Head and Heart – an Unbeatable Combination

One of the keys to our organization’s success has been our ability to attract and keep a lot of terrifically talented people. As a large, diversified organization that operates in a highly competitive environment, we require a level of talent comparable to that of any organization of similar size in any of the sectors. The fact that over half of our 2500 employees rely on us as the primary source of income in their households further magnifies how essential it is for us to have people who can operate our businesses really well.

There’s a major difference, though, between our requirements and – with some notable exceptions – those of most companies in the for-profit world. For example, in our retail, commercial services, and support functions (e.g. Accounting, IT, Human Resources, Facilities Management, Marketing), we must have a lot of people who have really good business or related functional skills. In addition, though, they must also have a strong commitment to our mission. We must have the “head” and the “heart.” For Goodwill – a not-for-profit social enterprise – that’s an unbeatable combination.

Commitment to mission has always been an important requirement in all parts of our organization, and for many years we’ve also recognized the need for good business skills in our retail and commercial services operations. But early in my career I did not appreciate enough how important it is for us to also have top talent in our support functions. When we finally started hiring people who could elevate the performance level of those functions, we found that they added substantial value to the direct service and revenue generating parts of the organization. From that experience, I concluded that it’s a mistake to try to minimize overhead. Rather, our objective should be to optimize it. We’ve also seen that in any part of our organization highly talented people who are committed to mission enable us to be more effective and more productive. In other words, they enable us to be better stewards of our resources. They earn their keep many times over.

There are a lot of talented people who want more meaning from their work. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t talk with at least one person who has spent the last fifteen or twenty years in a job or career that he or she doesn’t enjoy. They are looking for more satisfaction out of what they do to earn a living, and many of them are hoping to find such an opportunity in the not-for-profit world.

This desire for more meaning is not confined to people in the U.S. Recently, a manager in a Goodwill store in South Korea told me he was 50 years old, had 21 years of retail experience, and had wanted more meaning out of the work he would do for the rest of his life. Goodwill in Korea gave him such an opportunity, and he felt he was now in his “second life.” From what I could tell, he and Goodwill in Korea are fortunate to have each other.

I do not believe that one can find such meaningful opportunities only in a particular type of organization or sector of our society. In fact, I know there are many unfulfilling, unrewarding situations in the not-for-profit world, as well as in other sectors. But I’m certainly grateful that our organization has been attractive to a lot of highly talented people who, with Goodwill, have found a place that’s a good fit with their “heads” and their “hearts.”