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Why do your staff show up? Staff motivations, needs, and priorities

I recently attended a two-part mindfulness-based counselling workshop: Working with Couples from a Hakomi Perspective, offered by Hakomi Edmonton.

While this may not sound like it would directly connect to work at Volunteer Alberta, I was curious how this mindfulness approach to interpersonal relationships might relate to nonprofit staff management and brought back some insights to share with our staff.

How can staff find connection, security, and freedom at work?

triangleOne of the tools we looked at during the workshop is the Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance. In couples’ counselling, it’s helpful to explore what connectedness, security, and freedom in a relationship look like to each person, and what each person tends to value the most.

This relationship lens can be applied to nonprofit staff.

We all assess how well our jobs meet our needs based on factors like income, interest, passion, benefits, flexibility, location, colleagues, workplace culture, and so on. Some of these things are more important than others, based on who we are and the current demands of our lives.

What do these needs and priorities look like in the workplace?

Connectedness – Feeling connected to our work might include our passion, motivation, or investment in a cause or project. It could also mean strong relationships with our colleagues or clients.

Security – Job security, income, benefits, and opportunities for advancement  all provide security. But there are other subtle ways our jobs offer us security, like friendly and supportive workplace culture, or good reputations in our communities.

Freedom – Having freedom at work might mean pursuing projects that interest us, or having input at decision-making tables. It can also include flexibility, vacation time, and even succession planning to make it less difficult to move on from our jobs when the time comes.

Reminder: staff will relate to the Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance differently

  • Staff will define connectedness, security, and freedom differently
  • Staff will rank the importance and priority of each differently
  • Staff communicate their needs and priorities differently
  • Staff react differently when they aren’t getting what they need at work

What might this look like at your organization?

happy-hipster

A staff member who puts freedom first might jump at the chance to guide a new project or start a social enterprise for your organization. They might also be happy to forego the security of higher pay for more vacation time or flexibility.

A staff member who puts security before connectedness might be okay working on something they aren’t passionate about as long as the job is a full-time, permanent position.

On the other hand, someone who values connectedness over security might speak from their heart about an issue they are passionate about in staff meetings, even if doing so could put their job security at risk.

If the Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance aligns with nonprofit staff management, now what?

The Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance is a powerful tool to begin to get to know what motivates different staff so that you can meet their needs and support their success.

There isn’t a cookie cutter solution for how to motivate your staff to do their best. It typically isn’t possible to recruit or retain every person with the same perks and benefits, so knowing what staff members value is useful when you have limited resources.

Questions you might ask include:

Is a staff member more motivated by taking control of a project, or are they happy to work on what you give them as long as they can count on consistency?

Would they prefer a better benefits package, or the ability to work from home?

2-attrib-wocintechFor team members, it can also be helpful to understand what is important to your colleagues. Knowing where people are coming from and acknowledging differences can go a long way in combatting assumptions, confusion, and frustration.

With this tool, your staffs’ motivations may be becoming more clear to you. What questions would you still like to ask the people you work with?

Think of how you could apply the Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance in year-end staff reviews or in your hiring process. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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