Heresy you say - after all this site is all about reward and recognition. Not really - we're about aligning behaviors and goals - incentives and recognition just happen to be a couple of the tools in the big red toolbox. But business rely on incentives too much. We assume all employees are mercenary. But in most cases they are not.
Here's a bit of an experiment for you - what would you do different if everyone you relied on for your business success was a volunteer?
I read a quote a long time ago - I think it was from Peter Drucker - that said something along the lines of "if you want to really understand management, manage volunteers." I find that concept more and more indicative of what today's managers must do in order to drive performance within their organizations. Think about it. Volunteers are doing something because they want to, not because they need to. Volunteers are passionate about their work - and want to have impact. Volunteers aren't bound by the same command and control requirements that "employees" have. Volunteers can leave when they want if they don't think things are moving in a direction they like.
Managing volunteers is tough, tough work. Managing volunteers takes different skills. In most cases a manager of employees can simply say - "do this," and it gets done. Managers of volunteers don't have that luxury. I think it really changes how you look at motivation and influence if you remove the handcuffs of "employment" from your view of managing performance. It makes you work harder at aligning your goals and their goals. And that is a good thing.
- For volunteers you create mission, passion, drive to achieve specific goals and a shared end-game - people don't volunteer for squishy missions
- For volunteers you continually reinforce individual contribution to the overall goal in order to maintain engagement
- For volunteers you allow greater leeway for personality and individual style - you're just happy to have a productive member on the team
- For volunteers you work harder to find their true value and where they can contribute the most - you don't force them into roles they aren't suited for
- For volunteers you listen to their ideas more (why not - they have the same goal in mind and are as passionate as you are right?)
- For volunteers you forgive small mistakes in light of the greater good
- For volunteers you you ask for recommendations for more volunteers
Seeing a pattern here? Managing volunteers means valuing contribution and working to match desire to function within the team to achieve the stated mission. Managing volunteers isn't about directing effort as much as it is about allowing effort to find it's best path.
As a manager - take a few minutes and ask yourself - "What would I do different if all my staff could just walk out tomorrow?" I'm guessing a point program or a debit card would be pretty far down the list of ideas.