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.

Nonprofit Recruitment Roadmap

Recruitment Interview
Written by - 02 Oct 2018 Category: Non-profit Challenges

It will not come as a surprise to most that non-profit recruitment is different from corporate hiring. The non-profit line of work has particular characteristics that make everything about it unique.

It will not come as a surprise to most that non-profit recruitment is different from corporate hiring. The non-profit line of work has particular characteristics that make everything about it unique. For a newcomer, the difference becomes visible right during the recruitment process - fewer candidates, extended roles and responsibilities, lower pay, and yes, a seemingly ad hoc recruitment team! But there is no reason to be bogged down by these differences. Non-profits can, and must, develop a process to attract, and retain, talented candidates.

This post looks into the 5 core aspects of an efficient recruitment roadmap for non-profits.

1. Describing What You Are Looking For

Plainly put, you cannot find something that you cannot describe! A well-written job description is not only essential for you to hire, but also necessary for a prospective applicant to judge this interest in the position. Unfortunately, most job descriptions are poorly written. Do list roles and responsibilities, but do not stop there. Make sure to describe specific, day-to-day responsibilities and mention performance indicators. This will also be a great exercise for you to identify the right attributes for the ideal candidate. We will see, in a later section, how this is helpful.

For the benefit of the candidate, also highlight meaningful benefits - financial, learning and development, work-life balance etc, as applicable to the position. This will motivate the right kind of candidates to apply.

2. Sourcing Candidates

Most non-profit hiring happens through personal network of the hiring manager. Such hiring is restrictive and may not provide access to the most talented candidates. Non-profits, it is clear, struggle in marketing their job requirements on a wider platform. This can be easily overcome by posting requirements on job portals specifically designed for non-profits - Idealist, Non-Profit Times Career Match, Commongood Careers, Bridgespan Group etc. For local and junior hiring, one can always rely on social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Campus recruitment is another efficient method to hire interns. Really, the broader you advertise the job, the better the candidate pool will be.

3. Screening Resumes

Once you start receiving applications, it is now time to process them. Whatever may be the screening workload, it is always recommended to follow an objective assessment mechanism. A scoring matrix is a simple tool you can use to evaluate each candidate on various attributes you identified while writing the job description. This way, weighting each application is an unambiguous process. In case of a score tie, you can always have the same applications evaluated by a number of individuals!

Non-profit jobs often demand donning multiple hats. This may complicate the screening process, because many applicants may not have experience in all areas that your job requires. In such cases, you can come up with one must-have skill score and another nice-to-have skill score, to bifurcate core and complementary skills.

4. Conducting Interviews

It is necessary for the hiring manager to prepare for the interview, as much as the applicant does! This is the most crucial phase of recruitment, and you must ensure that the candidate you are hiring is the most appropriate fit. Preparing a list of questions to judge the candidate’s interests and abilities is a starting point. Maintaining an interview score, on the lines of the resume score we saw earlier, is recommended as well.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to conducting interviews. However, the most effective interviews are the ones that are personalised for the job at hand. Past laurels are great, but don’t get impressed unless you see how they will fit into your organisation and this particular job. Ask specific action-oriented questions - how will you handle such and such situation etc - to know how the candidate responds to situations he/she is likely to encounter. Lastly, don’t forget to get convinced on the “vibes” you get from the applicant!

5. Before Extending an Offer

Congratulations on making a selection! But before you sign that offer letter, make sure you go over a few crucial items. What is the candidate’s motivation in joining your non-profit? Do you have references and how good are they? What about relocation and work-from-home arrangements? Does the financial compensation appear enough for the applicant, given his/her most recent income, age, and social status? Are there any legal aspects you need to be aware of, such as work authorisation, visa etc? There are no black-and-white answers here, but going over these aspects will ensure that you have a concrete idea of what kind of association you are about to kickstart.

On a sincere note, the suggested process is a humble attempt in debriefing a complex, intricate process of recruitment. The above instructions are intended to be a starting point for non-profits that do not have any hiring process in place. For those that need advanced insights, we recommend the following well-researched, renowned resources:

Who: The A Method for Hiring

Hiring for Attitude

The Bridgespan Group's Nonprofit Hiring Toolkit

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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 bridging skill gaps in non-profits.

How to Bridge Skill Gaps in Nonprofits

Training to Bridge Skill Gaps in Non-profits
Written by - 25 Sep 2018 Category: Non-profit Challenges

For non-profits to efficiently deliver on their chosen mission, everyone in the organisation - from first-rung board members to last-rung staff members - must be in a position to leverage the potential of new technologies  and ideas.

For non-profits to efficiently deliver on their chosen mission, everyone in the organisation - from first-rung board members to last-rung staff members - must be in a position to leverage the potential of new technologies  and ideas. However, the Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Non-profit Sector reveals crucial skill gaps that exist in the sector. Organisation of work and talent management constitute the major elements of this lacuna. This post dives into a broad category of skills inadequacies that majority of non-profits face and offers remedial measures.

Three Common Skill Gap Areas

1. Formal Education

In today's age, information is freely available. Professionals with specific skills in demand can often find lucrative opportunities, even without a college degree. But this does not undermine the importance of formal education. This is especially true for clerical staff who can do wonders with a more organised mindset developed through rigorous academic coursework.

To that effect, non-profits must encourage their staff to continue learning. Platforms such as Coursera make available high-quality instruction material from leading universities around the globe. These courses are often free; some paid courses can also be considered if one is interested in earning a degree or a certificate at the end of a qualifying exam. A good news for the non-profit sector is that Coursera has a separate section - called Coursera for Governments and Organizations - which caters to the specific needs of the social sector.


2. Technology and Data Skills

Technology and data skills are becoming more central to any organisation than ever before. This necessitates some level of technology familiarity in the non-profit staff. This is not as easy as it seems when we consider the fact that even technology professionals are striving hard to keep pace with the rapidly changing technical landscape. To expect non-profit staff to obtain absolute mastery of technical skills is neither practical, nor necessary. A balance point can be easily obtained with the help of basic training in commonly used technologies and tools.

To get going, operational understanding of the following utility tools will ensure that a non-profit is self-reliant in day-to-day operations and technical troubleshooting.

For Documents and Data

Google Drive/DropBox for centralised data storage

Google Sheets for spreadsheets

Google Docs for documents

Tableau/PowerBI for data analysis

For Collaboration

Slack for quick team chatting and collaboration

Trello for task management

Asana for team and project management for video conferencing

For Website and Communication

Wordpress for website content management

Google Analytics for website traffic analytics

MailChimp for email marketing

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn for social media engagement

For Staff Management

CiviHR for core HR functionalities - staff profiles, leaves and absences, tasks management, reports and dashboard etc

Quickbooks for Accounting

All the above tools are user-friendly and learning them should not be a challenge for any individual with basic computer skills. Integrating these tools into your daily work practices is where the trick lies.


3. Managerial Skills

Non-profits often fail to invest in crucial leadership development. In the recent Non-profit Leadership Report, only 20% non-profits claimed to be confident in their leadership. 70% of non-profit leaders planned to leave their jobs in the next 5 years. It is evident that there is an urgent need to fix these leadership gaps.

The core issue is not so much of leaders' ability, but rather the lack of planned development efforts. Non-profit leaders need to set clear, objective goals - in terms of the number of lives touched, turnover, costs, or any other parameters that are important to their mission. These goals then need to be drilled down to specific skill gaps that may prevent these goals from materialising. If "reaching a donor base of 1000 donors by the year-end" is a goal, non-profit executives must assess their skills with respect to marketing their donor programmes to the masses. At the leadership level, it would require strategic networking, public relations, and public speaking skills. The leaders must work on any identified gaps in this direction. Also, for leadership development to be a long-term success, current top-rung leaders must identify and nurture in-house leadership talent.

To conclude, building a skill-development programme must be a high-priority action item for any non-profit that lacks such an initiative. There are different ways in which one can proceed, but focussing on skills that directly facilitate the core mission or resolve immediate stumbling blocks must be the first step towards progress.

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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, addressing volunteer management challenges, and effectively managing a remote workforce.

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.