Over the past few weeks, there have been a few stories surrounding Google’s recent ‘brain drain’ to Facebook. These stories were given a certain level of credence last week when Business Insider reported that Google was giving all its employees a $1000 bonus and a 10% raise. Furthermore, BI also reported that Google is giving its top execs a 30% salary increase. Thought leaders in the tech arena seem to believe that these new incentives are Google’s way of persuading its employees to stay there, rather than defect to the rapidly growing Facebook. One of the rumored reasons why Facebook seems to be the employer of choice these days because of its potential to go public, which could make many people very rich ... very quickly.
Here is my question though, can money buy meaningful work? In what I believe to be a legendary blog post, Seth Godin wrote about the future of labor. According to Godin, the future of labor belongs to passionate people who want to do work that matters. Although this post talked about people in manufacturing industries, I think it can be just as easily related to other industries, including the tech world. So if the future belongs to people who want to do work that matters (meaningful work), then I think firstly we must ask... what on earth is meaningful work?
I do not think there is one set definition for meaningful work; however, I believe the closest answer was given to us by the brilliant author Dan Pink. In his book Drive (which I have not read yet, but will review as soon as I do) and this fantastic TED talk, Dan talks about 3 factors that surround intrinsic motivation: Autonomy, mastery and purpose. I believe that any kind of work that allows someone to experience one or more of these traits can be considered to be meaningful work.
Going back to my original question then, can money buy meaningful work? Well, based on what I just defined as meaningful work, no money cannot buy it. However, just because money cannot buy it, does not mean organizations cannot enable it. In fact, in Dan Pink’s TED talk, he mentions Google’s famous 20% time. I think if Google focused more on policies like that, which allow employees to develop a sense of intrinsic motivation toward their jobs, the Company may have less to worry about.
Final thoughts: Money isn’t everything. To me, it’s a table stake. There will always be a certain part of us that is extrinsically motivated and money is one of the strongest extrinsic motivators; however, as Godin says... the future belongs to people who want to do work that matters, in other words, work they love. I think the Beatles got it right:
“Cause I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love.”