Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Building Ambassadors, or Why You Need to Offer More Than Just a Job

“I am so thankful that I got this new job. I now work for a non-profit and we are spearheading all these new initiatives, connecting children and health care. I am on a mission. Never been so excited about a job before from my past of working for profit companies.”

This email message came to me the other morning from one of my colleagues in the U.S. I am hearing more of this type talk from people over the last few years.

This brought me back to a time one of our rising executives quit a promising job and career because her dream job materialized — one that would allow her to work with animals. At the time, I was sitting there listening to this and in the back of my mind, I just did not get it.

Yes, I have changed

So, as I read this “thankful” message the other day, I got ready to respond and noticed that the tag line on my email reads:

We are dedicated to building a better society by helping companies to transform their workplace.”

So yes, you could say I am already there.

Job seekers today are motivated by more than a brand name — they want a connection to the good work that your organization is doing. If your offer is only about the job and you do not try to connect beyond that, in the end, you and your organization will lose. The pendulum has swung.

We do more than make money

My team and I designed an onboarding program in one of my corporate jobs years ago. Our mission was to talk not about the company on Day 1 in the usual way.

We wanted to talk about the good we do for the community we live and operate in. We talked about the senior citizens center that we would decorate for the holidays, and the volunteer days (3) that each employee receives from the first day on the job. We told them how we wanted everyone to give back to society in some way.

We showed film of how our employees donated school supplies for “backpack day.” We all showed up at the Javits Center in New York City to spend a half-day stuffing new backpacks for underprivileged kids. This was a publishing industry initiative. From senior leaders to the guys in the mail room, we were all working side by side, with all having the time of their lives.

We showed pictures of how we transformed vacant lots in the city to a green oasis. They saw the video of how we adopted a local high school of Art & Design with our Chief Creative Officer giving the graduation keynote. And we showed how we integrated our designers into special projects at the school, judging the student projects and serving as guest lectures.

We had our head of our corporate foundation come in to introduce herself as she enthusiastically told them about the projects we were funding throughout the city.

My thought was that the new hires had already signed on, so let’s show them that yes, they did make the right decision in joining us.

How was your first day?

I wanted these people to return home that first day and be proud that they had made the right decision. The most important question that is asked on that first evening after a new employee arrives back home is “how is the new job?” If you did not wow them on Day 1, you lost the perfect chance to knock it out of the park.

My thought has always been that on Day 1, employees come in and the engagement tank is full. However, that tank needs refueling throughout their employment life cycle. So many employers get this false sense of bravado that they need to do nothing once that person signs on.

In other words, their employment life cycle will take care of itself. But in many organizations, it doesn’t That is why you find so much disconnect in organizations.

Every employee is an ambassador

If your organizations want to move ahead full throttle towards the organization’s goals, you have to provide more than just a paycheck. Today’s workers are motivated by more than a wage package and growing your bottom line.

I talked with one of our client’s employees and she spoke with so much pride of how she is so happy working for her employer. She said that as she takes her yearly holiday and head back to India, she can point to the school that her company built in her hometown. During this building process, employees volunteer for week-long jaunts to this village to help build that school for underprivileged kids.

Everyone from top executives to the gardeners were working together, side-by-side, in putting this school together. The pride this woman showed in telling this story made clear how these off shelf organizational initiatives can have a tremendous impact.

Is the connection authentic?

Connecting has to be an authentic relationship, and if it is a superficial effort, your employees will spot it a mile away.

The demographic of the workforce is skewing younger. If you were a product-driven company you would make adjustments to your product line to reach this new customer. But there are ones that will not do this and they will continue to push the same old tired product  on the way to the irrelevant pile.

Along with this shift, the leaders of companies are also skewing younger.

Progressive companies with a new leader mindset will push these boundaries in years to come. That is why I always jump at any opportunity to speak at colleges. I often tell them that I can’t wait for you to join the workforce because your generation will pull these entities along both willingly and non-willingly into this new dynamic.

Seeking the most inspiring organizations

The pendulum has swung: At one time the organizations had all the power, but now your employees are gaining the upper hand. They are like free agents that will not only go the highest bidder, as you may think, but will go the most connected and inspiring organization so they can toil in their gardens.

So remember, the onus is on you to make your case.

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