HR, Try Treating Paid Employees like Volunteers


Posted on August 23rd, by Erin Palmer in Leadership. 4 comments

HR, Try Treating Paid Employees like Volunteers

Have you ever helped a friend or family member move? If you have, did the friend or family member try to bribe you with pizza or drinks to get you to agree to help? Lugging boxes up and down stairs isn’t fun, so offering a treat of some sort makes it easier to coerce your loved ones into maneuvering your gigantic couch through your narrow doorway.

Nonprofit organizations rely upon the kindness of strangers. Getting volunteers to help out and making them want to come back is one of the most important factors that nonprofits face. To be successful, they have to build a community of commitment.

The techniques used by nonprofits can be a huge benefit to HR. After all, if these techniques can encourage people to work for free, applying them to a business can help to increase employee motivation.

1.    Inspire people

Inspiration is the driving force behind most nonprofit organizations. Once you can get someone to genuinely care about something, it is much easier to get them to spare some of their time or money.

Even if your company isn’t saving lives or helping puppies, you can still be a source of inspiration. You might enact a mentorship program to help develop your employee’s careers. You could start a wellness initiative to make it easier for your team to get healthy. Being a positive influence on your employees can go a long way towards creating a pleasant work environment.

2.   Create goals with clear results

How many times have you seen a fundraiser use imagery to show how close they are to their goal? If the goal is raising $10,000, then seeing a bar graph creep closer and closer to the top of the chart is a clear indicator of how close (or far) the goal is.

When a team has a clearly defined goal in sight, it can propel them forward. Knowing what they hope to achieve and being able to see exactly where they stand can be an energizing influence on their work. If a goal isn’t reached, it can be a learning experience to figure out what went wrong and what could be improved for next time. If the goal is met, employees have something tangible to be proud of and celebrate.

3.   Organiz

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In order for a nonprofit to get volunteers to work efficiently, every detail has to be organized. You can’t throw hundreds of volunteers into an event without telling them what to do and who to report to. Not only could disorganization ruin an event, but it could also deter volunteers from returning.

Being well-organized is more than just assigning employees a job title and place to sit. It is about making sure that each employee knows what their job entitles, how to do it and why it is important. They should know how their role relates to others within the company and who is responsible for what. Streamlining business practices is a lot easier when everyone knows their individual role and how it fits into the whole.

4.   Make them feel appreciated

Nonprofits have mastered the art of the thank you. They know that it is important to keep volunteers and donors happy, so they make sure to demonstrate their appreciation. Letting volunteers know that their work is valued helps to foster a sense of teamwork.

Feeling under appreciated is one of the most common reasons why people leave jobs. It can be really disheartening to work incredibly hard on something and feel as though no one even noticed. Employees that feel valued will work harder and stay with a company longer. Do all you can to show employees that the work that they do is important and appreciated.

People work to get a paycheck, but volunteers work because they want to make a difference. Getting paid employees to feel that same sense of drive can do wonders for the workplace. Passion will outwork ambivalence every time.

Any tips for getting your employees to truly care about their work? Do share!

Photo credit: iStockphoto

About the author: Erin Palmer works with Villanova University on programs such as Masters in Human Resources. She happily writes for a living and enjoys mentioning that fact to people who think that Writing and English majors will never find a job. She loves to meet new people, so reach out to her on Twitter as @Erin_E_Palmer.

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4 thoughts on “HR, Try Treating Paid Employees like Volunteers

  1. I think one thing nonprofits do so well is figure out how you can still contribute even if you can’t meet your original commitment. Instead they explore with you what you can do and remind you why you got involved with the organization in the first place.

  2. My thoughts exactly, Krista! Often an employee that feels under-appreciated can fly under the radar because we take for granted that they will get over it. That isn’t the best strategy for keeping people.

  3. Hi, I’ve worked in nonprofits most of my adult life and I loved this analogy. Volunteers who are not appreciated and given meaningful, well-thought out tasks and the tools with which to complete them rarely stay around. But sometimes we think our employees will. Yeah, they might, while growing more and more disenfranchised and while looking for their next opportunity.