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What Employees Need: To Do What They Love

retention Dec 15, 2021

Working for a nonprofit organization most of my career, I found myself in the role of “jack of all trades.” On many occasions, I was the one teaching a class one day and assembling a desk from Ikea the next. If you work for a small organization or nonprofit, you’ve probably been in the same position. Research shows us that people are more likely to stay with your company if they have the opportunity to do what they love. In a “jack of all trades” environment, how do we help our people do what they love?

There are three things people really need to love what they do:

  1. Work that is fulfilling and meaningful
  2. The ability to use their strengths and skills
  3. Opportunities to grow in areas of interest

Let’s get practical about how even in small organizations you can meet these three important employee needs!

Offer Focus and Fulfillment in the Task

There are a variety of things that will help your people connect to the work they do and the difference they can make, starting with clear roles. I’ve worked with many teams on clarifying roles by clustering tasks to be done and breaking down processes in order to move task assignments to team members based on strengths. The team works better together and people do more of what they love. Taking the time to step back and get clear on roles can be a valuable gift to your team.

Clarity of roles when paired with career goals offers a connection between what is now and what will be. Leaders who can regularly engage in career conversations build a bridge between the now and the future. Plus, you can catch people who are at risk or maybe underutilized before they start looking for work somewhere else. Here’s a couple of questions to get your next career conversation started:

  • What is exciting to you about this project?
  • What training topic(s) interest you? 
  • What are the ways you like to learn new things?
  • What are strengths that you want to use more at work?

Check out in Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham and use this exercise as a springboard for some great conversation.

Utilize Strengths Proactively

Smaller organizations often have the advantage of being able to shift roles or move tasks around the team more quickly. Making task assignments based on strengths is a win for the organization and for your team. Check out these reasons why:

  • Roles that tend toward “jack of all trades” can help employees accumulate experience in different domains when proactively making assignments based on strengths.
  • New projects the organization needs can be an opportunity for stretch assignments that further grow someone’s strengths and develop their skills in areas where they have interest.
  • Proactively assigning responsibilities based on strengths within a team can create complementary application of strengths throughout the team to build a cohesive team when roles are clear.

Invest in Opportunities for Growth

It can be difficult in small organizations without the upward mobility to map a path for growth for your team. With the career conversations in mind, leaders of small organizations can take advantage of unique opportunities to invest in growth. Some ideas you could explore are:

  • Tap into board members, community leaders or ministry partners who would be willing to serve as volunteers and mentor leaders in your organization.
  • Look for affordable on-line training programs through other nonprofit organizations or your church’s denomination.
  • Partner with other organizations to share the cost and mutually benefit from a group coaching or shared training program.
  • Read and discuss a book as a team or with your direct report in an area of interest for growth.
  • Regularly share and discuss interesting articles on topics relevant to your team’s mission. What insights and tactics can be gleaned?  How can the team’s strengths be leveraged to increase impact?

Next Steps

What ideas are capturing your interest? What questions remain? Comment below. 

I would love to hear from you. Need a brainstorming session to explore helping your team do what they love and love what they do? Grab a FREE 30 minute strategy session with me and we can brainstorm together. Then, join me in the next blog to explore the final factor to what employee’s need: Fair Pay and Incentives. We will even talk about it from the perspective of a nonprofit on a budget!

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