The work world has been abuzz with the idea of “quiet quitting”—when employees stop going “above and beyond” and decide to simply do what’s in their job description and no more. Indeed, new data shows that US-based employee engagement is falling while disengagement rises, “signaling a growing disconnect between employees and their employers.”
And the dynamic is starting to affect staff at all levels. Forbes reports that new data shows “CEOs are heading for the exits, too.”
What’s a nonprofit board or staff leader to do?
At Funding for Good, we recommend investing in strategic planning. Here’s why:
Use Business Planning to Set Priorities
Often, we at Funding for Good hear the same message from staff, Executive Directors, and Boards of Directors alike:
Everyone feels pulled in too many directions.
Business planning is designed to clarify your organization’s priorities. This means assessing all of your current activities to understand which are essential and which may be “mission drift.” Through facilitated planning sessions, board and staff leadership work together to assess the organization’s vision, mission, strategies, and activities—including what to continue, what to expand, and what to potentially let go of.
This enables Executive Directors and managers to more clearly communicate with their teams and better prioritize where staff put their energy. It also gives the Board of Directors greater insight into how to support and evaluate the Executive Director.
Leverage Strategic Planning Facilitation to Increase Engagement
Research shows that active engagement—both outside of work and at work—is one antidote to the desire to “quiet quit.” Luckily, the strategic planning process itself is intentionally designed to strengthen engagement among your board and staff.
But first, you need to ensure you’re working with a skilled strategic planning facilitator who can facilitate potentially challenging consensus building conversations. This is especially important if your goal is active and equitable engagement.
The truth is that everyone interprets information differently. Emotions can run high, particularly if your team is passionate about the work and yet also feeling overwhelmed. And while some participants may be tempted to jump to the consensus portion of a business planning session, skipping the difficult analysis of what’s working in the organization and what isn’t will leave many participants even more disengaged than before.
An excellent strategic planning facilitator can guide your organization through these tough conversations in a way that is both honest and productive, and that ultimately leads participants toward an authentic consensus. At the end, you’ll end up with a strategic plan that your board and staff alike feel they had an active hand in creating—and are invested in making a reality.
Now that’s real engagement.
Prioritize Succession Planning and Leadership Growth
Burnout has long been an issue for the nonprofit sector, though it affects for-profit businesses as well. Most leaders that Funding for Good works with chose nonprofit work because of deep passion for creating change. But while passion can push us to work harder, that same drive can easily lead to burnout.
That’s why aligning on priorities through strategic planning is essential—so staff at every level can understand where to focus their energy. But for Executive Directors and Boards of Directors, the topic is even more complicated. As Funding for Good has shared before:
When an Executive Director or other essential staff members depart, it can create uncertainties throughout the organization—especially if you don’t have a succession plan. Funding for Good recommends that all Boards of Directors ensure they have a succession plan in place for the Executive Director, at minimum, and that the plan be reviewed regularly.
At the same time, boards and Executive Directors should also be investing in leadership development. Paired with a strategic plan and a succession plan, leadership development can strengthen your organization at every level.
- Staff new to leadership positions can gain critical skills that might otherwise take years to uncover.
- Experienced leaders can strengthen their leadership abilities, while also identifying old habits that might be increasing burnout.
- Board members can discover how to best support the Executive Director and the organization as a whole.
Combined, these tools and practices will help your organization create an environment where your talented staff and skilled leaders don’t feel a desire to resign or “quiet quit.” Which is what every nonprofit leader we know is striving to achieve.