LESSONS FROM A VOLUNTEER
By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President, Discovery Surveys, Inc.
20 percent of employees don't
understand how their work contributes to the goals of their organization.
Earlier this month I had the privilege of spending the weekend as
a volunteer for the
Mass Challenge (PMC). The PMC is an annual fundraising bicycling event that
has raised more than $125 million over the years for cancer research and
treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. More than 4,000 bicyclists and
2,000 volunteers participated this year. The cyclists raised an average of more
than $5,000 each in sponsorships. Volunteers helped to coordinate the event,
feed the cyclists and make certain their luggage was safely transported from
the start to the finish line.
As a student of the world of work, what struck me as fascinating
is how hard the volunteers (including myself of course) worked. We worked
together like cogs in a huge machine. We cooked and served food, transported
luggage, picked up garbage, unloaded trucks, and carried heavy tables.
I saw men and women, teenagers and the middle-aged (like myself)
standing tirelessly on their feet for hours in the hot son hustling in
everything they did and maintaining a smile and upbeat attitude throughout the
This extremely strong work ethic is not very common in the work
place. Here are some of the reasons why the PMC volunteers were so
- Volunteers Had a Common Goal
Ever present in the minds of many of the
volunteers was the knowledge that they were contributing to a good cause. No
matter how hot or tired, they knew they were having an impact on the goals of
- Many Had Strong Personal Reasons for
Many of the volunteers were cancer survivors,
friends of cancer survivors, or had lost someone in their family to cancer.
Their work, therefore, had a deep personal meaning.
- Volunteers Were There By Choice
No one was there to earn money or impress a
supervisor. The volunteers were free to come and go as they pleased, but almost
everyone stayed for the entire event.
- Management Had Its Act Together
Over the years, the PMC management has developed
time-tested systems and procedures for making the work easy for the volunteers.
The tools and equipment are there and the jobs are clearly defined. It is a
relatively flat management structure with very few supervisors or managers.
- Praise Aplenty
Throughout the day the bicyclists thanked the
volunteers, the volunteers thanked the bicyclists, and volunteers thanked each
other. There was a strong feel-good attitude that lasted all day.
TOP OF PAGE
WHAT TO DO
Here are some lessons corporate senior management can learn from
- Help Employees Find Meaning in Their Work
Employers need to help their employees understand
how their work contributes to the larger purpose of the organization. Consider
this story that I often weave into my speeches.
A young boy walks up to several men who are
unloading furniture from a moving van. He asks one of the movers, "What are you
doing?" The man says, "I am carrying furniture." The boy asks the second man
what he is doing. He replies, "I am moving all of the furniture out of the van
into the house." The boy asks yet a third mover the same question. He says, "I
am helping a young family start a new life in your community."
Which man do you think was more
- Value All Contributions
No matter what their job, management should make
all employees feel they are contributing to the goals of the organization and
that their contributions are valued.
- Enable Employees to Succeed
It is management's responsibility to provide
employees the tools, equipment, systems, procedures and training they need to
succeed at their work. They should also minimize the layers of bureaucracy.
- Praise Employees
Providing sincere recognition to employees should
be an everyday part of the job of all senior managers.
Take a lesson from a volunteer workforce. Instill in your
employees the true value of their work.
I am very much
interested in your views on this topic.
Please reply with your comments and
suggestions to .
TOP OF PAGE
All material is © copyright , Discovery Surveys, Inc.,