I prepared my latest job posting with a knot in my stomach. The media told many stories and provided endless statistics about the challenges of hiring and retaining talented people during the pandemic. I expected a long, frustrating search for WARM’s next rock star.
Instead, it was the most competitive round of hiring I’ve ever conducted! So many highly qualified candidates applied that I couldn’t even call everyone that caught my attention.
I noticed a common thread: they all seek a greater sense of purpose.
I’ve seen it before, usually in the cover letters of two or three candidates per round that want to shift from for-profit work to the nonprofit sector. In fact, most of our team (including me) came to WARM directly from for-profit companies, bringing entrepreneurial spirits and best practices in our areas of expertise.
(Photo: Drew Easton joined WARM in March of 2021 and loves that he can use his construction skills to help people every day.)
But in this round of hiring, almost everyone mentioned their need for purpose in some way. It helped me see why this period, dubbed the Great Resignation, is now becoming known as the Great Reflection; people are evaluating their lives and deciding to fill it with more meaning.
Your organization doesn’t have to be a nonprofit to provide meaning and greater purpose.
WARM’s mission is just one way our employees experience purpose. Leadership practices that are not dependent on a humanitarian mission can be embraced by any business. Any leader can enhance their ability to attract and retain great staff by strengthening how their people experience purpose.
The mission for you
Nonprofits have the advantage of humanitarian missions and most of us will gladly share our mission with your company! I recommend partnering with a nonprofit that aligns with your business’s industry, values, and mission statement.
Among WARM’s supporters are many real estate agents and mortgage bankers. They help get people into homes and WARM helps people stay in their homes!
Consider offering community service PTO or hold a volunteer day so everyone in the company or on a team can volunteer together. Volunteering helps combat the depression and hopelessness many people are struggling with during the pandemic.
WARM can customize a rebuild day that strengthens your team and boosts your spirits.
The why of everything
Simon Sinek made “the why” famous. It has changed the way many businesses approach marketing and leadership. I’ve noticed over the past few years that employees have become more interested in the why of policy, financial, and everyday decisions.
WARM employees pick a Word for the Year to help us focus on who we want to be as a team. In December of 2019, we picked the word “why” for 2020. We had a candid discussion about how awkward it can be to ask a manager why a decision was made but how critical it is to get buy-in, and sometimes input, from the whole group. The more they know about the why, the more ideas they generate to solve problems and achieve goals.
I kept the why in mind as the pandemic brought the need to make swift policy changes and big decisions that greatly impacted the lives of everyone WARM touches.
With an understanding of why, employees were able to better overcome mental barriers to sudden change. They also felt valued to know I took the time to share my insights, not just bark orders at them.
The social aspect
Most employers know making a difference for clients and the community is critical to job satisfaction. Commonly overlooked is making a difference for coworkers. Make sure each person understands why their role is important to the success of the organization and is appreciated for how it impacts the work and lives of their teammates.
Also, help others understand and value the contributions of other teams and jobs. It is common for production people to see the rest of the staff as “overhead.” I don’t use that term anymore because it doesn’t capture their importance to the team. I use “critical infrastructure” to describe the fundraising, reporting, compliance, and administrative functions that make WARM’s home repairs possible.
The mission, the why, and the social aspect all have this in common: not only do they change the way employees see the company, but they also change the way employees see themselves. As employees find more meaning in their work, they become people of purpose. And that’s exactly who you want working for you.
Audrey Elsberry - Sep 22, 2023
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