It seems that lately, not a day goes by without someone compiling a list of what motivates employees (See list at end). Without going into the merits of these lists, it’s made me think about why I like volunteering for Habitat for Humanity so much. I don’t just like it, I love it! I can’t wait to go back.
While it has its moments, I don’t typically feel this way about my day job. The difference? Here are just a few.
What every employer can learn from Habitat
Purpose: Habitat’s purpose is simple enough—to promote and provide affordable housing for all—but one of the many things they excel at is the clear articulation of their mission in everything they do, every step of the way.
Before beginning work each day, the foreman or site manager reminds the group about not just Habitat’s overarching purpose, but its immediate and local one too—“We’re building this house for the Cushman family…” Before you start each day, you understand exactly how your efforts will contribute to not just a global mission, but a real flesh and blood one, too.
At work, do you know how your energy and efforts contribute to the organization’s mission each day?
Clear, attainable goals: Before the start of each Habitat day, the site manager lists the goals for the day—frame a wall, waterproof the crawlspace, frame windows, sheathe walls, tile a bathroom, plumb the kitchen, whatever. This prepares you for the tasks ahead. Then both at midday and at the end of the day, you gather together, and one by one, review what you’ve learned and accomplished.
“ I framed two walls.”
“ I tiled a vanity.”
“ I learned how to operate a miter saw and look, I still have all my fingers and limbs!”
“ I hung six doors.”
“ I learned how to shingle a roof!”
Without fail, it seems like people always get more done, learn more things, and get more out of their day than what they set out to do.
At work, do you have a clear plan for what you intend to do and learn each day? Do you then review your goals at the end of the day to see how you did?
Autonomy: At Habitat, whatever it is you’ve signed up to do, you’re valued and trusted to do a good job at it. While folks like Dan Pink have built an industry around trying to convince middle-management that their employees aren’t a bunch of shirkers, Habitat gets this intrinsically.
At Habitat, if you need guidance, you get it from an expert, so that you can learn and understand not just how to do something, but why it needs to be done that way. Otherwise, no one is watching over your shoulder. You’re given autonomy over what it is you’ve come to do, and trusted to do it right.
At work, are you valued and trusted as a professional to do your job without micromanagement or mistrust?
Learning: Habitat understands that the more you learn, more skillful and valuable you become, not just to Habitat’s mission, but to the community. And the more you learn, more you can do, and it just makes you come back for more. It’s a win-win-win.
At work, do you have the opportunity for constant, relevant and meaningful learning that lets you increase not just your skills but your contributions?
People: Whatever the task, the people you work with greatly influence what you get out of your work. A menial job can be pleasant and rewarding when done with great people, and similarly, a great job can be miserable with the wrong people. Habitat blends meaningful work with great people from all walks of life such that I enjoy working with the people as much as doing the work.
Do you enjoy working with the people you work with?
Communication: The way Habitat approaches communication blows me away. It’s phenomenal. From their web site signup forms to welcoming and reminder emails with directions and expectations, from the first morning briefing to the mid-day and end-of day huddles and debriefings, they communicate clearly, purposefully, meaningfully and at appropriate level of detail at each iteration. They understand that, in order to be effective, people need information, and they work hard to blend exceptional communication into their core processes such that it seems natural, seamless, easy, which is a sure sign that they work really hard at it.
At work, how clearly does your organization communicate its vision, mission, goals and expectations such that you understand exactly what’s expected and how you fit in?
Is it Saturday yet?
In this post:
- Chatham Habitat for Humanity
- Eight Things Employees Need Most
- Eight Things Employees Want
- Ten Things Employees Want
- What Women Want in Their Leaders
- Dan Pink