People are not their job descriptions

We attract and retain volunteers and donors when we connect their talents and interests to societal needs – when we satisfy their desire for meaning and personal growth. Why should it be different for the people we hire and work with?

Something changes during the course of a team member’s first months on the job. They are the same multifaceted person who was so appealing during the hiring process. But in the eyes of the organization they often become increasingly defined by their current role. Even as we get to know their personality, we forget about the less evident aspects of their skills and experience. This may be especially true of operations staff doing technical and clerical work.

Previous work experience, languages spoken, degrees and certifications earned, volunteer activities – do we remember these things, and do we provide ways for people to use them at work?

Who’s got a marketing degree? Who speaks Mandarin? Who’s volunteered for a homeless shelter? We could seek their advice on a project or program, or ask them to serve on a cross-functional team. Such opportunities to engage might be available to a broader range of team members than rewards, recognition, or promotion.

I have made this error, overlooking the curriculum vitae – literally the “course of (one’s) life” – for the mere sliver of a whole person that is a team member’s job description. How to be more deliberate about this is something I am still thinking about.

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