Liz Ryan spent 20 years as a corporate human resources leader. During that time, she saw the best and worst of how employers treat their employees. She's now a full-time writer and consultant on workplaces and writes a regular column for Bloomberg Businessweek, all with the goal of "bringing more humanity into the workplace," as she puts it. And she has a unique perspective on church culture—as an accomplished vocalist, she often tours churches in Colorado where she lives. Through those visits, she has gained an appreciation for the dynamics at work with church pastors and personnel.
She sat down with editor Matt Branaugh to talk more about how churches as employers can reward and honor their employees—especially since raises can be hit or miss, depending on place, position, and person. Not to fret, Ryan says. There are a lot of positive things church leaders can do—whether or not money is available for raises.
In Part 1, Ryan talks about the first four ways churches can reward and recognize employees when raises aren't possible. In Part 2, she talks about the final three ways and her thoughts about the how and why of implementation:
What is one immediate thing many churches can do to reward staff, absent of a pay raise or a new health benefit, but might overlook?
"We tend to think of churches or nonprofit organizations and assume they have a special burden because they don't necessarily have the cash or fancy stuff to throw around. But even in the big corporations and organizations that you'd expect to have the cash and fancy stuff to throw around, the biggest issue is recognition and the value of employee contributions.
This can come a variety of ways. For instance, it can be as simple as making it a habit to ask the front desk receptionist how to do things better in the church office.
Leadership is free. Management is expensive. Having to watch people on (the management) side of the equation, making sure they don't do the wrong thing, writing the policies—that's expensive and time consuming. Leading people the way they'd like to be led, giving them latitude, and really recognizing their contributions—that's pretty cheap. That's free.
People know the state of finances. But senior pastors need to understand their situation is no different than any other leader [who is] responsible for people. They say, ‘I'm a senior pastor and I have such limited chips. I've got so little cash, it's hard to talk about. It's painful.' And they assume it's maybe best to put everything under wraps and not talk at all. That's the last thing they should be doing. Once a month, they should say ‘Hey Jack, you're a great youth pastor and I hope I tell you that enough. I would pay you more. You know our finances and know we're not in a position to do it, but I would if I could because you deserve that. Your contribution is massive.'
That's the conversation you can have when you don't have the cash. For many people, when it's sincere, that's as meaningful as the cash. If people are motivated by soul energy, give it to them!
What else can church leaders do? Words and recognition are definitely valuable, but are there other gestures, perhaps ones more tangible, that can make a difference?
"When you don't have cash, give away soft stuff. You have a lot of flexibility:
- Provide flexibility in the job. Obviously this depends on the role. If it's the person answering the phone, maybe there's not much room to wriggle here. But for someone who is a youth pastor, give them flexibility; give them some chances to work from home, or maybe don't hold them to strict hours. As a recipient of this flexibility, I'm now in a position to coach my child's soccer team on Tuesdays and Thursdays because the pastor lets me leave early. That's a big thing for people.
- Time off. It kills me when a leader of an organization says I don't want to give more than two weeks of vacation because ‘time is money.' You have the ability to compete on that with other employers, and to not do it to save the money—it's not even money. It's time. You'll win more in loyalty from staff than in the time you'd get from them that week they were there.
- Let staff use your facility for their groups and events for free. The real estate for churches ends up being a significant asset. Give that as a perk to your staff members. Doing this also gives additional branding for your church in the community because it gives value to groups and brings people in your doors.
Read Part 2 of Matt Branaugh's interview with Liz Ryan.
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