Leadership is about creating jobs with meaning and purpose

smithgregoryLR.jpg Do you want a job or do you want to have a job that has purpose? One truth supersedes all backgrounds, cultures and generations: People want to be part of an organization that means something.

viewpoint.jpg When an organization means something, people are willing to give more. Let’s face it, most employees have a "here today, gone tomorrow" attitude toward their work. They know their jobs may vanish when the company hits hard times or changes direction. With this kind of skeptical attitude, their loyalty to their employer may only be skin deep.

But when meaning is present, loyalty is deeper. That’s why people work for nonprofit organizations, or dedicate themselves to building houses for Habitat for Humanity. And it’s the reason an employer that can create meaning and purpose and align its employees with its mission will have a more dedicated, productive and profitable crew.

Embree Robinson is the founder and president of TRC Staffing, a $200 million temporary staffing agency with 75 offices in the southeastern United States and on the West Coast.

The worker shortage hits this company square in the face, especially when you consider at any time it may have 500 workers less than it needs to fill openings for its clients.

Embree’s personal experience shows there is no one way to attract, keep and motivate his hard-won work force. According to Embree, a lot of things have changed in today’s work force, but two things remain constant: "The company must stand for something, and the leadership is what makes it work."

Embree takes this challenge personally. He stays in touch with his people as much as possible without being a micromanager. He practices a people-centered approach to management and visits about 25 branch offices a quarter.

During each visit he sits down with the branch managers and listens while they discuss their goals and review their overall performance and tells everyone where they are heading. During the holiday season, Embree adds levity by giving out turkeys and Christmas presents while dressed as Santa Claus.

Embree says that people want two things out of their professional relationship: challenge and security. Challenge means the opportunity to grow professionally as well as financially. Branch managers have the option to "buy into the company" and become shareholders.

The corporate office also rewards each branch office with a hefty 20 percent of the profits. Ten percent goes to the office managers, and the other 10 percent is split among branch employees.

To feel secure, people need to know company rules and expectations. They also want their boss to keep them informed about where the company is heading.

Workers today want to know the strategic direction of the company, Embree says. They have ideas and expect upper management to listen to them or they will walk to the next employer who will listen and provide them the information they need and expect.

Prescription for action

* Ensure employees understand the mission, values and purpose of the organization;

* Allow employees to easily switch jobs within the organization;

* Conduct a comprehensive orientation program for all employees;

* Take the time to understand the needs, expectations and motivations of your employees;

* Take more time selecting employees;

* When hiring people don’t misrepresent the job opportunities available at your organization;

* Allow employees opportunities to participate in volunteer activities outside work;

* Involve all departments in strategic planning;

* Ensure senior leaders verbalize and demonstrate organizational goals and direction;

* Develop goals in alignment with the strategic plan; and

* Identify trends and issues that will impact on the organization.

Gregory P. Smith leads the management consulting firm called Chart Your Course in Conyers, Ga. He can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

04/21/2001 - 8:00pm