Your Staff ARE Volunteers – Get with the Programme!

Thought for the day. If all your employees were volunteers what would you be doing differently?

Maybe this would just be an entertaining exercise, if it was not for the notion that it would not take a great leap of imagination to see that today’s employees ARE volunteers. Consider:

This is not the 17th century Royal Navy. Employees are not bonked on the head in dockside pubs becoming unquestioning slaves and press ganged to service into your nearest office. (Although I could not say with certainty whether this practice is still alive and well in the present governments cabinet)

Generation Y. Modern generations have a greater sense of loyalty to themselves first and foremost. They vote with their feet when it comes to the boss’s competence and attitude. Â (Generation Y ares those ages 16 to 27, born from 1978 to 1989 – they’ll be the ones’ in your office wearing flip flops and ipods.

The ease at which people can move between organisations, get headhunted and see clearly what is going on elsewhere via digital communications portals allows career choices and decision to be made and acted on more expediently.

The generation prevails. Question. Are you much more likely to ask yourself why am I putting up with this do I really need this? What’s stopping me just checking out the grass in that other green field? (Answer not much usually) If you ask those questions with say less reticent than your parents or grandparents generation think how easy for the generations post 1980.

It’s about choice. The fact is people now have far more choices available to them in how, where and for whom they wish to ply their trade. Choice brings mobility, freedom, low bull**** toleration and awareness of options.

What volunteers do is exercise their choice muscle more frequently, with greater ease and with less restriction. These are the same people (you and me) who drop their bank, dentist, plumber, supermarket or even career like a hot potato should they feel less than properly serviced, cared for, respected taken notice of or happy.

Some thoughts on leading in the voluntary sector. Or the considerations if all my employees were volunteers… :

  • Fully recognise and respond to the view that my people have chosen me / my business  I don’t own them and they dont owe my anything. They might just as easily choose someone or somewhere else.
  • Minimise potential for disillusionment by keeping people 10X more informed of WHERE you are taking the business and WHY. (One of my favourite movies ‘Master & Commanderâ’ has Russell Crowe frequently articulating where the ship is heading, why, and ‘what’s in it for them’ – to a crew who WERE press ganged great stuff!)
  • Stop being a jerk! If you were the manager at an Oxfam shop would your headcount be dropping faster than the Euro? (Jerkyness includes micro-managing, control freakery, power wielding, belittling with ‘clever’ comments, taking oneself too seriously ).
  • Stop telling people what to do ‘ask questions. Volunteers volunteer so they can express their talent, make a contribution, think for themselve what part of that don’t you understand Mr Micro Managing Order Giver Smart Arse?!
  • Ask yourself ‘If I was volunteer what part of my bosses behaviour’ would I take exception too’ When you have got your answer check out you are squeaky clean in these areas.
  • Ask your team “If you were volunteers what bits of my behaviour what have you considering jumping ship’ Thank them and stop doing it .

Salary is a major consideration when people join a company but usually way down the list of why they choose to move. What else could you do for your volunteers to maintain their loyalty and enthusiasm for your business? NB you could just ask them ‘What could I do that is cost minimal to sustain a feel good environment for you?’

Summed up by…

If you want to build a ship, don’t gather your people and ask them to provide wood, prepare plans, assign tasks. Call them together and raise in their minds the longing for the endless sea.’Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Paul Fox

Paul Fox has been active as a Construction Industry Performance Coach for the last 20 years and remains at the forefront of Collaborative Working and High Performance Team Behaviours. He disrupts the status quo of individuals, project and senior teams who want exponentially more output with much less struggle.

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