You Need Volunteers, Not Employees Their followership starts with you.
By Dick Cross
What’s the deal with employees?
So many Generation X’ers, Y’ers and Next’ers … including my own kids … just aren’t committed to their jobs like we were. It can’t all be due to video games and bad parenting.
The actual diagnosis is pretty simple. It’s both of us – together. Oil and water. Helium and a spark.
From our side, we continue to see the people who work in our organizations as we always have – as employees. They ought to be grateful to us for giving them a paycheck. They ought to express their gratitude by doing what’s needed and what they’re told. With loyalty and enthusiasm.
But on their side, many see themselves quite differently – as volunteers. Not as objects in transactions that give them pay for compliance. But rather as valuable assets … with something important to contribute. Whom we don’t seem to appreciate. Which, even in this economy, fails to dissuade them from expecting positions where their talents will be well received and magnified. Along with their passions, their ingenuity and their ideas to furthering a cause they respect.
The message for us? Time doesn’t go backwards!
Our days of command and control and compliance for pay are over. Motivating our new-age workers requires us to see them through their lenses. Not as fungible placeholders in rigid structures who follow orders. But rather, as unique individuals with different desires and, in many cases, far higher potential to contribute than we ever might imagine. With choices. As volunteers, not employees.
Even pay, the old sledgehammer in our toolkit for compliance, isn’t what it used to be. Up-and-coming generations expect fair compensation. But pay, even beyond what they consider fair with lucrative incentives for exceptional performance, has lost a lot of its punch. Recent surveys of high-potential seniors in high schools and colleges prove the fact. Documenting a surprising willingness to accept 15 percent to 30 percent less to work in a place they admire. Even in this economy!
Sounds disorienting, but it’s not. Adjusting your business to these new realities, and to the substantial benefits of smarter people working harder and more creatively for you, starts with you. With your willingness to let go of how you’ve thought of personnel in the past. And create a company that people in their 20s, 30s and 40s see as a superior fit with other things they care most about in their lives.
As a place they’re inspired and proud to serve. And where they want to give you their all.
How? By setting a standard for yourself that warrants their admiration and commitment. And by being the model that settles for nothing less. Steve Jobs was famous for this. Setting outrageous standards for product beauty, and accepting nothing less.
But you don’t have to run a business like Apple to apply the same methods. Nor be as notoriously irascible as he was. In fact, you can be entirely considerate and kind, but nonetheless extreme, in following his example of the drive for perfection. Whether you’re creating life-changing technology or repairing shoes.
The point is that admiration for your business centers on your own admiration for your business. And for your volunteers. Backed up by your own relentless demonstration of the standard that you expect to be met by everyone else, serving one another.
That kind of admiration only flows downhill. Starting from you. But its descending wake gathers up maniacal followership among today’s volunteers. Seeking to give you more than you’ve ever expected … from an employee.
Dick Cross is the author of “Just Run It,” an Amazon best-seller. He is founder and managing principal of The Cross Partnership Ltd., and is a consultant and speaker. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Dick Cross on Twitter – @DickCross.
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