The Work for Good continues: This season’s insight roundupMarc Schultz
Each month on our national, nonprofit-exclusive hiring and career site Work for Good, we’re delivering the most compelling and current advice for your role as a leader, a team member, and a sector professional. In the following highlights from our monthly newsletters, Career Insight and Hiring Insight, you’ll find exactly the kind of advice you need to advance your career and better manage the people who put your mission into action every day.
If you like what you find, sign up to receive each monthly edition, and check out the full range of insight available through Work for Good. Got a position that needs filling? Work for Good is ready to help with that as well – check the employer side of the website, or send us an email at [email protected].
It is well documented that financial stress lowers productivity, engagement, and overall well-being – a fact borne our in our workplaces every day. And because they’re nearly five times more likely to be distracted on the job, finds PriceWaterhousecooper, each financially-stressed employee can cost a businesses $5,000 every year. Notably, more than half of nonprofit employees responding in Work for Good’s national survey stated they were financially uncomfortable. Too often, they are also unfamiliar with ways to manage debt and increase savings.
One effective way to correct that is with a financial wellness program – an option well within reach of every nonprofit, but largely overlooked. Financial wellness programs provide resources to help employees improve financial competency, confidence, and well-being. The result is lower stress, higher productivity, a decrease in turnover and absenteeism, and an increase in engagement – all of which leads, ultimately, to increased organizational impact.
As the next step in its ongoing mission to help nonprofits succeed, Work for Good’s parent company, the Georgia Center for Nonprofits (GCN), has just launched Mission:Money. Using the resources at missionmoney.org, you can design a win-win-win financial wellness program that improves productivity, helps employees in their work and home lives, and requires minimal investment. Support like a financial wellness program is also a big advantage for recruitment and retention in an increasingly competitive job market.
I am nearly always exhilarated at work. I wasn’t always that way – it was something I had to learn and develop. I have been researching and experimenting with it for over 20 years.
Here is what I have learned about how to help people be inspired:
1. Define a shared purpose
While we gain meaning from the journey, what inspires us is usually the dopamine-producing pleasure of seeing ourselves make progress towards a goal. While the destination may be far away, if we believe in it and want it, we can be exhilarated by making measurable progress toward it.
2. See the superhero in people
My friend Tara Russell is an inspiring manager. When I see her working with her team, you can feel the energy and exhilaration. She takes the time to see the potential in people and to help them see it. When you are around someone who sees you for who you are and who you can become – it is inspiring. It gives you a sense of significance which produces serotonin, but also gives you a sense hope and anticipation for the future (our friend dopamine again).
3. Let people grow and fail
It is a cliche at this point, but it’s an important one: Give people permission to fail. This isn’t just to drive innovation, but also the experience of taking risks, which is thrilling and inspiring. When you ask people about the manager who most consistently inspired them, they almost always point to the one who believed in them enough to push them out of their comfort zone.
There are three fundamental mistakes that most organizations make when it comes to improving culture, and until you can address these three challenges, your culture efforts are bound to disappoint.
1. You don’t understand your culture.
This sounds sort of boring, but I think it’s profoundly true: Very few people actually understand what their culture really is. They have a vague sense of what it is, and they can ascribe a handful of words to it – maybe through core values or something like that. But they don’t understand it. They don’t know how it works. They don’t know how their people actually experience it. They don’t see the inner contradictions in the culture that play out every day in the workplace. They don’t see the impact that culture is having on technology usage or internal communication.
Understanding your culture (deeply and broadly) is a requisite first step to making it awesome, yet most leaders skip it and jump right to defining their “ideal culture.”
Believe it or not, the interview is not all about you: The purpose is to address the employer’s concerns. Interviewers often come into the process with a “mindset of fear” (What if I hire the wrong person?), so it’s up to you to alleviate that fear. Position yourself as their problem-solver by preparing concrete examples from your own business experience that answer the following questions. Mind you, an interviewer may not ask these questions directly, but they constitute the subtext behind almost every query:
Why are you here? To answer, ask yourself: What does this job involve?
What can you do for us? To answer, ask yourself: Do my skills truly match this job?
What kind of person are you? To answer, ask yourself: Are these the kind of people I would like to work with, or not?
What distinguishes you from the 19 other people who have the same skills as you have? To answer, ask yourself: How do I persuade them that I am unique among those who can perform the tasks at hand?
In all answers, have stories of your own accomplishments and personal experience ready, demonstrating your skills and how you can use them to solve the employer’s problems.
The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) provides a great place to start with their brochure, Every Business Should Have a Plan, which rounds up each component of a smart plan, with links to reliable source for exploring topics in-depth. Here’s a selection of FEMA’s advice:
Continuity planning: Determine “which staff, materials, procedures, and equipment are absolutely necessary to keep the business operating,” including key suppliers, and establish succession procedures. It’s also critical to plan what you’ll do if your building or other work site is inaccessible.
Employee communication: Make sure you have two-way communication channels established, as well as an out-of-town number where employees can leave an “I’m okay” message in case of a catastrophe.
Emergency supplies: Encourage all employees to have a portable emergency supply kit on-hand covering the basics – “fresh water, food, clean air, and warmth” – as well as a battery-powered radio, flashlight, first aid kit, whistle, plastic sheeting, and duct tape. (The American Red Cross provides this helpful supply checklist.)
Texas-based emergency prep consultants Technical Response Planning provide a useful summary of the planning steps recommended on the Dept. of Homeland Security’s Ready.gov site. Here are a few worth noting:
Perform a risk assessment and review every hazard or threat scenario indicated.
Identify response resources on-hand, including the people, systems, and equipment within your facility that can help stabilize an emergency situation. Next, look to external sources to fill in the gaps.
Coordinate with public emergency services such as fire, police, HAZMAT teams, and emergency medical services to share knowledge of your facility and its hazards, understand their capabilities to stabilize an emergency, and determine their response time to your facility.
Element no. 1: A strong lead
Your lead is the heart of your cover letter. This is your best opportunity to evoke an emotional response and introduce yourself as a dead-on match.
This is where you say, “Here’s who I am, why I love what you’re doing, and my specific reasons for applying."
Whenever you can, use a personal anecdote. This will not only affirm your interest in and understanding of the organization, it’ll position you as a likable person with a genuine connection to the work.
Element no. 2: Direct evidence that you’re a fit
Next, provide evidence that you’ve got the specific skills this company is looking for. This section is your opportunity to connect the dots between what the reader needs and what you can deliver.
I typically begin this section in a very obvious way, using this exact line: What, specifically, would I bring to XYZ Company in this role? Underneath that header, develop a few key points showing you understand what the organization is looking for, and exactly how your background lines up.
How do you reach that understanding? First and foremost, you study the job description. In addition, you might talk to people who work at the company to get more specific input on what the hiring manager or department needs.