How come people will take to the streets for what they believe in but find it hard to take to the streets that take them to work? They don't like work. Employee engagement is one of the most pressing problems in business today. People will volunteer unpaid for causes they feel just but drag themselves to work on projects, company objectives or their regular day jobs, for which they are paid.
The problem lies with an inability to create the conditions in which volunteerism can thrive at work. We feel less like volunteers and more like unwilling victims of corporate or business rules and regulations, shackled to an endless array of policies, procedures and must-do's that prevent us from bring our best selves to work.
What if, we could spark volunteerism at work, and tap into the same juices that bring armies of self motivated do-gooders driven by accomplishment that shows itself through virtual cudoes and a pat on the back?
We can. Look to your communitiees and your not-for-profit organisations and learn a few lessons in volunteerism that can transform your workplace and your people's world.
While the world is looking to save itself and people engage more in helping each other, while our newest working populations want to have a job and save the planet at the same time, and while volunteerism in many countries is on the increase, our businesses are still reporting significant issues with under engaged workforces and a lack of enthusiastic drive typically characterised by the armies of volunteers we see populating not-for-profit organisations across the planet.
How do you get people at work to feel more like volunteers and volunteer in helping their business become remarkable?
Learning from your community
Let’s look at how people in your community get people excited and involved in causes: what gets people behind something, what makes them do remarkable things, what makes them give up their time, their money or their effort to get involved?
If you look into your community, you’ll find lessons you can take to work. People get passionate every day in life, they do stuff they don’t get paid for but that they rally behind and support. Figure out why and you’ve got yourself a road map to getting connected at work. If you look closely enough you’ll see some pretty straightforward themes.
- There is usually something that gets people interested and talking to each other; a story about a cause that feels worth rising for
- The story often leaves you wondering what you can or should do to help, it gives you a sense of urgency, it can leave you inspired about what you can or need to do and then shows you how you can get involved; there is a call to action
- There is usually someone who is championing the cause, who inspires you to get involved and paves the way with facts & maps, a resource you can trust, or at least has information to help you connect with the right people to help you take action; a resource
- You get together with other people, like-minded, who were spurred on by the same story and together you feel an affiliation, a ‘together we’ll get there faster’ attitude
- You see a trail that gets other people interested and sparks some more action, it's contagious and you see progress
- You learned something new, a new skill a piece of knowledge you can apply again.
- Pretty soon it feels like a movement – you’ve either created some momentum and you are collaborating and coming together for a common purpose.
- You feel a sense of accomplishment or at the bare minimum you got to the sensation that your bit helped someone today. People talk about what they've accompliahed, the heart stirs as you feel a sense of contribution.
- You feel a pat on the back, recognition from peers, friends, a job well done. Some one says, ‘wow, it was really good of you to help today’
- You had an impact, you made a difference, you are ready to do it again.
Life at work is all about creating opportunities and providing experiences for others as well as yourself. It’s about creating the distant rumblings of passion for people; give people a reason to be passionate and those distant rumblings start sounding a whole lot closer.
So now let’s apply it to work. You need a story to get people interested or even better, excited about; you need some first steps laid out to show how people can get involved; you need to give them a platform to get involved from; you need to provide a feedback loop so people can see how close or how far they are from where they wanted to be, and you need to give recognition - even just a sense of it! Finally, you need to get out of the way and let people do their bit.
Bringing a community volunteerism effort into your work world, some things to remember:
- People want to understand what their company is in business to achieve, not just the financials and production figures. Ask yourself, what story can i build around the cause i am creating? if this is too big for your area, then shrink the question. What if the cause is simply to help another individual overcome a skills issue or develop superior abilities at something they have struggled with since joining the company? Working with someone to have them take on the challenge of developing anothers skills can be a csue worth rising for. What other causes can you create in your workplace?
- People want to make the connection between the company and how they contribute to their company’s success, not just their job. Help people run leads through the organisation to show how they are all connected. Sometimes it is as simple as creating lead lines rather than communication or hierarchy lines. Identifying who touches whom can significantly change the vantage point of people at work.
- People want to be able to put perspective to data – if you do need to speak in figures, than make sure it's colourful. What does 1 cent short on price translate into? A $12 million dollar loss of revenue and the roll-on effects of that loss. That’s impact! RED just rolled out a fantastic ca,paign about 40 cents and the ability of 40 cents a day to save the lives of millions. All it takes is 40 cents. What's your 40 cent campaign and what difference can it make to people at work, your customers, your suppliers, your community? Make data visible, understandable and trasparent if you feel the need to piush it. But most of all, make it alive; show what this data means that is bigger than the production figures at the end of the day.
- People want to know the rules of the game and the scoring system and then thay want to be allowed to play, contribute, make a difference. How you set up your workplace has a significant affect on how engaged people feel in their work. Freedom is the perfect release. Gicing people the freedom to come together and act as one to address a common cause. What can you do to enable that to happen at work?,,People want to know the playing field – where the start and a finish line is but what happens in between is up to them. They don't need to be told how, just where they need to be at what point in time is a good enough start.
- People want to learn something new. They want to be able to aply new learnings, at home or at work. How you spotlight new skills, new ways of working and new ways of doing business and the worth of those new ways, will engage people better in acting on them.
- People want to see your visible plan, and know that it is open and available when they want to review it - they want to be able to contribute to it. A plan is a live document, never finished and always open to input. How you allow people to have a voice and feel they are contributing will affect how people present their voice.
From a blog by Pamela Hackett www.pamelahackett.com
Sparked by the writings of many involved in the MIX
Thank you for your post. It's an interesting idea that definitely deserves attention.
Please help me understand it a little bit better. Let's say I am a factory worker, I hate my job, but I volunteer at a homeless shelter because I think it's inhumane to let people live on the street. How would you bring my passion to work?
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