people. But I’ve seen studies and other organizations that try to do that a different way. Do you have any thoughts about that in terms of giving them an experience versus giving them money?

Chuck: Yeah. And, you know, incentive opportunities, financial incentive opportunities are very tricky, you know, because you’re basically trying to incent a behavior that creates additional compensation for them, and there’s a fine line between, you know, the behavior and the additional results that it provides, versus just doing the job that they’re supposed to do. So, you know, it’s really hard. You know, the problem that you get into incentives that there’s no perfect plan, because everybody’s needs are individual at that point. Again, but if you balance them with things that are non-monetary, that are more intrinsic, I think you get a lot more play, so when I say “play,” that you get much more buy-in, you get the stronger behaviors, and because then it becomes something that’s more fun.

So, you know, simple rewards such as, you know, more flex time in terms of the needs of the employee having a different schedule maybe is a better incentive than saying if you produce XYZ in widgets, I’ll pay you more money, because maybe that’s a stronger need that they have. You’ve heard a lot of successful companies going to, you know, what they call the 4/10 schedules, four 10-hour days, so that they have three consistent days off at the end of the week to be able to have better life-work balance. So again, things like that have to be really weighed off in terms of their importance, versus just saying I’ll pay you more money for producing more widgets.

Eric: Right. Absolutely. Yeah, so I mean, it can come in a lot of forms. You know, pay is obviously one of those, but titles, projects, different kinds of involvement, even knowledge, I think can be a motivator, just, like, involvement. So, the more involved a person can be. I know that I personally feel motivated when I’m involved in things internally, and so I feel that level of motivation because I’m involved in so many different aspects of the business. That can be motivating. So it comes in a lot of forms, and it’s really fascinating to kind of think about it beyond money.

Chuck: Yeah. And you brought up a good one that we practice here, where we’ll bring groups of employees together just to, you know, kind of have think tanks, if you will, over, you know, real core strategic issues for the company. You know, it creates a form of empowerment, but just, you know, it enlivens people’s motivations because then they’re sitting, you know, kind of out of the normal work process, but now have the assignment to solve an organizational problem that quite frankly is volleyed in by either the CEO or a senior manager, and then it’s up to them to kind of figure out how to solve it. You know, absolutely, you know, enriches the job that they’re in, and it develops them at the same time.

Eric: Yeah, yeah. And at the end of the day, they can, I think it was in the “Good to Great” book that they talked a lot about the idea of being able to sit back at the end of the day and say, “I was a part of that,” and having people that are interested in a company from that standpoint to, “I was involved in that decision-making, I was involved in that piece,” it gives you that sense of satisfaction, I think, and so that can definitely be a motivator, for sure.

Chuck: That’s a good one.

Amanda: Yeah. And with that, I think it also helps them to kind of expand their network with their employees. So, the people that are on those teams, they may know their name or maybe have worked with them over email, but maybe have never been given the opportunity to actually work with a group or learn about those employees. So, we know we said earlier, you know, it’s number one, it’s who they work for, number two is who they work with. So you’re being able to be able to expand their network of people that they know in their own company, and those relationships as well.

Eric: Yeah, yeah. Because the closer… Do you see that as both a motivator for the employee but also a benefit to the organization, because the closer people are tied to one another, the more likely they are to think of it as a career? It’s a family, and they’re gonna stick around for longer? Is that a side benefit, or is that kind of intentional?

Amanda: I think it could be both.

Chuck: It really is. Yeah, yeah.

Eric: Okay.

Chuck: Well, and again, you know, the closer the binds are, the better the teamwork is. So, even as you’re talking, the two of you are talking about some of these ideas, you know, having social gatherings for your employees. We’ve used regional and bank-wide company picnics, you know, regional and bank-wide meetings, where, you know, the real premise of this is just connecting people, because they are scattered. We’re geographically a little spread out, so it becomes very important to us. But you’re right. If you recognize the social context of an organization and create events for it, then yeah, they’re going to feel a lot better about it, especially if, you know, like, there’s challenges within the organization because of the work that needs to be done, that we’re all in it together. You’re not on an island. So yeah, activities like picnics, and, you know, and gatherings and social settings that you can create for employees are real big beneficial ideas.

Eric: Yeah. Yeah, no, I think this has been a really helpful conversation. I think it’s important for business owners out there that are trying to build that cohesive team to understand the importance of it, just like when we’ve talked in the past about culture, how important it is, building the team, those team-building exercises. It’s really a win-win for both, because the people internally feel more satisfied, more motivated, more entrenched in the organization, and then the organization benefits overall, because its employees have that sense of camaraderie and that unified passion that they’re driving towards something. So, it’s been a really helpful conversation. I appreciate you both so much for joining us, and thank you. If any of our listeners have any questions or want to learn more, what’s the best way they can reach out and get the support they need?

Chuck: Amanda and I can always be reached through our emails, which I think we can post on the bank’s website, but we’re always very open to talking with any business owner that is looking for ideas and ways that we can help them support their goals and their successes. So feel free to reach out to us by email at any time.

Eric: Awesome. Well, thank you both again so much. I really appreciate it. That brings us to the end of our show. You can always find more episodes by visiting, or find us on your favorite podcast app, and we’re on pretty much all of them, so you can join us on any of your favorite podcast apps, subscribe, and give us a five-star rating. Give us a like on those podcasts apps so that other people can find us as well, and hopefully benefit from some of the great content that we’re getting from folks like Amanda and Chuck.

You can also leave us feedback, ask questions, or request a topic for us to discuss by sending an email to Thanks again for listening. We’ll be back next week with more helpful content, but until then, we wish you the best in focusing on what matters most to you.

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