Monday, December 15, 2014

Attracting and Keeping Good People: in Business or the Church

 Attracting and keeping good people is a common problem in industry and in the local church. Businesses need hard workers who contribute their ideas and effort to improve the business. Churches need strong members who participate and volunteer in ministry to others. They are the ones who serve rather than waiting to be served. 
How do we attract such people to our business and our church? How then do we keep them?

Several years ago I started the West Coast Division of a company headquartered in Northern Virginia. After several successful years things began to change - slowly at first, then more abruptly. The changes began on one of my trips to headquarters.

It was snowing outside the windows of the dark paneled boardroom, on the top floor of a high rise office building outside the Washington DC beltway. Our professional services company had just merged with a larger corporation and the new CEO was making his first presentation to the new team. My position as Director of Western Operations was not going to change, but my worldview was about to take a hit. Our company had been run as a family. Now, it was explained, we would be run as a corporation. Change is inevitable, but at the time I had no idea how much it would impact my personal life.

In his book the “Outliers, The Story of Success,” author Malcolm Gladwell writes that to make any job satisfying requires autonomy, complexity, and a connection between reward and effort. Before the merger my employees were given considerable autonomy, their tasks were considerably complex, and we had a bonus system which was available to every employee. Our division maintained the lowest turnover rate, lowest overhead and highest profitability of all divisions.

After the merger things changed; corporate headquarters put little value on individual employees; emphasis was placed on immediate return, and bonuses would be restricted to executive level only. While my personal bonus increased substantially, my team lost the relationship between reward and effort. Salaries could not change as they were set contractually by our customer.  Our team lost much of its autonomy as a result of more oversight. For a time, I was able to be a buffer between the corporate attitudes in Washington and our west coast team. But as people realized the changes our turnover rate increased.
At the time I was becoming more involved with our church and Christian ministry. Still we considered it a part-time gig while keeping my secular position. It didn’t take long for ministry to become more satisfying than business. It was then we walked away from our high income, and started to move into full time ministry.

The means to attracting and keeping great people is to provide great satisfaction. Satisfaction in the church resembles satisfaction in the workplace and can be accomplished by providing autonomy, complexity, and a relationship between reward and effort. 

1.     Autonomy: Autonomy means independence or freedom. Whether on the job or in the pew, people need to feel that they are important. Leaders who are overbearing and controlling may get away with it for a while but the workers or parishioners will leave if given the opportunity. Old line factory workers, migrant farm workers, and members of the more legalistic churches have very little autonomy. A good leader delegates responsibly and gives freedom to those he leads. An orbital model of relationship held together by mutual attraction provides autonomy as opposed to a hierarchal model.

2.     Complexity: To be satisfied in our job, it must have a challenge. Just putting widgets into gadgets does not keep us motivated. In the church, we must also be challenged. Simplistic, homilies which entertain but do not inspire, do not challenge. Churches which teach the deeper things of the God’s Word and life will continue to attract and keep members. A more complex teaching in the church will attract and keep stronger members.

3.     Connection between reward and effort: Do not consider only monetary rewards for effort in business or in a church. An employee needs to feel his effort is appreciated. Complimentary and encouraging words are even more important. An early boss of mine would give out titles rather than increase pay. A church member needs positive affirmation as well for a task well done, but also needs to be accountable for negative behavior.

Whether you are a business leader or a pastor, you will be able to attract and keep great people by considering these three; Autonomy, Complexity, and Relationship between reward and effort.

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