Employee Retention Strategies

A Stressed Employee
Written by - 09 Oct 2018 Category: Non-profit Challenges

As challenging as recruitment is, employee retention is even tougher!

As challenging as recruitment is, employee retention is even tougher! A major concern for all businesses, the talent crisis is more pronounced in the resource-constrained environment of non-profits. Its effects are multi-faced - from causing burnout of remaining staff until new employees are recruited, to not being able to find stable employees for managerial roles in the long term. The average turnover rate is 19% which means that a fifth of your staff is likely to quit in any given year, and, more threateningly, your non-profit will have a whole new set of people in the next five years. Despite this, low employee retention is an elephant in the room, often ignored and never planned for.

In an effort to guide non-profits in the correct direction to prevent employee attrition, we provide below a list of actionable steps non-profits can take to keep the crisis at bay.

It is often said - People don’t quit their jobs; they quit their bosses! Behind the various reasons that lead people to throw in the towel, a core cause points to their immediate manager. While it is necessary that managers keep track of their subordinates and critique their work, the manner in which the process unfolds often generates frustration in the minds of the employees. Training managers on leadership and people development aspects can help improve manager-employee relations and create a marked improvement in your organisation.

Employees seek improvement in themselves. People often choose non-profit jobs over for-profit jobs because of non-financial reasons, a common one being opportunities to learn. So, if this very incentive is missing in a non-profit, employee quitting is just a matter of time. Non-profits must make sure to have regular training programmes for employees. Online training options are a must to look at, if non-profits are on a tight budget. More importantly, utilising the learning in regular work will keep employees happy and enhance organisational capabilities. A formal mentoring programme can be another alternative.

It is generally observed that 50+ hr work weeks and low employee retention go hand in hand. Non-profit employees are often passionate about creating a change in the world, and such vigour leads them to overwork. To expect someone to perpetually work at this rate is unreasonable. A healthy work-life balance needs to be offered to employees as and when required. Rejuvenated people are more productive and happier, which directly counters the attrition rate challenge. Flexible work-hours and working from home opportunities can be useful policies as well.

Keep an open-door policy. The majority of non-profits have fewer than 100 staff. This number is disposed to cultivating a collaborative, flat organisational culture. Let people feel free, seek help from others, rely on one another, and offer constructive feedback. Such a collegial environment will create bonds that are difficult to break, exhibiting a pull effect on all employees.

Bond outside of office. Another related aspect of work culture is the attachment one develops with the organsiation outside of the work place. Are there informal ways in which people can know one another well? Do you welcome families and children to visit your workplace? Are there any fun events, sports or games, or picnics that are regularly organised? List down available options to engage your staff in similar manners outside of office. You will be surprised to see how many of them are easy to implement, without causing a dent in your budget.

And most importantly, talk to your employees. There may be hundreds of other reasons that pull them down and force them to quit. No organisation can create formal programmes to tackle each such reason. The most effective and the most human way to manage employees is to know their pain points on a regular basis. Schedule some time - even as little as 30 mins a month - for an open-house meeting to discuss employee concerns. Personally meet employees that seem particularly distressed. Sometimes, all that is needed is to ask them how you can help!

Rare is the case in which someone quits a job that makes him/her feels involved, challenged, and important. So build practices that foster such a healthy culture and you are on your way to creating a robust, loyal workforce. Your attrition will be taken care of, as a side effect!

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This post is the next in the series of addressing specific challenges non-profits face, and builds on top of earlier posts on acquiring the right talent and non-profit recruitment roadmap.

About CiviHR

CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere.


CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere.