On the heels of the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting, staff turnover and success are top of mind for many nonprofit leaders. And for good reason. Gallup research reveals that:
The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary—and that’s a conservative estimate.
Turnover costs organizations time and money. Both of which are precious in the nonprofit sector. But turnover isn’t beyond leaders’ control. There are concrete, and often simple, steps you can take to hire and keep great staff.
Why Staff Leave Nonprofits
Staff members don’t leave organizations for no reason. According to Nonprofit HR’s 2021 Nonprofit Talent Retention Practices Survey, the top four reasons people reported leaving their nonprofit job are:
- 49% – Better job opportunity found elsewhere
- 44% – Lack of opportunity for upward mobility or career growth at current organization
- 35% – Dissatisfaction or disengagement with current organization or culture
- 32% – Compensation and benefits
While daunting, each of these areas can be addressed and improved within any organization. The benefits go beyond simply reducing turnover. By tackling issues like compensation, organizational culture, and internal career growth, you can also help reduce burnout among your team.
Read more: Burnout: How Nonprofits Can Avoid It
Of course, no organization can address every area at once. That’s why Funding for Good recommends starting by taking a deeper look at your hiring and onboarding process.
Review Your Hiring Process
All too often, we see organizations rushing to fill empty positions. A department head drafts a quick job description and gets it posted to job boards as fast as possible. This sense of urgency is natural, especially in nonprofits, which are notoriously understaffed.
But remember: a job description is the first interaction a potential future staff member may have with your organization. That means it’s critical that your job descriptions attract the very best candidates.
If your job description is a disorganized list of dozens of tasks—or a few vague paragraphs—what message are you sending to potential candidates? We’ve all seen these sorts of job descriptions. Recently, one even made headlines: an ad for an Executive/Personal Assistant went viral for being “The Worst Art Job Listing Ever Created.”
You’ll also want to ensure that each job description is accurate and that the salary range is appropriate for the expectations of the role. Taking the time to create a solid job description—and interview process—up front can save your organization time and money in the long run.
Start Planning for Retention Early
Employee retention doesn’t start when an employee resigns. Though far too many organizations don’t think about retention until that point. Your first chance to improve retention starts with onboarding. If you provide clear expectations for staff members from day one—including what internal growth within their role and within the organization looks like—you can start to address two of those top four reasons why nonprofit staff leave.
As employees increasingly embrace hybrid and remote work, you’ll also want to be sure your organization has well-thought-out policies. Read more: Maintaining Organizational Culture in a Virtual Environment.
Strengthen Your Management Culture
One area nearly all nonprofit organizations can strengthen is management culture. Research on small nonprofit organizations reveals that:
lacking the ability to manage employees has been one of the more costly mistakes in NPO management.
As we’ve written before, supporting managers benefits everyone within an organization. Plus, candidates and new hires will start to pick up on your management culture from the very beginning. Are your hiring and onboarding processes clear and effective? Are decisions long and drawn out, or do they feel overly rushed? Are you throwing new hires in the deep end, or providing an on-ramp to help them succeed?
As a bonus, investing in your management culture can help you not only set new staff up for success but also retain more staff in the long run.
Hiring for Sustainability
While frequent employee turnover can make leaders feel overwhelmed and powerless, the truth is there’s a lot you can do to change the equation. And doing so doesn’t have to break the bank.
To learn how to accomplish this at your organization, check out our March 2023 webinar, Hiring for Sustainability.