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How-to Library • Featuring articles from past issues of Contributions

Cultivating a More Productive Staff

By Sarah Lange

In today’s economy, we need to maximize every resource we’ve got, including our staff!

Cultivating more productive members of the organization requires more than providing them with clear job descriptions, well thought-out work plans and first-rate supervision. You must help each staff member understand his/her role in and contribution to the organization’s mission. Research shows that when employees understand and feel valued for the roles they play, they will go the extra mile, with enthusiasm, to get the work done. Recognition of a job well done is, above all other factors, the key to motivating your staff. Here are some low-cost/no-cost ways you can accomplish this on a regular basis:

1. Praise your employees when they do a good job. We all like to receive praise and to be appreciated. With each member of your staff, it’s important to identify the specific actions or tasks -- even the routine ones -- that you find admirable. Praising the ordinary will help keep your staff motivated to perform even mundane tasks well. Simple statements such as "You're doing such a great job!" or asking if there are ways you can improve the quality and satisfaction of their work are significant gestures in the eyes of your staff. When you praise employees for a job well done, they know you’ve noticed their hard work. This will help them feel their job is meaningful; when people find meaning in their work, they’re more likely to give 110%.

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2. Recognize and respect diversity. Acknowledge the various holidays or special occasions that are celebrated by your staff. One way to do this is to allow for a "floating holiday" or flex time to accommodate staff members who may celebrate holidays on days when your organization is open. When the diversity of your staff is recognized and respected, employees will respect the organization in turn.

3. Show interest in your staff. Ask members of your staff about their families, hobbies, upcoming or past weekend, or a special event. Be sure to be friendly, not intrusive, and respect those folks who may wish to keep the details of their personal lives to themselves. Make sure you do everything you can to support a work-life balance. Consider including family members and friends in an agency outing – something as simple as a cook-out in a local park – or inviting them to an event. By showing a genuine interest in employees' personal lives, you send the message that you care about them as whole persons, not just as workers.

4. Offer staff members flexibility. Provide as much flexibility to each employee as possible. If it’s imperative that the office be open during certain hours, post a calendar so that people can balance their time off with that of other employees or for them to trade shifts or days, or to make up time by working at home on an evening or weekend. Allowing flexible scheduling sends the message that employees' family and personal obligations are valued.

5. Present staff with small tokens of appreciation. Know the interests of staff members well enough to present small gifts or cards that are reflective of their personalities and/or job duties. These gestures will brighten their day and motivate them to keep up the good work.

6. A simple "thank you" can do wonders. These are two of the most powerful words in the English language and go straight to the heart. Saying "thank you" builds staff loyalty, which in turn builds stability. An appreciated staff is a motivated staff and, therefore, a more productive staff. When you show your employees that you appreciate their hard work and dedication,   they are motivated to continue the good work for your organization. Every positive comment helps boost an employee's self esteem. When you continue to do this on a regular basis, don't be surprised if your staff starts thanking you and showing you more appreciation in return.

Putting these measures into action will help you attract and retain good staff members, who understand and are eager to fulfill their role in helping to realize the mission of the organization and are willing to go the extra mile to get the work done.

Counsel to more than 150 organizations and their leaders, Sarah Lange is the Principal & Founder of New Era for Non-profits, a consulting firm focused on helping non-profits integrate best practices into their daily operations. Sarah has spent more than two decades in the field of non-profit management and is well known and respected for her depth and breadth of expertise in all aspects of fund development, organizational change, leadership and board development, strategic planning, needs assessments and evaluation. http://newera4nonprofits.com/


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