4 Reasons People Go To Work (Besides Money)

We all work to earn money. Why else would we put in the hours, make the sacrifices, and do whatever else it takes to succeed? There are several reasons, actually.

Yes, money is a key motivator… but it’s not the only source of motivation.

If we want people to not only show up to work but also to do their best, we have to focus on improving employee engagement — and that’s about much more than a paycheck.

Four Valued Outcomes Beyond Pay

People show up to work each day because they expect certain outcomes. A paycheck is the most basic expectation, but there are intrinsic motivators too. In my experience, there are four intrinsic outcome expectations at work, and each of these expectations either builds or undermines employee engagement.

  1. Tasks and Profession
  2. Development and Personal Growth
  3. Customers and Impact in the World
  4. Organisation and Team

For one of the organisations I worked with, these expectations completely undermined their employee engagement. They had HUGE problems.

Not only did their employees hate their jobs, the community referred to the organisation as the “House of Pain.”

At this business, they process chickens — 130,000 per day.

This is no Facebook or Google environment. It’s a meat processing plant. It’s a great laboratory to really understand how employee engagement is affected by our expectations.

To understand employee engagement, let’s look at both the positive and negative of these four outcomes of my job at VitalSmarts vs. the reality of what the employees of the House of Pain face every day.

Tasks and Profession

What do you get to do at work every day?

For me, I love my tasks at VitalSmarts. I love speaking to groups. I love sitting down to email responses to people’s questions. The tasks engage me and I enjoy them.

At the House of Pain, people don’t love their work. They find it painful, literally. Their fingers are frozen. They get early arthritis. In fact, it usually takes four weeks for them to strengthen their muscles enough to do the job without terrible pain.

Their tasks are unappealing to say the least.

Development and Personal Growth

A second way to engage employees is through opportunities for development and personal growth.

Every time I meet a new client, I feel as if a new window of opportunity opens for me. I learn and gain new experiences. Joseph Grenny comes to me and says, “I have an idea… what do you think?” and I get to weigh in! This is where I want to develop my career. There are so many development opportunities for me at work.

At the House of Pain, the main developmental opportunity is in the first four weeks as employees try to overcome excruciating pain. Once they’ve done that, there’s a chance that they can get promoted from night shift to day shift, and there’s a remote chance they can move into a supervisor role, but that’s rare. As it stands, the only real opportunities for growth are hardened muscles and a better shift.

Customers and the Impact in the World

We also engage in our work because we want to have an impact on the world. People stop me at conferences and tell me how they use the skills we teach at VitalSmarts! That’s amazing! I feel honoured to be a part of an organisation that’s making a difference to people. How many people have jobs where other others verifiably benefit from what you do? If you do, it’s extremely rewarding and encourages you to be even more engaged in your work.

The House of Pain has major customers that distribute their chicken over the entire United States. That’s rewarding, right?!


The customers buy through a broker so they don’t even know they’re buying chicken from the House of Pain. And the employees at the House of Pain never see the finished product from their hard labour. In this commodity/broker relationship, it’s hard for employees to make the connection between what they do at the House of Pain and how it benefits others.

Organisation and Team

Teamwork makes the dream work! It may be a silly slogan but it’s true. People become more successful and engaged in their work when they’re part of a team. For me, I look at my organisation and say, “I come to work because I’m part of a winning team. I get to work with my best friends in the world and it feels like family. I love my job because I love the people I work with!”

At the House of Pain, there is some sense of community, but it’s minimal. People don’t feel isolated, but there’s not necessarily a sense of family and team. It’s more about working next to someone, not working together.

Building Employee Engagement At YOUR Company

If you’re looking to build employee engagement at your organisation, whether it’s a processing plant, hospital, non-profit company, or corporate office, look at these four outcomes as they relate to your employees.

  • Tasks and Profession: What do people love to do? What tasks keep them engaged in their job?
  • Development and Personal Growth: Are there ways for people to grow and learn as they work? Are there opportunities for promotions?
  • Customers and Impact in the World: Do you see benefits to your customers? Do you impact the world in a positive way?
  • Organisation and Team: Are you a team? Do coworkers become friends?

Now, what obstacles exist in each of these areas?

Once you know which areas are building employee engagement, capitalise on them!

And once you identify your obstacles, get creative in changing them into outcomes that positively and intrinsically motivate people. When you do that, you’ll see real impact, change, and growth in your organisation.

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