Beyond Money

Steve Westgarth
4 min readOct 13, 2021

Last week I took the Engineering Team at Boots off site for an away day. During the day we explored our vision for the next 12 months and created our Objective Key Results (OKRs) focussed on resolving our key challenges which get in the way of us achieving the success we strive for each and every day.

We were joined on the day by Ants Greentree who expertly captured the events of the day on canvas, drawing our meeting in a way that can be shared and accessed by everyone outside of the team.

Seeing this artwork come together really focused my mind on the opportunity we have at Boots to make a difference and I found myself considering what motivates us as individuals to want to work within an organisation.

In a post pandemic world it is becoming apparent that the IT jobs market is incredibly buoyant. Companies are determined to recruit top tech talent and there is increasing evidence that they are prepared to pay incredibly large salaries to secure the talent that they need.

The ability to pay high salaries is a privilege enjoyed by particular sectors with jobs in fintech, social media, and technology disruptors such as Netflix attracting both top talent and top wages due to high growth which has in part been fuelled by the Covid 19 pandemic.

The question we must ask ourselves is what about those sectors that can’t afford to always pay the highest wages? Within the UK this is especially true for companies that are not used to having to benchmark salaries against London rates; a nuance of a post pandemic world that is increasingly embracing the “work from anywhere” mentality. Do we really believe that the only way to both attract and retain top talent is to pay the highest wage?

As a high street retailer times pre-pandemic were tough, the increasing trend of digitisation and a move towards an omni-channel world was driving significant investment into digital services. Both during and post pandemic the urgency to accelerate our transformation has become more acute and even more important to the organisation and our customers.

Despite this urgency, and the investment the organisation is making in technology keeping pace with market salary expectations is tough. As a benchmark we compare favourably with current market rate for the midlands but when you extrapolate this to include salaries that can be obtained working remotely for companies in London and other tech hubs it is true that given the buoyancy of the market some of our top talent may be able to get more money elsewhere.

As we formed our OKRs and considered the need of our organisation to drive digital transformation on a monumental scale I found myself thinking about my own team and why we come to work each day.

Speaking of my own experience I work for an organisation that is both loved by the British public and is a part of our national heritage. Throughout the covid-19 pandemic our company has stepped up to keep the nation safe, standing shoulder to shoulder with the NHS, and helping in all manner of ways with both the response and the recovery effort.

For me, I am motivated to go to work each day through knowing that I am making a positive difference to lives of millions of people. I acknowledge that working within the IT function of a large complex organisation there are frustrations. Our brown field technology estate at times feels like spaghetti and its challenging to accelerate transformation within a risk averse culture that is focussed on keeping the existing technology working.

Speaking as a software engineer this frustration is just another problem to solve and is an exciting part of the challenge! For me helping folks to understand how their thinking can evolve to embrace current software development best practices is cool! Why would anyone not enjoy helping others to make their own lives easier and better? — even if sometimes it takes time for people to embrace the change and recognise the benefits.

More than this, for me my motivation to work is about the people I work with and the people I work for.

I am lucky in that within my role I have the autonomy to articulate vision and direction. For me, understanding the direction of travel an organisation is headed is much more important than the here and now. Challenges and issues that we face today can be overcome but it requires the people who support the vision to have the courage to be the solution to the problem. We are all much stronger when we work together collectively with a common goal but sometimes understanding and believing we can make a difference and create the change is hard.

With all of this in mind, on a personal level I consider the opportunity to have worked at Boots over the last 3 years a great privilege. How many people can legitimately say that their organisation is having a positive, direct and meaningful impact on the lives of an entire population? At Boots this really is a true statement!

At the heart of this is a realisation that selecting the company that I am going to spend 1/3 of my life supporting, developing, and building is for me, about so much more than a salary.

I am privileged to work for a company that has both impact and purpose — this is the reason I get up and go to work each day and this is what motivates me to want to make the digital transformation at Boots a career defining success.

I wonder how many of you who read this article feel the same about your own organisation? Is your own motivation driven by more than the money in your pay packet at the end of the month?

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Steve Westgarth

Steve 🏳️‍🌈 is the Global Head of Engineering at Haleon where he heads up the Software Engineering function.