During my experience at Hayes Valley Farm in San Francisco I observed how the power of play could be a motivator for increasing employee & volunteer contribution, commitment and productivity. While many still believe the carrot and the stick are primary motivators for human beings, research and experience indicates a different story.
The one and only rule is “Have Fun!”
We owned the volunteer experience … but only 50%. During our volunteer orientation I would say, “When you enter the gate there is only one rule … ‘Have Fun!’ … if you’re not having fun, then find something more enjoyable to do, or walk out. We want you to leave that gate saying ‘I had a great time at Hayes Valley Farm’ … ”
It was this rule which laid a foundation for creativity, individual initiative taking, and volunteers who would return consistently week after week.
As a result … one of our lead volunteers, Booka, made it her priority to create a welcome table for everyone entering the gates. She said to me one day “I want people to be greeted and welcomed with enthusiasm when they arrive!” … “I want them to know they matter to us!” Booka set forth to create the welcome table, sign up volunteers to regularly attend to the table, and greeted thousands of volunteers who streamed in hoards of 50-150 each volunteer day.
Is it possible to party while you work? We thought so. For the first few months of the project we invited local bands to play on the farm while we worked. We called them “Work Parties!” With bands like The Jugtown Pirates and Timmy Mezzy we injected a sense of fun and play to their efforts. Secondly it created opportunities for us to record these parties and share them on our social media platforms to draw even more volunteers to the effort.
What strategies have you put into place in your organizations which use the power of play to motivate action?