It’s Not All About the Money…a Simple Thank You Goes a Long Way!

image of The Beatles can't buy me loveby Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified

I’ve said it before; I’ll remind us all again. A paycheque – even a good one – is table stakes. As the Beatles crooned, “Money Can’t Buy Me Love.”

Yet more evidence recently released by Gallup that a ‘recognitionless’ (or recognition-lacking) workplace is turnover territory.

Here’s a quote from a recent article about this study:

“While pay and working conditions go a long way in making people feel more favourably about their jobs, evidence is mounting that job satisfaction really comes down to a more basic human need. A 2023 report by Achievers Workforce Institute found that a staggering 79% of employees would rather stay in a job where they feel valued, even if it meant making less money. People want to feel appreciated for the work they do — telling your employee a simple “well done” might be the difference between whether they stay or go.”

It’s Not All “Show Me the Money” Anymore

image of a two hands together filled with coins to show me the moneyMoney isn’t enough to motivate people’s hearts and minds. Has it ever been, though? Maybe the data is just catching up to people’s human needs and wants. In our employee experience-driven workplace of today, people have agency and options to exercise their needs and wants.

(Read more about this from the younger generation’s perspective in a recent article I wrote that you said you loved.)

Do you provide an environment of meaningful connection, purposeful contribution, and acknowledgement of impact? Do people leave or sign off at the end of the day knowing that their work matters to you, your peers, and your customers? Have they heard why their effort mattered and why they need to return the next day?

They could go anywhere. Why will they come back to YOU tomorrow?

BTW, if you think it’s selfish, take a second look. People may step away from you but want to step toward you. They want to mean something to you, not to stroke their ego, but to know they are making a difference. They want to do great work for you and with you. They want to see a future with you.

If they get to trade their time, experience, education, effort and attention for a paycheque, they want it to have an ROI. They know the stakes are too high (a byproduct of living through the most significant health crisis of our lifetime) and that time is too precious to waste. You get one life. But you get many careers (if you want it, and workforce trends say people do.) You certainly can have many workplaces.

Recognizing someone today – no, right now – means that people are more likely to affirm, “I choose you.”

Revisiting the Job versus Vocation Continuum

One last thought. Before you think that some jobs are truly just a paycheque, and you’d love to make this article more meaningful, but really, what can you do? Think again.

We spent a lot of time discussing how some people see their work as a job, others as a career, and others as a vocation. How can we put people in such a tidy little “work motivation” box? Pretty contrived right?

Our biases get questioned and thrown out as pressure rises, and our current workforce trends require us to throw out the assumptions we’ve held that weren’t solidly evidence-based and even less helpful in practicality. Instead, let’s look at a workforce as a group of people who want to be engaged and are experiencing varying levels of engagement.

In other words, just like (more) money can’t buy you love, less money doesn’t equate to less love (and impact).

Many jobs are about tasks done. However, the ripple effect is enormous:

  • image of a colourful ripple effectThe server creates a memorable experience families will remember for the rest of their lives.
  • The environmental services aid notices a resident is not doing well and alerts the nursing staff.
  • The dietary technician double and triple-checks to ensure there are no allergy flags.
  • The mechanic apprentice points out brake-pad wear that had gone unnoticed.
  • A line worker sees an opportunity to improve safety.
  • A grocery clerk smiles at everyone they see in their 8-hour shift and turns around dozens of people’s days.

Our world needs everyone at work – and I mean everyone – to make it better for peers, customers and beyond. Think of how many hours people work on any given day. That is how many hours of impact people can have! Why wouldn’t we recognize that so that impact can exponentially increase?

What You Have Control Over…Now

Even if you’re not the boss or HR, you have control over moving the needle on recognition. Because everyone needs to know they are valued, every peer can ensure that happens. Someone might be too humble to see what that value to others is – such as the rockstars I just noted – however, you see it working alongside them. Don’t miss an opportunity to point it out. They are more likely to do more of it.

What we recognize is reinforced. And that is priceless.

PS – if we can help, we’re here for you. I will personally answer your email at

In case you missed them before, here are more ideas as to how you can show your people how much you value them:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

Some of the Great Organizations We Serve