Showing Employees Their Earnings Helps Motivate Them


It goes without saying that no matter how much you enjoy your job, being paid is a primary motivator for work. Too often, supported employees who do not manage their money are not included in this very simple premise. Without the appeal of a paycheck, or the simple understanding of what money actually does, these employees can lose their motivation.

Jennifer White is the Director and CEO of Able Opportunities, Inc., a Hansville, Washington corporation dedicated to innovative solutions to the challenges facing supported employees. White has developed a presentation detailing Show Me the Money, which gives employment specialists new methods to help supported employees see the benefit of their money.

One of the keys to Show Me the Money is, of course, accessible communication about the concepts. “We created production charts to help employees see their production and their earnings in clear visual terms,” White says. “When you put work into dollars, in concrete terms they can understand, it works wonders.” One of the Able Opportunities chart shows what an employee makes.  A chart might reveal that an employee has lost money, which can be put in terms of their life. “We explained to one employee that this loss of money was a dinner out with her friends – something she loves to do,” White says. These production charts shift the role of the job coach from being a teacher about work ethics to an accommodation that supports them to meet their financial goals.

“The production charts really motivate people to do better, to compete with themselves to raise those goals,” White explains. “Additionally, they are a means for employers and employee to communicate about work expectations and performance.  Employers are more easily able to give important feedback to their employee with a developmental disability.”

Sometimes though, charts aren’t an effective method of communication. “A large number of folks who are non-linguistic might never touch their funds,” White notes. “And if you suggest money, their employment team will note that they don’t know the difference between a hundred dollar bill and a quarter.” If you put money in clear terms – this is what you’re supposed to do and here is how you’re going to get what you want – it changes everything,” White says.

For this, Able Opportunities created Money Jigs – wooden devices that allow the job coach or manager to show exactly money is earned and spent. Work is split into four equal parts, with a quarter earned between each step & placed into a slot on the money jig. Using quarters, a person will show the employee that, for example, two hours equals four quarters in each slot. This may be used later to purchase something the employee wants.  The quarters used are donated to Able Opportunities specifically for Money Jigs – they don’t use the individual’s earnings, as it is unethical to take a person’s wages for such lessons.

Able Opportunities is one of the leading innovators in employment supports in the country. Seeking new methods to communicate and improve the lives of the people you support is one of the foundations of being an employment specialist, and the DirectCourse/College of Employment Services curriculum can help give employment support professionals the foundations they need to become innovators themselves.

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