Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Want to Engage Employees and Volunteers? What Incentives Are You Providing?

strategicserendipity.blogspot.comEmployees or volunteers - it doesn't matter one bit when you are dealing with the concept of engagement.  Why?  As Stephen Covey said, "You can buy a person's hands, but you can't buy his heart.  His heart is where his enthusiasm, his loyalty is."
In other words, you can make someone come to work and do a specified set of tasks through the "carrot" of a paycheck.  Getting a person to go that extra step, however, requires enthusiasm and loyalty, engagement and value alignment, and a core belief that the people with whom you are working have more to offer than the completion of the specified task list in your mind.  Without these you just have a body in a seat.  In the work world this is nicely described as disengagement, sometimes referred to as retired-in-place, and can lead to passive sabotage.  In the volunteer world it will usually lead to loss of volunteers.  In both realms, keeping people and keeping them productive requires keeping their hearts.  With or without the paycheck "carrot" the key to leadership success is the same.

Peter Clark and James Q. Wilson defined four incentives that organizations can use to attract and retain members:

Clark and Wilson Incentives that organizations use to attract and retain employees and volunteers

Obviously, individuals are usually seeking some sort of combination of the above.  In a volunteer context, they are probably seeking to boost an area that is lacking in the rest of their associations.  The bottom line, however, is that which incentives you want met and which ones the person next to you want met are probably completely different.  As individuals, we usually show "understanding" by trying to address those things we would want in the same position.  And this is where we usually lose people.  By concentrating on what we would want we either cultivate of team of people just like us (losing the enhanced perspective that comes from diverse points of view) or we are constantly in a state of recruiting to fill vacant positions.  Either one is a loss to the organization as a whole.

When dealing with personality differences, the first thing you need to do is recognize where you stand (and thus from where your default responses/instincts com).  Next try to learn more about the people with whom you are working.  In the case of incentives above, the "easy" answer is to ask them.  But this kind of disclosure requires some level of self-awareness and trust in you on their part.  You are better of working to build those first.  During the relationship building stage, use observation and listening skills to figure out when they give their most and when they seem to lose steam.  Once the relationship is built, the honest question can be asked (don't just operate on the assumptions you made during the relationship building).  Work with the individual to come up with an incentive structure that meets his or her needs as well as meeting the organizations' needs.  Bright-line rules, systems, and policies only meet the needs of the people like the ones that created them.  In the long-run, while this is a much easier way to lead, it can cripple your organization.

How does your organization provide material incentives to employees and members?  Solidary incentives?  Status incentives?  Purposive incentives?  How can you make sure that the front-line leaders in your organization recognize and provide each of these incentives to the people with whom they work?