As educated professionals, we can’t all answer the four-killer questions of professional passion relative to our day job. We’ve all dreamed of some passion-driven, grass-is-greener scenario that let’s us realize opportunities above and beyond those in our current role. Sometimes an opportunity to lead, to create or simply earn more money, the siren’s song has played for just about all of us at one time or another.
And yet oddly, almost every employment agreement that I’ve encountered specifically speaks to the Company’s perspective on moonlighting, and typically, in a negative tone. It seems counterintuitive that companies would seek to recruit bright, interested, driven professionals, and then seek to box them into very specific roles with defined responsibilities.
Moonlighting lets your employees trial new experiences at someone else’s expense.
Employees get smarter even as they find satisfaction. Maybe scratch an itch that might have caused them to leave. Get to develop skills that are applicable in your environment, even if the chance to develop them hasn’t arisen.
What is better than enhancing your bench-strength with self-directed learners willing to own their growth?
My favorite part is that something is driving this effort. And this development found through moonlighting doesn’t cost a single cent from the budget. This is new development that employees are passionate about, without spending or education on the Company’s part. Just a little tolerance.
I get the perception of risks in moonlighting. What if they find their passion? What if they become too successful in their “second” job? This is very much a “can vs. should” issue. I can also hear the clamouring, and why HR and Legal loves these noose-like policies: “Moonlighting can”
- diverted attention and incremental energies,
- shifting priorities with a detrimental impact to the Company,
- introduce interruption at the workplace, or
- result in outside projects receiving attention during Company hours.
The funny thing to me is – just about anything outside of work for your primary employer has this effect.
- a hobby you are passionate about (strange golfers’ illnesses in early spring?),
- a spouse,
- designing and staffing a new Second Life banana hammock retail shop,
- volunteer work,
- your kids’ hobbies (think Girl Scout cookies each spring)
- day trading,
- or (gasp!) blogging…?
All seem to take that same precious drop of attention from delivery of the Company’s services to customers. Should you try to forbid your employees from marrying? Increase compensation plans to “buy” them 24/7? Or reconsider the implications of moonlighting?
So maybe it’s time to embrace the idea of moonlighting – ? The drivers for the individual are more important for the company to understand than the amount of time that is going into the effort. Unlike an employees personal life and other intrusions that can take away from company tasks, moonlighting often tells the business where the employee wants to go – where their passion is pulling them. An open and honest dialogue may do well to retain motivated professionals.
If your real concern is loyalty or commitment to the Company in the face of new experiences, your efforts to really “manage” (and not just monitor) employee performance is probably due for an overhaul.
If “happy” employees can’t be committed employees, you’ve got some big fish to fry.