The Beetles’ Song “Money Can’t Buy Me Love” kept ringing in my ears as I read the recent LA Times article about the meteoric rise in salaries in Silicon Valley, especially for engineer and software developers, as companies try to poach, or retain, talent. It seems that HR professionals never fail to answer the whole question of talent retentions/attrition with money. The same thing happened in the late 90’s during the dot-com boom. Instead of trying to throw money at the problem, it may be beneficial to ask why employees switch companies. What behooves seemingly happy employees to leave companies like Google, who is known for its progressive attitude toward its employees to much smaller companies, even startups in some cases?
One possibility is that existence of factors that dissatisfy the employees. Subscribers to Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory, me included, call them Hygiene-Factor related reasons, which include money, security, work environment…etc. Examples of attrition due to Hygiene-Factor related reasons include the underpaid engineer in a small company in a Midwestern town. In his case a raise would have kept him from leaving the company. Other examples include the accountant in a Fortune 500 company with an overbearing boss and the sales person in a financially strapped electronics manufacturer. In these cases, employees leave the company because of the existence of a “dis-satisfier”, and they would stay if the dis-satisfier is removed. Sometimes the dis-satisfier is money, but most times it isn’t.
Others leave the company because of the lack of “Motivators,” factors the help stimulate an employee’s intrinsic motivation. These include things like recognition, challenge, growth, status, exciting work…etc. In the era of highly-paid talent, work-life balance, and the employee-friendly workplace, the absence of “Motivators” seems to be the biggest culprit in talent attrition. In fact, the LA Times article discusses two cases in which the lack of motivators is the clear reason for employee departure:
“A few weeks ago, Lars Rasmussen, the brainy co-founder of Google Maps and a six-year Google veteran, bolted for Facebook, joining more than 200 former Google employees who now work at the world’s most popular social networking service.
“Facebook could be “a once-in-a-decade type of company,” the Danish-born computer science engineer said in explaining his decision.”
Another case in the same article screams that money is not the issue:
“In one case, Google countered an offer from Facebook to a software developer with a promise of a 15% bump to his $150,000 salary, a quadrupling of stock benefits and a $500,000 cash bonus to stay a year, according to people familiar with the situation. He still took off for Facebook.”
So why do line manager and HR professionals still try to retain talent using money? It is clear that the persons in the examples above were not motivated by the money. Oh, they’re not stupid; they’ll take the money, but it is not the reason they’re jumping ship. It behooves HR managers to try to understand the underlying reasons for talents attrition (each person has his own) rather than devise a one-size-fits-all monetary solution.
Meanwhile, enjoy the Beatles: