The One Thing That Motivates Employees More Than Money

November 30, 2016, 10:25 PM UTC
Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen 2016
Fortune Most Powerful Women NextGen WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2016: Laguna Niguel, CA 7:30 AM BREAKFAST WORKSHOPS WORKSHOP: A CULTURED WORKPLACE Hosted by Accenture An interactive conversation about building a company culture that embraces innovation and breeds happier, more productive employees Jennifer Berrent, General Counsel and Chief Culture Officer, WeWork Heather Friedland, Chief Product Officer, Glassdoor Jacqui Canney, EVP, Global People Division, Walmart Editor: Jennifer Reingold, Fortune Introduction: Stacey Jones, Managing Director, Corporate Marketing and Media Relations, Accenture Photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune Most Powerful Women
Stuart Isett Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

When it comes to motivating employees, it’s not all about the cold, hard cash—yes, really.

In a panel discussion on Wednesday at Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen in Laguna Niguel, Calif., Jennifer Berrent, general counsel and chief culture officer of WeWork, shared something she’s discovered about how to get her millennial-heavy workforce—the average employee at the co-working startup is 28—fired up.

“Recognition, as opposed to reward, is incredibly important,” she said. “It’s not just about gratitude—we’re great at saying thank you up and down the chain—but we hadn’t thought about cross-company recognition.” It’s not “everyone gets a trophy,” she clarified. Instead, the company now offers a concrete reward that honors “hard work, a job well done.”

Berrent reported that, when asked about what other non-monetary rewards they’d like to see, WeWork employees overwhelmingly asked for time off to volunteer. That sentiment resonated with fellow panelist, Heather Friedland, chief product officer of Glassdoor, which offers employees paid time to do just that.

The company also encourages employees to find other small but meaningful ways to give back. For instance, Friedland says that Glassdoor employees donate the value of one of the company-provided lunches per month, opting to buy their own meal so that the money can go to a local charity.

Another commonality among the panelists: the importance of empowering employees. All three talked about the way in which a single employee can have a dramatic impact on company culture. Jacqui Canney, Walmart EVP, global people division, said that at the mega-retailer, “the store manager is empowered to create the personality of the store.” Indeed, those managers—as well as department managers—are encouraged to feel like entrepreneurs, she added.

Similarly, Berrent attributes much of the culture of WeWork locations to the community managers that run them: “Their personalities seep into the whole building.”

Read More

LeadershipBroadsheetDiversity and InclusionCareersVenture Capital