Lifetime Employment

Lifetime employment (an employer’s guarantee of a job for life) sounds like a utopian idea. Think about it before you discard it as whimsy.

Most workers in the US see their jobs as temporary because their employers see their employment as temporary. As a leader, you have the opportunity to change your staff’s attitude and significantly alter the dynamics of your workplace to better support your clients, staff, other stakeholders, mission, and community.

If each of your employees is promised lifetime employment, it would imply that they could only be fired for the most grievous of offenses. It would force your nonprofit to be very careful about who is hired. You would only hire those who are a good fit and have the potential to be a great fit over time. In addition, you would be committed to helping them become a great fit. It would significantly reduce turnover, which would significantly increase productivity and continuity of service for your clients. There would also be significant savings in recruiting, training, and other personnel-related expenses.

Lifetime employment also implies that you are committed to each employee’s career development. Helping to manage each employee’s career ensures you will have a highly productive and effective workforce for a very long time. Your commitment to their careers will increase their commitment to your mission.

When each employee is passionate about your mission, it helps to ensure they are committed to working in the best interest of your mission. Knowing that you are committed to their futures will help to ensure they are committed to doing what is best for your mission. The sustainability of your mission is directly tied to the sustainability of their careers.

The higher level of commitment from both sides creates a higher level of trust. The trust also empowers them to take initiative but carefully because they want to honor the trust that has been placed in them. When people can take initiative, good ideas bloom and your clients benefit, which makes it easier to fulfill the promises of your mission statement and create additional value for your community.

With a personal commitment to the mission employees will do what is needed rather than just what is required. Taking their performance to the next level will again be beneficial to the clients, increase sustainability, and make your mission more valuable and relevant to your community.

Next Step:

Select employees as if they were going to be permanent employees

Train employees as if your goal was to maximize their value to themselves and your mission over the next 40 years

It may seem like there are dire circumstance that would force you to fire someone (significant downturn in the economy for instance). As a result, creating a policy which prohibits firing only in the most egregious of circumstance seems like bad idea. However, you can still implement all of the preceding without having a formal policy. Make the commitment to never fire anyone the hallmark of your leadership.

By the way, even in the worst of all possible downturns it will be unnecessary to fire anyone. If everyone has permanent employment then everyone is working for mutual benefit. This means that people will do what is necessary to minimize any negative impact on your nonprofit. Even so, it might seem necessary to eliminate X% of the workforce until things improve. If that is the case the staff has the option to either let X% be laid off or let everyone take a temporary pay cut of X%. If anyone objects to the pay cut, they are saying they would rather risk losing their job than make a sacrifice for the good of the team. They are putting their personal interests ahead of the mission and the team.

The purpose of your mission is to serve and strengthen your community. By committing to retain all members of your staff, you are ensuring they will never be a burden on your community. You are also ensuring that your nonprofit will have the staff and skills to serve your community during difficult times.

Your commitment to your employees determines their commitment to your nonprofit and mission.

Take It Further:

Ask your board members, volunteers, and donors to make the same commitment you and your employees are making to your mission, clients, and community


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