Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 20 seconds

job-statisfactionNonprofit organizations face unique workforce challenges ranging from reductions in federal funding, decreases in charitable contributions and competition from for-profit providers in services. These financial pressures can often divert their attention away from focusing on critical human resources challenges, such as attracting and retaining top talent.

As reported in the 2014 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey, the most significant and persistent HR challenge for nonprofit managers is attracting and retaining a talented workforce. Additionally, the survey found that only 17 percent of organizations polled had formal retention strategies in place in 2014.

As hiring and retaining top talent is critical to success, the following best practice tips can help nonprofits in their efforts.

1. Re-examine your recruitment strategy
In order to successfully hire and retain staff, organizations should take a close look at their recruitment strategy. 

It's important that each talent search begins with a goal for the future. A helpful tool is to envision the ideal candidate profile. By starting with the future in mind, nonprofit managers are better positioned to articulate their hiring requirements and attract great candidates.

These questions should include:
·        What does your ideal future workforce have in common?
·        What are some of the attributes it exhibits?
·        For your current team, what is working and what isn't? 
·        What are the commonalities? 
·        Can you build upon them?

Additionally, because nonprofit budgets are often restrictive and proper recruitment resources are not always available, organizations should research and incorporate low-cost recruiting options, such as social media and LinkedIn, into their strategy.

2. Promote your values and culture to candidates
The type of service your nonprofit offers will attract workers who share the same passions, but organizations should never miss out on the opportunity to tout their mission, vision and culture.

Begin by developing a thorough job description that accurately reflects your values. Consider your ideal candidates from step one and identify features that will appeal to them. Prospective hires want to know what's expected of them and what they can expect in return—challenging projects, making a difference, professional advancement, supervisory or management roles, etc.

Because nonprofits must also compete for talent against the for-profit sector and its higher salaries, organizations should emphasize their total compensation package to prospective employees. This includes an emphasis on work/life balance, organizational culture and benefits. Enhancements such as flextime, telecommuting or convenience services in the workplace make an impact without a significant financial investment.

Highlight these values on job postings and on a regularly maintained website, along with thoughtful pictures, stories and videos to attract new candidates.

3. Engage new and current employees
Getting great employees in the door is only half the battle. Keeping them at your company, happy and engaged is crucial for productivity and retention. Employees in the nonprofit sector are looking for much more than just a paycheck, and you have options to address these needs in cost-effective ways.

One of the best ways to get off on the right foot and encourage engagement is to meet with employees regularly. This way you can share information, give and receive feedback, and discuss any progress or setbacks you and they might be encountering.

Rewards are also important to employee engagement. While most employees like raises, there are other ways to show employees that they are appreciated.

For example, saying thank you often, in public if possible, is a simple but valuable act. Give project leadership opportunities to grow new skills while meeting service objectives. Occasionally provide treats or buy lunch for the team.

Developing an effective strategy for hiring and retaining key employees is imperative for your organization to thrive. Following the tips above can help build a stable, motivated workforce that is happy to spread the word and refer other talented workers to join the team.

Erin Daruszka, SPHR
Director, Human Capital Consulting - Passport

Last modified on Friday, 27 February 2015
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