How Direct Deposit Killed One of the Life’s Great Joys

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Do you open your birthday cards and simultaneously do the “money grab”/catch, knowing-wanting something to fall out of your card? Or, do you play it cool and let it fall to the ground, acting like you didn’t expect it!?

That’s what I trained my kids to do – and act really surprised at the same time.

Seriously? Don’t lie — you do it, too! How do I know you do it? Because everyone does it!

How we used to handle paychecks

There’s something emotional about opening a birthday card and finding money or a gift card in the card. When there isn’t something in there, you almost feel the need to explain to the person, “Oh sorry, we didn’t have time — here’s $20!”

One of the great, traditional HR-ish things we used to get to do was to personally hand out paychecks on payday!

Don’t worry kids, ask someone over 30 to explain it to you. It was a piece of paper you carried into a bank, and you would sign the back of this piece of paper, and then the bank would give you money! Yeah!

Anyway, direct deposit, pay cards, etc. have almost completely killed paychecks and the need to go around on payday and hand deliver them to your employees. That’s right kids – you had to meet face-to-face every other week with real employees! Sounds crazy, huh?

What we have lost with “efficiency”

Paycheck delivery did a number of very motivating things, that in our rush to be “more efficient,” we have lost:

  1. Payday euphoria! Every payday when checks were being handed out, you could almost feel the energy building in the organization. Your boss or someone in HR/Payroll would walk around and hand out the checks, make small talk, and give words of praise – things like, “Have a great weekend,” “Don’t spend it all in one place,” or my personal favorite, “Can I have a loan?”
  2. Leadership connections. Personally handing out paychecks really forced a ton of leaders to go out and deliver the “pay” for the week —  which really put them in a situation to have to say something nice to each employee! Crazy how motivating that is for employees after a long week!
  3. A trophy for everyone. When you got that paycheck in your hand, you felt like you accomplished something, as in, “Here’s what I did all that work for. I can look at it, I can see it, I can smell the ink!” (Don’t judge; I was born in the 70?s.)

There’s a physical response when handed your pay

There is a definite emotional, and some would say, physical response to being handed a week or two’s worth of pay. For most people, it feels good. It feels like an accomplishment.

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But, direct deposit takes that all away.

Now on Friday afternoon, you don’t get a visit from your boss or HR. You don’t get to know your local banking people, and get fresh new bills and those little money envelopes from the teller, and the Dum Dum sucker for the kids.

Direct Deposit, while great in its efficiency, has effectively killed one of life’s great joys — cashing your paycheck.

So, what do you think HR Pros – would you ever go back to handing out physical paychecks each week?

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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