We pay people for more than their hands, right?

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

Have you ever heard someone say something so simple, so basic, but yet so profound? Well that’s exactly what happened the other day when Glenn and I were leading a workshop with a company’s line managers, having wonderful discussions about the critical role they have to play when it comes to employee engagement.


We were going through each of the ten elements of The Engagement Bridge, a model we introduce in our book, and were on the topic of job design. The discussion centered around why and how we need to build autonomy into jobs, thus creating more purpose, meaning and ultimately engagement. Many of the managers led roles which are traditionally thought of as manual jobs, so I was prepared and braced for the pushback that I often receive when it comes to this topic.


But then one of the managers at the back of the room raised his hand and asked,

“Don’t we pay people not just for their hands, but for their minds?”  

There was a moment of silence, and again I braced myself for pushback, and then I looked around the room and everyone was shaking their head yes.


Why? Because the words this manager had said was so true!  We hire the entire person – the body, the mind, and the heart – so why shouldn’t we be doing whatever we can to get the most out of and engage with each and every part? Makes sense, right?  Then why do so many companies forget about this?


Why do they design jobs that focus solely on the body, the hands, the work that is manually being done? Why don’t they bring in the mind and heart to not only have our employees truly feel fulfilled, but to get the most out of them for the organization? What are they afraid of? What do they think will happen if they allow and free their employees to use all of their capabilities?

To put it another way, let me ask you a question. Do you think you’d feel like you were getting your money’s worth if you went to a gym and the only piece of equipment they let you use was a treadmill? What about everything else? How would you get a good workout, and good use of the money you paid, if you weren’t allowed to use all of the other equipment? What a waste of your time and your money, right?


There’s a quote that goes along with this line of thinking from Steve Jobs that says:

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

So my challenge to you (and to others at your company) is to take a moment to think about how your job, and/or the job of those you manage, can be changed to take advantage of your body, your mind and your heart!


And don’t stop there, but take it that one step further and do something about it.  Why not re-design the job? Why not create a forum for employees presenting and brainstorming new ideas (read what Atlassian have done in this area)?


Whatever you do, make sure you’re getting your money’s worth from your employees and letting your employees get the “full gym” experience and workout.

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