Work for Free?

If you stopped paying your employees, how many would continue to work for you?

Yes, I know that they appreciate being paid, and most do not have the luxury of working for no pay. But let’s ignore that for a moment, and ask the question again: If you were not able to pay your employees, what would you do in order to attract and retain volunteers to keep your organization going?

Peter Drucker has said that not-for-profit organizations are the leading edge of leadership, because leaders in those organizations have to lead people much more effectively, since a large part of their workforce is volunteer. Volunteers work for an organization because they are attracted to the vision and mission and purpose, and because they are treated with respect.

To be truly revolutionary, you could ask your employees why they work for you. Hint: most people do not work primarily for the money. Most people could find another job making roughly the same income. Why do they stay with you?

And then ask them what they would like to see changed to make their work experience more meaningful.

However, be aware that the mere act of asking these questions raises expectations on the part of the employees, so before you ask them, you’ll need to be committed to do something with their answers.

GloryBee, in Eugene, has a formal process of asking each employee a series of questions like this (outside of the performance review). The dialogue between employee and supervisor has 9 questions, each of which is answered by the employee and the supervisor. The first question is, “What made you choose GloryBee as your employer?” The form is posted in the Ideas section of our website.

If you stopped paying your employees, how many would continue to work for you?

Gary Langenwalter