By: Donna Davis
ENGAGED | Consulting
The other day I was talking with a friend. She said her boss always says she shouldn’t expect so much from her job - instead she should “just be happy to get a paycheck”.
I agree that we should be thankful to have a job. However studies show most all of us want more from our work. We desire intrinsic motivation. Taking part and contributing to the organization. Being challenged in our work. Making a difference in our community.
Within for-profit organizations, it can be difficult to provide employees with these intrinsic motivators because everyone tends to get immersed in the day-to-day functions of running a business. That’s why I suggest organizations consider adopting a company-sponsored volunteer program.
For years, people have been aware of the positive benefits of volunteering. But it wasn’t until a study was conducted by Marieke Van Willigen, Differential Benefits of Volunteering Across the Life Course, that leaders became aware of the positive outcomes to their organizations when they included a company-sponsored volunteer program as part of their benefit package.
Providing employees with the opportunity to volunteer benefits everyone, especially the employee. It helps employees feel they are doing more than just collecting a paycheck. It increases camaraderie within the organization. And it helps employees feel more connected to the community.
To set up a company-sponsored volunteer program:
1. Begin With a Single Non-Profit. Start by partnering with a single 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is located in your community. Beginning strong is essential to the program. Once the program is up and running, more charitable organizations can be added to the program if desired.
2. Engage Employees. Get employees involved in the selection of the charity. This creates excitement. For maximum benefit, make sure the charity is supported by the majority of those in the organization. It’s a great idea to ask everyone for ideas and then vote.
3. Spread the word. Use a variety of methods to announce the organization’s support of the chosen charity. This will build momentum among everyone.
4. Structured Time Off. Give employees paid time off to volunteer. Some companies give individual employees time off each week, while others work together as a group. It depends on the organization and the way you want to structure the program. The key is to structure the program in a way that best meets your organization’s needs.
5. Leadership Modeling. When leaders willingly model volunteerism, employees are more able to engage in their everyday work because of increased confidence in management.
A volunteer program is a great way to involve employees in your organization. Many workers want to feel that they are making a difference in the community and by sponsoring a volunteer program you may find employees are more engaged in their everyday work.
Lead by Example
Do your employees have friends at work? Numerous studies reveal employees who have friends at work see their jobs as more fun, enjoyable and satisfying, reports Christine M. Riordan in the Harvard Business Review. Friendships at work create a strong support network, both personally and professionally. And friends at work increase the overall satisfaction and engagement of employees up to 50%. As the leader/manager, encourage friendships through friendly and open communication to all team members. This is vital to an organization’s success because it sets the foundation for the organization’s culture. A positive and friendly culture is contagious.
Sponsor regular company-wide events (monthly lunches, annual picnics or even company sponsored philanthropic projects). Incorporating regular events give team members the opportunity to develop friendships within all departments of the organization and help everyone feel more connected.
When interviewing a potential new employee, make it a practice to have all department staff meet with the candidate and give their feedback. By involving your current team members in the selection process, you are helping to ensure the best candidate for the department is selected.
Your organization can increase it’s engagement levels among team members by fostering friendships among your team members. If your organization has a unique way of encouraging friendships among its team members, please share.
1. Harvard Business Review, 2017, We all Need Friends at Work
What’s the best way to find awesome team members who will contribute to your organization?
Think attitude … not skill.
We learned this years ago from Southwest Airlines who “hires based on attitude and trains for skill”. In fact, according to a Southwest spokesperson, if they can’t find someone with the right attitude, they won’t even hire for the position.
But how do you hire based on attitude? Take a look at the following:
1. Is the candidate motivated to learn about your company?
Focus on individuals who are curious, inquisitive and open to new challenges. These individuals will be easier to train and more willing to explore new opportunities.
2. Does the candidate get excited about your organization’s mission, goals and values?
Individuals who align with the organization's mission, goals and values tend to be more engaged and motivated in their work. Engaged employees, who have an emotional commitment to the success of the organization and its goals, average an increase in productivity by 20-25%.
3. Does the candidate fit with your company culture?
Every organization has a unique culture that makes it special. Look for individuals that resonate with your current staff. Research shows that workers are more likely to enjoy their work when they fit in with the company culture.
Look for individuals with a great attitude and are motivated to learn and grow with your organization. Finding employees who are committed to your organization is a key component to your business success.
Companies with highly engaged employees share an enthusiastic energy for the organization. This enthusiasm creates stronger commitment levels, better performance, higher productivity, and increased profits. Developing a strong culture is key to increasing the number of engaged employees in your organization.
Try the following ideas to improve your organization's culture and increase employee engagement:
Coach, train and develop direct reports.
A recent study shows that managers who are most successful spend 6 hours a week with each direct report, see Leadership IQ.
Employees who spend the optimal time with their managers are 29% more inspired, 30% more engaged, 16% more innovative and 15% more intrinsically motivated than those who spend only one hour per week.
Increase knowledge of operations.
Some of the best leaders purposefully take time each week to mingle among all the team members. Walt Disney, the creator of Disneyland, used to walk the Disneyland Park everyday on his way to his office. This simple routine gave him the opportunity to stay connected.
Hire based on organizational vision, mission and values.
Organizations with highly engaged employees determine their hiring decisions based on attitude, not skills. Southwest Airlines spends extra time finding the best employees, and their average turnover rate is a low 4-5% (in an industry that is almost double that), see Loyalty Rules.