Want Engagement? Act Like a Volunteer

The late Peter Drucker known to many as the “father of modern management” advised leaders that they should always view their employees as volunteers. Of course, he did not mean volunteers in the since that they work for free. He suggests that we should bring the same level of enthusiasm and energy to the workplace that we would bring to our favorite charity, religious institution or non-profit. Effort that answers the following question: Not what I do, but why I do what I do. He claims that finding purpose in what you do is important for knowledge workers in the federal government who have a little bit of freedom of choice in how they do their jobs.

Since the objective of engagement is the outpouring of discretionary effort in the workplace, seeing your role as a volunteer through the lens of passion guarantees you will bring extra zeal to your work that goes beyond the normal call of duty.

Global research consultant Blessing White points out you can easily tell who the engaged employees are in the workplace who bring that “can do” volunteer spirit to work every day. They are referred to as owners or shareholders who walk around the organization with their chests pushed out, proud and connected to the mission, their colleagues and customers.

On the other hand, Blessing White notes that it is easy to spot the disengaged that are referred to as renters. Those who are constantly checking the clock, doing only the bare minimum, retired in place and just hanging out.

Hugh Courtney, a business professor at Northeastern University has some tips on how managers and employees can inspire volunteer like conditions in the workplace to drive high levels of engagement.

For managers:

• Make sure everyone on your staff knows the mission of the organization and what success looks like due to their contributions.
• Ensure your direct reports can meet their full potential by creating an atmosphere of appreciation that screams “you are important around here.”
• Find out something personally about your employees in order to determine what really matters to them.

For employees:

• Try to bring the same amounts of unbridled fanaticism to the workplace that you have for your favorite volunteer opportunity.
• If you cannot bring that “whatever it takes attitude” to your work, starting looking around for another work place where you can contribute because you care and not because you are obliged to.

Do you like your work so much you would do it for free? Volunteer for work. It seems to be the quickest path to engagement in a world that will not stop talking about disengagement.

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