Why would salesman Bill Soham work overtime to earn a chance to sleep on the ground in a Guatemalan village? After all, this Maryland-based Academy Mortgage sales professional was used to incentive trips to luxury hotels with tall drinks by the pool.
Bill admits that while he enjoyed those Hawaiian getaways, he never changed his work habits to earn the rewards. But when he heard that the company’s top salespeople this year would be building a water system in an impoverished Central American village, he said, “I’m going on this trip if it’s the last thing I do.” And then he started burning the midnight oil.
What motivated him: An opportunity to directly make a difference to the world—and in this specific case, a poor village in need of water.
Bill’s case isn’t an outlier. Research shows many people work harder when they are given the chance to make a real difference to the world around them. In fact, according to a 2012 study from NetImpact published in the Deseret News, people who are able to make a direct social and environmental impact through their job report higher satisfaction in their jobs than people who don’t—by a whopping two to one margin!
A few more stats: 65 percent of college students and 51 percent of current workers said that their ideal job would help them make the world better. And 58 percent of people would even go so far as to receive a 15 percent pay cut if their organization’s values were more like their own.
Here’s a great example of this we bumped into not long ago: Boston Pizza in Canada for years has partnered with the Heart and Stoke Foundation to run a system-wide promotion every February 14th, Valentine’s Day. On that special day, the chain sells heart-shaped pieces of paper for two dollars. Guests write their names on the cards and affix them to the walls and all the proceeds go directly to the Foundation.
But there’s a twist. The company also sells heart-shaped pizzas that day.
Now, we have no research to prove this, but if you ask most women what they’d like for Valentine’s Day, the list would probably include jewelry, flowers, and a gift certificate to Nordstrom’s. You’d be hard stretched to add a pizza to the list. (“Gee, I hope he remembers the olives!”) But do you know what the number one sales day is for Boston Pizza every year? February 14.
Some of Boston Pizza’s restaurants raise amazing amounts of money for the Foundation. And it’s something that helps employees feel good about making a contribution to something bigger. That’s the payoff.
But what if you manage a call center in Nebraska or a factory in Des Moines? What if you don’t have the resources to send your employees on a humanitarian trip to Guatemala or the desire to make heart-shaped pizzas? Don’t give up hope. Here are a few ways that you can help your people make a difference.
- Work on a service project. Challenge your team with a stretch monthly service, sales or safety goal and if they meet it, take a full day to do something to better the local community. Include everyone.
- Donate Together. Contribute a day’s profit/tips/donations to a charity that your team has voted on (hint: not one suggested by you, the manager).
- Get Green. Brainstorm ways to cut down on energy consumption in the building or on your commutes and put the ideas into practice.
The bottom line, while I admit this trend to reward with service is still young, businesses that do not provide opportunities for employees to get involved in corporate philanthropy efforts may be doing themselves a disservice.