Why non-profits still struggle with hiring and retaining talent

Why non-profits still struggle with hiring and retaining talent

By on Apr 27, 2021 in Best Practices, Blog, Non Profit, Talent Acquisition |

By Ryan Sheehan

We have been privileged to work with a number of non-profits, and one of the most pervasive HR challenges these organizations face is attracting and hiring enough quality candidates. Many of our clients tend to attribute the inability to pay as much as other employers as the principal cause of this issue. We have found that while cash compensation is certainly a significant factor, it is not generally the primary one that determines if a person chooses and stays with an employer in this sector.

So what do they want?

  1. A strong sense of mission and purpose: Individuals who choose careers in non-profit fields will tell you their number one reason for working in this area is that they want to help people. Organizations that best articulate, integrate, and practice their values / mission, and strive towards a focused vision are the most appealing employers. These efforts must start at the leadership level and cascade down through to the front-line workers. Also, on a job level, each position should be designed in a way so employees can practice their vocation in the way where they feel empowered and effective in serving others.
  2. A positive work environment and experience: Not-for-profit organizations that can provide the most supportive and flexible work environments have a clear advantage in hiring and retaining employees. Policies and procedures that engender positive leadership to manager to staff and peer to peer relationships are key. In many not-for profit career fields, there are unique stresses and emotional hardships. Here, work life balance is paramount. Consider ways to provide more flexible schedules, better distributed work / case- loads, and other tactics that support a more positive work / life balance. Remember, care workers need to be cared for too!
  3. Advancement and professional growth opportunities: Year after year, high performing employees rank opportunity for advancement and professional growth among their top three reasons for selecting and staying with an employer. Of course, promotions are meaningful. However, individuals in these particular fields desire to expand their professional knowledge and skills, not just to increase their influence and scope of responsibility.

Organizations should be proactive in identifying high-potential individuals and developing a training program to prepare them for success in advanced and/or management roles. The selection criteria should not solely be length of service – past performance, core competencies, and aptitude are much more significant predictors of success. Once a workforce development and training program is in place, it is essential to share the details of the program with applicants during the hiring process.

It can be a daunting challenge to develop effective, sustainable practices to enhance non-cash compensation and other hiring and retention incentives. Let us know how we can help. Contact us today.

Ryan Sheehan is a colleague and friend of OA and has led a number of successful talent acquisition projects for non-profit and public-sector organizations with us. He is an accomplished Human Resources and talent management professional with a solid track record of aligning people and business strategies. Across his 18 years of career experience, he has developed, implemented, and improved Human Resources programs, processes, and tools/technologies. Also, Ryan is adept at directly matching top talent with esteemed employers and creating strong talent acquisition strategies, trainings, and teams.