“WIFM” — A Creative and More Impactful Approach to Motivating Your Staff for Success

By Tyler Wyman, Colorado Spring Utilities

This is the second article in a series exploring three factors that can have a major effect on the culture and morale of your organization, and can make the difference in an employee’s choice to stay or leave. Consider the Employee “Holy Trinity”:

  1. Scheduling
  2. Monetary Gain
  3. Time Off

In this article, we will consider monetary structures and how to use the money we have to drive the environment we want.

Do these sound familiar? “What’s in it for me?” “I would be happier if they paid me more.” “I am not paid what I think I am worth.” These are common statements in any industry and can be a major driver in attracting and retaining your employees. But is this truly what employees need to make them happy?

In this article we will explore the Monetary Gain factor of employee morale and performance, and how to use more creative approaches to drive morale, gamification, and employee engagement while reducing overall cost and increasing the return on your investment.

Employee cost is a never-ending battle as budgets are tightened and line items are questioned. So how do you motivate and retain your employees in a world where budgets are slim to none? The answer comes in the form of a question: “What are you trying to promote?” As we discussed in the last issue, retaining employees is important. It saves you money in the long run and creates a more efficient and knowledgeable staff base. But keeping the right employees is the key. Finding creative ways to use programs and small or non-existent budgets to drive toward this goal should be your focus.

So how do we approach this? Do you just drop a pile of cash into the laps of your high performers? You don’t have any control over what your company pays, so how do you make this work in your organization? Will paying more give you the return on investment you are looking for? All of these questions and more come to mind when exploring this avenue. Let’s dive into some of these to better understand what and how we can use this driver to achieve that high performing culture/environment that people want to stick with.

The first thing we need to consider is how does money motivate people and does it truly make people happier? Prepare yourself. I am going to say something unheard of. “Money does not make people happy.” OK, breathe. If you think about it though, it is true. Oil rig workers and Alaska fisherman have great payouts, but most will never attempt such an adventure. So now ask yourself, if money is truly a motivator, then why doesn’t everyone want to do these jobs? Because without knowing it, people want more than money. They want to be challenged. They want to be motivated. They want to have fun. They want to be recognized. Study after study has proven that simply paying your employees more does not increase job satisfaction in the long run and has minimal effect on performance. So how do we use money wisely to get the return we want? Good question.

If you think about it, we as workforce professionals have several programs and budgets at our disposal that we never considered. The key is repurposing them to get our staff motivated and make your organization a place they want to stay. Here are a few examples:


Most organizations use overtime (OT) to help fill in gaps that arise, but have you ever thought of using OT to drive for recognition, performance, and loyalty? Try giving preferential consideration for those who are higher performers in whatever metric or focus you are driving for. Consider rotating your focus or even developing a scoring system to weight performance overall. Having the ability to count on OT is a big motivator for those who enjoy this benefit. Be creative.

Pay for Performance

If you are in an organization where you have the ability to incorporate a performance-based pay structure into your employee pay plans, you have the ability to truly drive for that culture you are looking for. The key with this is you have to make sure your goals are reasonable and your payouts are regular. Quarterly works very well to truly keep staff rewarded and focused on the desired goal. FYI – This does not end up costing the organization as much as you think. Performance falls on a bell curve with most of your staff being in the middle. So if you consider that you are reducing your hourly rate of pay for your staff and using that extra money to pay for performance, you will end up paying some the bare minimum, some more than they would have made at the higher hourly rate, and most right in the middle around where you would have paid them in the first place. It ends up being a wash for the most part overall.

Succession Promotion

If you have an organization that consists of a tiered queue structure where higher and more difficult queues require more skill and have pay scales that reward for those skills, you have an untapped opportunity to reduce cost, create a hiring pool for those queues, test potential candidates, and increase morale. Consider using a program where employees can be paid a slightly higher wage to learn and be multi-skilled for those higher tier queues. This strategy is a WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN.

  • You are incorporating a lower price point component to your staff plan for these higher more complex queues that reduces overall cost.
  • Employees are learning a new skill, they feel like they have a career path, and they are being paid more to learn it.
  • You just created a hiring pool for a more difficult skillset that proves to be worth its weight in gold down the road.
  • You get to test drive a representative in their chosen skillset, and have historical performance data to draw on when you need to make decisions around hiring. This is a valuable option if you are able to incorporate it.


This strategy can have huge returns if you use it properly. Using a small financial reward to recognize your highest performers not only drives for success, it makes the job fun. Remember that a higher performing employee actually reduces your need for headcount depending on their area of performance. People that have higher attendance, lower AHT, higher sales/saves/conversions, less escalations, and better first call resolution, actually reduce your overall need for staff. Keep in mind this has to be done properly to have the desired effect:

  • It needs to happen regularly to have a true impact on performance. Going too long in-between awards can diminish returns.
  • Consider rotating the focus of the award to drive a balanced overall performance increase. Siloing your focus can actually have a negative impact on overall morale as your staff sees the same people getting recognized each time. Change it up. Give everyone a chance.
  • Use these Winners to help coach, mentor, and guide the rest of your staff.

The old adage “you have to spend money to make money,” or in this case save money, can definitely be used in almost any organization to truly transform your staff into that high performing and high retention environment you are striving for. Remember to be creative, think outside the norms, and question everything. You just might find the key to your business’s success.

Tyler Wyman is a Workforce Supervisor with Colorado Springs Utilities. If you have questions or would like to connect with the author, you can contact him at twyman@csu.org.