Seeing People as People, Part 1: Employees

What matters to you?

Joining Vision and Action and M3 Consulting are teaming up to conduct a survey and analysis of what kinds of rewards (or benefits) are most meaningful to nonprofit and social enterprise workers.

Take Survey Here

Nora Welch, Senior Leadership Development Associate at Joining Vision and Action (JVA)

You know the drill—nonprofits can’t afford to pay well. While I think there is some room to explore that expensive sentence, I also know that, in large part, it’s true—which is why it is essential to find other ways to compensate employees.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to be employed at many great organizations throughout my career. In addition to having outstanding teams and inspiring missions, these employers also recognized the value of taking a person-centered approach and doing business from the heart.

These organizations represent the idea of “seeing people as people” instead of objects. Described in the book, Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute, we’re either “seeing others straightforwardly as they are—as people like me who have needs and desires as legitimate as my own—or [we’re] not.”[1]

“Ok, great. But what does that have to do with compensation?”

Everything—especially if your financial resources are strained. People are your organization’s single most valuable resource. People are who meet, greet, and serve your client or customer. People are the source of the behind-the-scene efforts that keep the wheels turning. People drive and support your organization’s mission. People are non-negotiable.

If you’re in the business of community and social change, you are in the business of people.

Therefore, it’s imperative to recognize the importance of staff. The fun and exciting thing is that demonstrating it doesn’t have to look a certain way and it doesn’t have to be costly.

Here are just a few of my own examples of how non-monetary offerings by my employers went a long way to creating happiness, motivation, retention and loyalty. Their actions left me …

Feeling valued.

Hand-written “thank you” notes. “You’re a star” emails. Invitations to appreciation luncheons. Requests for insights on unrelated work projects. Recognition in the monthly newsletter. Sharing more about the “why” behind workplace changes or decisions, especially if they are complicated or controversial. Giving a “heads up.” These things don’t take much—only time, and not much at that—and the return is tremendous.

Feeling remembered.

Following an exhausting and exhilarating process, I purchased my first home. I had briefly mentioned it to my employer to request some time away to take care of the closing. Shortly thereafter, I received a gift card to Home Depot from my employer. Although this example involves monetary value, to me what was most touching was the gift’s customization to my situation. My employer had thought about what would be useful and accessible for me, and then made the effort to make it happen.

Feeling human.

This might be my favorite example. Every year at Thanksgiving, our entire staff would receive a frozen turkey (which then turned into an equal-value grocery store gift card). Managers would travel around to all of the departments with the “turkeys,” expressing their gratitude for our service and their well-wishes for our families and for the holiday season. I always appreciated this acknowledgement of not only my contributions but also my life outside of work.

There are so many ways that employees can feel better about their jobs without adding more to their salary. (Though that’s nice, too!)

A little thought can go a long way. Lead a little more with your heart, changemakers. It’s worth it.

Beyond offering benefits, I invite us all to think a little more about how we can create a more people-focused space for our colleagues. Perhaps by asking the question: if the roles were reversed in this situation, would I feel like I am being treated as a person or an object?

Please share your thoughts.

The survey will only be open until May 19.


[1] The Arbinger Institute. (2002). Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the box. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

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