Advice for Nonprofits: How to Retain Employees
Let’s start off with the good news: nonprofits are doing pretty well when it comes to staffing. For one, they’re hiring again: in 2009, we saw 19 percent of nonprofits staffing up, and 22 percent were decreasing their staff. Contrast that with last year, where a whopping 46 percent saw an increase, and only 17 percent saw a decrease. That’s a 5-6 percent increase in growth year-over-year. In short, nonprofits have started hiring more people and letting fewer of them go.
But here’s the kicker: the positions that are experiencing the most growth are the ones that nonprofits are having the toughest time keeping filled: entry and mid-level positions are experiencing large amount of turnover, even as the sector continues to grow. Additionally, 59 percent of HR professionals believe that the biggest challenge that the sector will experience over the next ten years will be keeping employees long enough to promote them and train them to fill higher-level positions. It may seem like a contradiction to say that the nonprofit sector is hiring again and letting fewer people go, yet still experiencing problems with turnover, but that only means the problem is getting better, and that most of employees who leave a nonprofit end up at another charitable organization.
But as a nonprofit leader who needs to retain their employees long enough for them to help make the difference you’re looking for, how do you keep employees from leaving?
Get a Recruitment Budget
One area where nonprofits could learn from for-profit companies is in recruitment. Eighty-five percent of nonprofits don’t have formal formal budgets dedicated to recruiting but still end up hiring people anyway. Considering how much the sector is growing in terms of jobs, this is a massive oversight. Whether it’s because nonprofits don’t think recruitment is important enough or because they simply don’t believe that an effective recruiting team is essential to hiring the right people, it’s not working. With turnover as high as 12 percent at the biggest nonprofits, the lack of recruitment budgets is a growing problem.
Nonprofits need to make recruitment budgets a higher priority. It may not seem like the most effective use of money, but hiring the right people is incredibly important, and can, in the long run, save money for the future. Hiring and training new employees to replace those who regularly leave will cost more than paying people to hire and retain the right employees in the first place, so think of having a recruitment budget as an investment that will generate a positive ROI rather than a one-time cost (and train your executive team to think that way, too).
Show Employees the Big Picture
Better hiring practices lead to better hires, which means less turnover. But how do you make sure that those good hires stick around after you’ve hired them? As Nonprofit HR senior consultant Alicia Schoshinski explains, nonprofits have one distinct advantage when it comes to offering employees a clear reason to stick around:
“One of the biggest advantages nonprofits have in terms of employee engagement and retention is the ability to foster employee commitment around the organization’s mission. Employees want to be able to use their skills and abilities to make a difference. By sharing the ‘big picture’ with employees, managers are better able to help employees connect their roles to the mission and feel more engaged.” – Alicia Schoshinski
Keeping employees engaged with a big picture idea also ties into that recruitment budget we talked about earlier: a better recruiting team will be more active in the hiring process, which includes offering a better pitch for why your nonprofit matters and building a better process for weeding out those who may not share the organization’s interests. Employees who are disinterested in work are four times more likely to leave their job, so it’s important that job seekers understand your nonprofit’s vision and how they fit into that vision. Most importantly, you’ll find interested hires engaged with the work you’re doing; they’re the ones who will stick around for the future.