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Why It Is More Important To Give More Than You Get


Why It Is More Important To Give More Than You Get

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(Or, quid pro quo and the illusion of employee happiness)

One of the great privileges of the work we do at Priority Learning is to have access to your people. We see your entry level folks, along with young leaders, managers and executives. This sample of people and the work we do with them gives us a chance to spend prolonged periods of time with these critical hands and minds and we learn a lot from all of them.

What people say but don't say about their employers.
companies give more than you getOne of the best things we ever did is to start talking to top leaders. The access to this level gives us real opportunity to make suggestions for lasting change and allows us to let top leaders (who are usually the last to know) what we see going on. The down side of this access is that many times employees know we talk with their senior leaders and they leave us out of the loop altogether so we may not hear the naked truth. In some minds we have become part of their senior team and we get no more information than top managers. On the other hand when someone is not satisfied they have a way of letting you know if they think you can help. Last week in a workshop I had someone say to the group they were working with; "I love where I work and the people I work with." A little later that same person asked me to help them build a resume so they could get a better job. Mixed messages come in when we spend time in our leadership development processes discussing loyalty to our organizations when they are not feeling loyalty from those employers.

Signs that people are not happy:
Funny thing...many people are very happy with their employer and some are unhappy. Many more see their jobs as simply a means to an end. The amount of time I am taken aside and asked if I could help them look at career options is higher than you may think. We provide an atmosphere of trust and comfort and, when you spend a few days with us, you learn that it is a "safe environment", which allows you to see what people think at a deeper level. In a workshop setting this is exactly what you want to get the learning to stick and to maximize the group of diverse people.

New in the market?
The employment market is good. Unemployment is down and, people who were treading water before but didn't feel safe enough to pursue their ideal job, are now starting to feel the "itch." We hear it all the time. The advent of best places to work has inspired people to try to work in one of those places where pay and benefits, participation, workplace happiness, sense of fulfillment and long-term growth are honored. The idea that "money is enough" has been proven inaccurate so many times and in so many places of impeccable repute, I will not bother you with the redundancy.

Three Organizational Perspectives when it comes to people:

  • Minimum: Belief that we only need to give employees the minimum. Do what you are told and we will pay you a basic wage, basic benefits, and give you the basic environmental culture.
  • Moderate: Belief that we should have an edge over other organizations we compete with if we are to take their talent. We will find key indicators that will attract the people we want and adopt them, give a better than average benefit package, and provide a positive culture.
  • Premium: Belief that if you want the best people to do the best work, you will need to pay them more than fairly, benefit them more than fairly, and provide a great environment for them to work in.

People perspective...Predict what you will get from each group in the perspectives above:

  • Minimum: You get exactly that. The minimum of dedication, loyalty and innovation.
  • Moderate: You get something better than the minimum and it feel like a race to the middle for most people.
  • Premium: You get exactly that. Premium work dedication, loyalty, and innovation. You will need less people and more customers because they will easily outwork, outthink and out-innovate.

If you are feeling like a minimum at this moment, please stop now and add pay and benefits in the hopes that your people will turn into premium overnight. Changing that dramatically will put such pressure on you to gain back money that you are spending and I fear the pain will cause you to do something dramatic. Sit and think about what you want and not what others have. At some level we all need to decide. I won't even bother you with the line that you need to "do the right thing" or something even more cliché like, "You only get what you give." Here is something you can believe in...

If you provide the best pay you can, put people in the best environment possible, benefit them in a thoughtful and participative way, and lead them with integrity and class. You will get people to exceed your highest expectations financially, innovatively, and with their loyalty and dedication. You will be able to attract a whole new breed of high performers. Each and every time the competition comes around to take your customers, they will be confronted and defeated. Nothing beats a real team.


  • If you provide the bare minimum in the key areas of pay and benefits, participation, workplace happiness, sense of fulfillment and long-term growth, you will get people who will give you what you ask for because you are paying them for X and they will give you X.
  • If you provide an environment with any one of the key areas: Pay and benefits, participation, workplace happiness, sense of fulfillment and growth, you will see an upward tick in performance and initiative.
  • If you decide to improve all of those key indicators, you will be rewarded with people who will fully engage, act like owners, develop others, and want their best friends and most important family members to join them. In essence you will build loyalty, dedication, hard work, innovation and you will get the full share of everyone you have. Your low performers will be better than others employer's medium performers. Your medium performers will outperform other employer's top performers and your top performers will lead (with or without a title) and assure your success. But, I don't need to tell you that, right?

Please have a festive holiday season and please be safe. We will see you on the other side.

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Ralph Twombly
Priority Learning

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.



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