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Counteracting the Great Resignation—Part I

for executive directors work relationships Jun 21, 2022

     In addition to a decreased capacity in service delivery, nonprofits are paying a high financial price because of The Great Resignation. On average, it costs 90-200 percent of an employee's salary to replace them.

     The first line of defense is to retain what you’ve got. 

Why Employees Leave

     The research is clear. Younger generations are staying at their jobs for shorter and shorter lengths of time than their older cohorts. Interestingly, trust in employers is also decreasing. Younger workers give lower marks regarding their employment experiences in their outlooks on going to work, finding a sense of purpose, fair pay, and psychologically and emotionally healthy work environments than their older counterparts.

     Employees are leaving their jobs in droves in search of better opportunities. They’re looking for more money, better work-life balance, healthier work cultures, and higher levels of responsibility. In short, you need to figure out ways to offer your employees:

  • Better compensation packages
  • More flexibility in their jobs
  • More supportive work environments
  • Opportunities for advancement

How to Keep Them

     Employees who are satisfied with their jobs tend to stay. They are engaged and happy and have no reason to look elsewhere for employment. Simple things you can do to meet the demands of the current workforce are to provide a career path and flexible work hours. It takes more work to change your culture. And it takes planning to afford salary increases.

Outline a Career Path

     No employee wants to stay in a dead-end job that has no challenge for them anymore. Let your staff know where you want to take them. Be upfront with them. Let them know there is a future ahead for them that is not same old, same old. Give them a reason to stay.  A career path does not necessarily mean there has to be a change in title. It may just mean a growth in responsibilities and pay. Help them get there. Offer them professional development opportunities so they realize efficiencies in their current work and pick up advanced skills. Help them grow, develop, and become ready to take on new, higher-level duties.  

Offer Flexibility

     Mutually set goals with your staff, then give them autonomy in how they meet those goals. Within parameters, let them determine how to get the job done. Help them feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in the work they have performed. Get them engaged in achieving their own outcomes. Engaged workers are productive workers, who tend to stay. 

     Provide for flexible work hours. The pandemic has taught us one thing: that remote work, with adequate technology, time management strategies, and regular check-ins, is possible. Even if a job cannot accommodate working remotely, like direct care, you can let your work team decide among themselves how shifts are going to be covered between team members. Give your work teams the parameters they must operate within and then let them have at it. In addition to a producing a more flexible work environment, group decision-making is a great team building activity.   

Ensure a Supportive Organizational Culture

     The number one reason employees leave their jobs is they don’t like their office environments. To keep workers today, it is not enough to only offer a good salary and benefits package, you must also provide a supportive work environment, that is, one where employees know what they need to do to get ahead, are trusted to do their jobs, and can access the tools and expertise necessary for them to meet their work goals.

     Workers who feel supported are happier, more engaged in their work, and more productive. They also find it harder to walk away from their jobs.  You create a supportive work environment by setting clear expectations, providing mentoring programs, maintaining an open-door policy, managing by walking around, and modeling good self-care.

     When expectations are clear, staff feel more secure. Clear expectations on both sides let employees know exactly what they need to do to be rewarded or reprimanded for. When the consequences of one’s behavior match what has been communicated, trust is developed, even if the consequences are negative. 

     A mentoring program is a structured, usually one-on-one relationship that connects a more junior employee to a more seasoned worker for the purpose of increasing knowledge and building skills. Mentoring program have been shown to increase employee satisfaction and retain talent.  

     When you maintain an open-door policy, you communicate that you are accessible. Staff know that you are open to talking with them. They do not feel alone. Staff can trust you will be there to guide them when they have questions or concerns.

     Get to know your staff by walking around the office and stopping to chat. Get to know employees on a personal level. Show them you are available to them. Spend some time with them, letting them know you care about them as a whole person, not just as a work horse. Foster goodwill and feelings of loyalty.

     Finally, encourage self-care by modeling the behaviors you want your employees to emulate. Your actions speak far louder than your words. Don’t just tell staff that you want them to take care of their personal needs. Actually show them that it is okay to do so. Be the leader and set the example.

Plan for Salary Increases

     Offering salary increases is certainly an incentive for employees to stay put. But how can you afford to pay them more?

     Plan for the long term. In other words, build salary increases into your budget. When you budget, budget a surplus and set aside a percentage of that for growth, that is, set aside money for investing in capacity building initiatives, like salary increases.

     Of course, when you increase expenses, you need to increase revenues. Which means evaluating your overall financial strategy. According to modern portfolio theory, there are four general channels through which nonprofits raise money: earned income, unearned income, fundraising, and government contracts. The more diversified the revenue streams, the better nonprofits financially perform.

     And you need diversification within each channel as well as between channels. For example, don’t put all your fundraising eggs into the grants’ basket. Strive for individual and business support too. Or don’t rely on the one big government grant in your government contract bucket. Try and diversify between governmental agencies and/or levels of government.     

     We’ll talk more about how to afford talent on a shoestring budget in an upcoming article.

Next Steps

     Let’s talk about retaining employees and what you can do to help them stay. Just schedule a complimentary, thirty-minute strategy session with me. During our time together, we’ll explore how you can best keep the staff you need. Just click the button below to get some time with me. I look forward to getting to know you! 

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