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Fill your business with volunteers!

As a frequent business traveler, I headed off to the airport this week, on my way to the MYOB’s Sydney office. With one eye firmly on the news, I watched anxiously to see if I would become one of the estimated 6000 passengers inconvenienced by the nationwide Qantas crew strike that was in progress around the country.

As the strike dragged on (with thankfully no disruption to my flight), it occurred to me that maybe the Qantas internal culture has created a workforce of ‘just employees’ – folks who see their career with the airline as just “a job”.  On the other hand, airlines like Virgin and Air New Zealand appear have team members who seem genuinely pleased to be are work, with engaging business cultures – the folks at Air NZ all call themselves Air New Zealanders.

Let me be completely clear that when I say that you should be striving for a workforce full of ‘volunteers’, I’m not suggesting that you don’t pay them! Great businesses harbor a working environment that gives staff a volunteer mentality.  Let’s look at the difference:

–       Employees arrive on time and leave on time. Volunteers arrive as early as they’re needed, and will stay until the job is finished.

–       Employees fulfill the terms of their job description. Volunteers look for innovation, create movements, and are willing to assist others to achieve common goals.

–       Employees show up every day because you pay them to. Volunteers create a vibrant work environment because they genuinely enjoy being part of the team.

Employees become volunteers once they are inspired, motivated and truly believe in the organization they work for. They are passionate brand advocates. Their positive interactions with customers reinforce your company’s image.  They’re generally more productive and willing to go above and beyond.

So how do you get there?

One of the simplest ways to create a volunteer environment is to listen to your staff. I once read that you should follow the 2:1 rule in order to become a good manager – that is you should be listening to two things from your staff for every one thing you say to them.

You also can ensure you’re leading by example. New research has shown that an incredible 52% of employees want a leader who is inspirational, above all other traits including congeniality and experience. Perhaps Qantas employees were less than ‘inspired’ by CEO Alan Joyce’s refusal to meet union salary requests while enjoying a 71% pay rise for himself earlier this year.

Taking the time to value your employees really does add value to your business, whatever its size. Qantas share prices dropped immediately in the wake of this week’s strike, and there’s sure to be a few upper management and PR team headaches over the next few days. A great reason for Qantas to focus on building a positive volunteer working environment, if I ever heard one.

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Julian Smith

Julian Smith

Julian Smith is responsible for MYOB’s corporate affairs, government and public relations in Australia and New Zealand and is also New Zealand general manager. The qualified lawyer has spent much of his career at large multinationals in a range of senior legal, sales, marketing and customer management roles. Julian is a regular keynote speaker and business commentator and sits on a number of government and industry boards and advisory panels. Julian can be found on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/JulianTSmith">@JulianTSmith</a> or contacted via email Julian.smith@myob.com

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