How to treat the real gems of your organization
Has your nonprofit frozen wages or awarded minimum pay increases over the last few years while asking employees to take on new responsibilities? Are they being asked to contribute more to your benefit plan, or take a benefits cut?
Such organizational moves often are necessary during tough economic times. That said, don’t lose sight of the importance of your staff, from hiring and training them to rewarding them for their performance, and providing motivation to stay.
Recognize your greatest wealth
When asked to list their organization’s assets, nonprofit leaders are likely to name investments, facilities, real estate, cash and other tangible assets. Too often, personnel are left off the list.
But without a knowledgeable and committed staff, you stand little chance of delivering program services or raising enough money to fund them. And when you consider the cost of hiring, training and mentoring staff, not to mention the losses your nonprofit incurs when an experienced employee leaves, it’s easy to see why you should assign a high value to your people.
Add to staff wisely
Finding and keeping good staff starts with smart hiring. Just as you wouldn’t buy a mutual fund without researching its performance and strategy, don’t hire staffers without thoroughly vetting them for potential rewards and risks.
Experience, education, skills and employer recommendations are merely a starting place. Good hiring requires employers and job candidates to honestly assess their respective objectives. Don’t hire someone simply because you’re desperate to fill an empty position. Shaky starts rarely lead to long-term success. Similarly, don’t court a candidate who seems likely to jump ship when a “better” offer comes along — no matter how impressive his or her resumé.
When a new employee comes aboard, ensure he or she receives comprehensive training — not only related to job responsibilities, but also about your not-for-profit’s culture and ethics. Staffers need to buy in to your mission and support the programs you’ve established.
Also ensure that employees understand your evaluation and compensation system — and feel like full participants. Often, they leave a job claiming their employment expectations weren’t met and the employers are left scratching their heads about what went wrong. Staffers must be able to voice perceived obstacles to their successful long-term employment without fear of reprisal. If you want to keep them, listen and try to find ways to help them succeed.
Be creative with nonmonetary rewards
Although financial compensation is generally the best way to reward and retain people, there are other ways you can let employees know you value them — without busting your budget. For example, consider tangible rewards other than money. You could write a personal “thank you” note and enclose a small gift card when a staff member achieves something special. Or you could reward that person with an extra vacation or personal day. Another idea: Offer the employee more flexible hours, such as earlier starting and leaving times or the option to telecommute.
And don’t forget the value of praise and recognition. Acknowledge employees for a job well done at staff meetings or in your nonprofit’s newsletter. Or invite “star” employees to be introduced at a board meeting, or to represent your nonprofit at an industry conference. All of these actions reflect your confidence in those individuals and indicate their importance to the organization.
Value them anyway
Your nonprofit may be unable to compensate employees quite as well as its for-profit counterparts. But, if your focus is on valuing and growing your assets — that is, your employees — all you need is a little creativity in order to reward them in many other ways.