A study in January 2012 Chronicle of Philanthropy found 82% of nonprofit employees would seek new employment if the economy were better. Where does dissatisfaction come from, and how can nonprofit leaders and employees improve engagement and retention?
- Develop Staff: Many inexpensive or cost-free ways exist to provide employees development opportunities: special project assignments, cross-department projects, permission to take risks and try new approaches, filling in for some responsibilities when a colleague is out of office, short-term placement in a position of interest within the organization, or suggestions for volunteer opportunities with a different organization to gain certain experiences. It is important for managers to work with employees to map out career development and adequately equip them for special project assignments.
- Provide Flexibility: It is ultimately about a person getting high quality work done, so nonprofit leaders could consider “work shifting” (largely out-of-office work balanced with agreed “office hours”) or other forms of flexibility that fit with the nature of the work and needs of employees. People have a lot of interests and pressures beyond work; this is not just a parent issue. Managers’ looking for ways to create flexibility may be one way to handle budget constraints on salaries and improve retention of quality employees in the nonprofit sector.
- High Quality Supervisors: Supervisors are key to employee engagement and development, so careful consideration must be given to putting people in management positions who actually have the ability to lead and invest in those employees they supervise. Managers and supervisors should look for ways to get employee feedback to improve these relationships.
- Increase Transparency: Keep employees informed about the organization and stability of their job. There must be a balance and careful attention to sensitive issues, but, overall, employees may feel more certain about their jobs and more invested in the organization if they are kept informed of organizational changes.
Participants in the webinar contributed a number of suggestions for increasing employee engagement and improving the nonprofit work environment in order to retain employees:
- Leaders can divest some responsibilities to give their employees development opportunities.
- Exit interviews and mid-reports can help supervisors improve their management approach.
- Make employees feel valued. Tailor acknowledgement of staff- newsletters, hand-written notes, recognition in front of peers, etc.
- Physically improve the work environment so people enjoy their work space.
- Celebrate small achievements.
- Spend time connecting with employees so they know they have supervisor support.
- Burnout and low compensation are common issues in the nonprofit sector. Nonprofit leaders should look for ways to compensate employees and emphasize the work-life balance if they hope to retain top talent and increase productivity.