How You can Motivate Employees beyond Just Money

Are you cutting stones or building cathedrals?

“A highly engaged workforce means the difference between a company that outperforms its competitors and one that fails to grow” (

The Three Stone Cutters – A Parable:

 A traveller came upon three individuals working with stone.  Curious as to what these workers were doing, the traveller approached the first worker and asked, “What are you doing?”  Without the slightest hesitation, the worker replied, “I am a stone cutter and I am cutting stones.” 

Still unclear of the workers’ task, the traveller approached the second worker and asked the same question.  To this the second worker thought for a moment, gazed briefly at the traveller and explained, “I am a stone cutter and I am cutting stones to earn money to support my family.”

Perplexed by the two different responses, the sojourner approached the third worker and asked, “What are you doing?”  Stopping for a moment, the worker stared at the stone in his hand, slowly turned to the traveller, and said, “I am a stone cutter and I AM BUILDING A CATHEDRAL!” 

Three men – all working at the same site, performing the same task – each had three very different perspectives of what they were working toward.

I love this parable as, to me, it illustrates starkly and succinctly the culture and attitude that organisations (of whatever nature) need to be adopting in order to create a motivated, engaged and therefore productive and competitive workforce.

Unlike generations past, the millennial generation and that of ‘generation z’ are wanting something different from their employers.  For them, a competitive salary package is no longer sufficient to motivate and retain them.

They want a ‘voice’ in the organisation, to receive recognition (not of a monetary nature), to have greater cohesion and work as a team, to have a sense of purpose and the knowledge that their work is contributing to a greater vision and is meaningful.

They demand fair treatment, being given responsibility and autonomy, a better ‘work-life’ balance and concern as regards their wellbeing.

Organisations that ‘get this right’ – ie: that provide alternative employment opportunities, that have appropriate support structures (such as mentoring and coaching programmes) to assist and support employees’ professional and personal development needs, that show genuine concern for their employees’ wellness and health by having proper wellness programmes in place, that don’t simply pay ‘lip service’ to corporate social responsibility initiatives and that have a clearly defined purpose and vision that is regularly communicated to their employees and consistently followed, will not only retain and have a highly engaged and productive workforce but will also remain ahead of their competition and reap the rewards of sustained growth and profits.

To quote the founders and former CEO’s of two (consistently) highly successful and profitable business’:

“It’s not one of the ensuring mysteries of all time…A motivated employee treats the customer well.  A customer is happy so they’ll keep coming back, which pleases the shareholder.  It’s just the way it works”

Herbert Kelleher, Former CEO of SouthWest Airlines

“Treating employees benevolently shouldn’t be viewed as an added cost that cuts into profits, but as a powerful energizer that can grow the enterprise into something far greater than one leader could envision”

Howard Schultz, Founder and former CEO of Starbucks:

So which organisation are you?  One that has their employees simply cutting stones?  Or one that inspires and motivates them to build cathedrals?

To recap:

  • Give them non-monetary recognition.
  • Listen and take active steps when they voice their concerns.
  • Have greater cohesion and work as a team.
  • Treat employees fairly.
  • Give responsibility and autonomy.
  • Show genuine concern for employees’ wellness and health by having proper wellness programmes.
  • Don’t simply pay lip service to your corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  • Communicate regularly with employees to show them you are consistently following through on your company purpose and vision.
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