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“I Want to Help People”

My 2 ½ year old granddaughter is fascinated by what Mommy, Daddy, Grandpa and Grandma do when they are at work.  When told “He/she is at work”, she persists, and asks repeatedly “What he/she doing?”  Ultimately we have to simplify the explanation, and it often comes down to “helping people.”  So, now, when she plays that she is “going to work” and trots off happily with a handbag, in grown-up shoes, and we ask her what she’s doing, she says, “I help people.”

This got me thinking, that often when recruiters ask people what they really want to be doing in the workplace, the answer is some version of “I want to help people.”  Of course we explore, and find out in detail what that really means to the person and of course we get much more complex answers about how they want to exercise this help, be it in sales, or producing a product, or improving processes or even increasing profits and running a company.

So this got me thinking further, that fundamentally what people want is jobs with meaning.  Beyond a paycheck, people want to clearly understand the ultimate outcome of their job, and how it impacts other people.   Employers who provide such an environment – where people understand and feel tied to the actual outcome of their efforts, reap the rewards of good morale, low turnover, greater productivity, etc.

The key ways that an employer can make this happen are:

  • Encourage people to find their passion.  Try to give each employee the ability to do something they will find personally meaningful.
  • Be clear in communication.  Make sure every employee, from the Senior VP to the Janitor, can see the big picture and the details of exactly what their work does to further the company’s goals.
  • Tie personal objectives to company objectives.  Be even more clear in spelling out personal objectives that show people the linkage of their direct efforts to company goals.
  • Empower people to make decisions, interact with your customers (at appropriate levels) and avoid micromanaging.  Let people own what they do.
  • Give feedback.  Especially when something works – tell people how and why it is important.  When something doesn’t work – provide feedback that goes beyond criticism, and enables the individual to actually do better the next time.
  • Provide rewards and incentives tied to how you want people to help you.

I hope when my granddaughter grows up she will really understand how she is helping people in her work, because then she will look just as happy as she does now, as she goes “off to work.”