VFA Virginia Forests Winter 2023

WINTER 2023 11 while they are there. How much effort they volunteer is not just on them; it’s also on you as their employer. Pick any work team, even the staff at your local diner. Everyone on that team and most regular customers can tell who on that team puts forth the most effort. They stand out because they work harder or better than the others. Why? Because— for some unique reasons—they want to. They are volunteering more effort even though they are paid the same as their colleagues. Just think about where, when, and how you volunteer your time and effort. Make a list of your volunteer jobs, why you do them, and why you give more or less effort than you might. I think you’ll find that your choices are very personal and unique to you, especially when you volunteer your time as a leader in those groups where you get nothing more tangible but still expend mountains more time and effort. Leaders of true volunteers know that volunteers do things for their own reasons. The same is true with today’s workforce. The newest generations in today’s workforce are as capable as any other and in many ways more so, but like any other generation, they have different values (i.e., what’s important to them). As a result, you can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails. This shift puts the onus on us to change enough to earn new workforce’s participation in our workplaces and bring forth the effort that is ultimately theirs to give—voluntarily. Tom Davidson, CSP, PCC, SPHR is a forester and leadership expert who has coached hundreds of new managers, emerging leaders, and senior executives in the private and public sector. He earned BS degrees in forestry and agricultural economics from North Carolina State University, an MBA from the University of Richmond, and an MS in organization development from The American University and NTL Institute in Washington, DC. Tom is the author of The 8 Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make: Surviving Your Transition to a Leadership Position. As founder of LeadershipNature, he works with a wide variety of natural resource agencies, companies, non-profits and associations. For more information, email tom@leadershipnature.com or call 804-339-4653. Fit. No matter what their experience, certifications, and degrees, you are going to have to train new employees on the skills and practices unique to your organization anyway, so hire for fit and train for skills. WIIFM. Beyond the paycheck, the new workforce is looking for “What’s in it for me,” which requires you to find and address these factors for each employee. For example, they might want a particular kind of flexible schedule, certain opportunities for leadership, personal mentoring, or support for participating in their professional associations. Choice. When people have options about what they do, how they do it, and what they get, their voluntary effort naturally increases because their preferences are respected. Offering benefit options and giving choices about how a task gets done are good examples. Involvement. When people are involved in solving problems and making the plans that they will have to execute, their discretionary effort goes up again. This could be involvement at the front end or as the project unfolds. Find ways to get employee fingerprints on the task. Autonomy. Like most factors, the desire for personal autonomy and the willingness to take initiative varies by individual personality, but the more you can free employees to accomplish clear goals and tasks on their own, the more discretionary effort you will earn. Recognition. While people still prefer various kinds of thanks and recognition, research indicates that the new workforce responds favorably to a higher ratio of positive to critical feedback than in the past, the ratio increasing from 3:1 to 5:1 in the last few years. Personal Growth. Your best employees will be active learners, those seeking to build their skills, take on stretch assignments, and achieve more and more of their personal potential. If you don’t give them that opportunity, your best employees will seek it elsewhere. Hiring techniques, pay, and benefits are a Rubik’s Cube of their own for our industry and others (see Fortuna, N., December 2022, “Who Wants a Job?” The Consultant Magazine, 2023 Annual Journal, pp. 16-20). For the generational secret sauce on top of those factors, here are some keys for how to attract and retain the paid-volunteer workforce by doing what’s important for them: