Fortune Magazine annually publishes a list of the best companies to work for in the United States. In 2013, eleven of the top 100 companies were nonprofits. Of these eleven companies, nine were health related organizations and one was a credit union. Only, one fit the bill of what would be considered a “traditional nonprofit organization” – Teach for America.
Founded in 1990 (based on a research paper by its founder), in its first year Teach for America placed 500 teachers in schools located in low-income communities. Since then, according to its website, “more than 33,000 participants have reached more than 3 million children”. Today, it has 48,000 applications and places approximately 5600 new corps members in 46 regions. In 2011 they reported $229 million in revenue. Teach for America is doing something right!
We have all heard management gurus, business people, and countless consultants say that “people” are an organization’s most valuable asset. In an effort to invest in and motivate their staffs, many companies and organizations designed and implemented elaborate training programs and performance based metrics. Both have a place if well done, but neither provides the foundation for great performance and amazing staff impact. In fact, often they are modeled on the remnants of a bygone era of assembly lines and time cards.
Even in the non-manufacturing realms of the social sector, Industrial Age management systems continue to frame how we expect jobs to be performed and how we measure performance. These systems are modeled on a structure in which Vice Presidents do the thinking, directors (e.g. supervisors) do the talking and employees do the doing. People are provided a litany of functions and then measured based on how they achieved these specific functions. Knowledge, efficiency and effectiveness, the mainstays of Industrial Age service standards, continue to shape performance expectations across most private and social sectors. More often than not, creative problem solving and empowered authority are neither encouraged nor nurtured. Thus it is no surprise that most staff come to understand their work environments as Pavlonian systems of response and reward.
Ultimately, what differentiates great nonprofits from poor ones is the establishment of a professional culture that encourages staff potential, rather than the management of staff functions.
Great organizations establish an environment that embraces and fosters the 3 P’s:
- Purpose –Every member of the team (regardless of level) has a clear sense of the mission, vision and purpose of what the organization does and how they fit into achieving the purpose.
- Pride – The people who work in your organization feel proud of their work, their jobs and the difference they make.
- emPowerment – Your colleagues are treated like human beings with the freedom to act independently and do what is in the best interest of your organization when the situation demands, rather than like robots who must always follow strict policies and protocols.
To grow and achieve maximum impact in today’s economic and competitive environment, successful social sector organizations have learned to fully unleash the human potential of their work forces. The research consistently shows that great organizations are always those where employees LOVE to come to work.
As humans we grow comfortable with the status quo. We embrace single digit growth in campaigns. We celebrate consistent attendance figures and we rejoice at large one time crowds at one –off events. While we may say we need to innovate, we need to change, we need to try new things, in the end, as long as our organization is still breathing and alive, we accept where we are and how we act.
And yet, while it is still alive…..is it truly living? Is it achieving everything that it can?
Organizations that truly make an impact, like Teach for America, captivate the imaginations of all its constituents by unfurling the wings of freedom, igniting the spark of human emotion and focusing their energies by daily affirming the importance of Purpose, Pride and emPowerment.
Exciting organizations like this are within our grasps. Isn’t that where would you rather work and volunteer?
As a reader of this blog, I would like to offer you a free one hour consultation to discover how you can capture the 3 “P’s”. Please give me a call at 404 606 6755 or email me to schedule your appointment or for more information.
To learn more about my services please also visit my website.