Hiring Volunteers

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Yes, employees can become volunteers for your corporate mission.  All workers are volunteers whether you pay them or not. With their free will, they choose how hard to work and how much to care. Don’t be surprised if the people who are only told WHAT their jobs are and HOW do to them don’t care much about their jobs. On the other hand, people can volunteer for the WHY—for the satisfaction of serving others. It’s the leaders’ goal to anchor that sense of purpose and recommend everyone to the ultimate good your organization provides.

In Hallelujah! An Anthem for Purposeful Work, we’ve outlined these key principles for developing a focus on the WHY which drives your employees—your paid volunteers—to become engaged in their work.

  • If you can’t tell an applicant why your service or company is important without words like “money,” “revenue,” “assets,” “profit,” or “market share,” then you’re hiring a laborer, not a believer. Discuss the opportunity you have to offer and how you make a difference in the lives of your employees.
  • You buy labor; you earn commitment. Salary and benefits are necessary to attract good employees, but not sufficient to retain them or to motivate them to excel. People will work for money, but they’ll show up with heart and soul for a cause.
  • Stop offering jobs and start offering opportunities. When you hire for a job you’re hiring a laborer; when you hire for an opportunity you’re hiring a believer. Answering the question “What are we offering employees besides salary and benefits?” will tell you whether or not you’re offering an opportunity.
  • Hire for values, train as needed. You can teach skills, but you and your staff can’t expect to teach work ethic and related values. Those were taught by parents, teachers, coaches, and clergy.
  • When screening applicants, search for those with proven accomplishments and talents, but with the added quality of overcoming obstacles, barriers, and hardships. These are the applicants who implicitly understand the power of Why.
  • A mission statement is ultimately a statement about hopes, dreams, and purpose. If you don’t have a mission statement, write one now. In forty or fewer simple, jargon-free, descriptive words, immediately comprehensible to a high school graduate, answer this question: How does our company improve the quality of life of its customers? Do this, tidy it up, and you have a mission statement; refer to it often.
  • Values such as “teamwork,” “integrity,” “excellence,” “quality,” and “trust” are high-level abstractions likely to confuse rather than help, especially if you have a diversity of employees. Consider conducting open meetings where employees arrive at consensus on group values and what they actually mean; focus on specific, concrete examples of these values in action. You will only have common ownership of workplace values if you have a common understanding of those values.
  • Re-think your employee orientation programs.  Turn them into employee welcoming programs focused on building loyalty. Teach your new hires policies, rules, and benefits after they have been formally welcomed and embraced, not before.
  • Ask applicants why they want to work for you and listen very closely. At that moment, they are practically telling you how good a fit they are for your organization.
  • If you’re a newer organization, talk about the legacy you want to create. If you’re an established organization and proud of your legacy, talk about it.  If you’re an established organization and embarrassed about your legacy, start changing today. Remember, all saints have a past and all sinners have a future.
  • Long-term success is driven by Why, What, and How. Short-term success is driven only by What and How.
  • Don’t get lost in the big data. Stay focused on the mission and on small, daily acts of purpose.

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