Talent recruitment and retention challenges for Not-For-Profit organisations

6 July 2023

Since the publication of I, Robot in 1950, humanity has been afflicted by a growing, collective terror at the notion that robots are going to take over the world. That technology and A.I. will replace workers and leave us all jobless. The reality in 2022 is actually the opposite. With the latest figures predicting we will face a totalling 85 million people by 2030, we’re looking at a growing talent gap rapidly approaching the population of Germany.

With predictions indicating that shortage could cost the global economy $8.5 trillion annually in unrealised revenues, this is a growing concern for all businesses. For Not For Profit (NFP), the concern is greater, for while they face all the talent recruitment and staff retention challenges as other industries, they are hindered by their focus on charitable work.

That charity work requires them to manage resources, and serve their charitable class to the greatest ability, yet doesn’t afford them the same budgets and incentives as profit-first companies. Competing for talent and preventing existing talent from seeking more profitable opportunities elsewhere can be problematic.

For a Not-For-Profit organisation, recruitment issues are compounded by retention issues, all revolving around the growing need for exceptional talent.

Current recruitment issues facing NFP organisations

When competing with companies in other sectors, many NFP organisations struggle to attract top talent and win the recruitment battle. With all sectors facing the single greatest challenge for the workforce since transitioning back from the emergency state created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the limited resources available to many non-profits create even greater challenges.

Attracting - and retaining - great talent frequently comes down to how much is on offer. The simple truth of the situation is that when competing against profit-driven organisations, non-profits are frequently unable to match the salary and benefits packages on offer elsewhere.

This can leave them floundering in their quest to hire top talent.

The capacity to deliver services

Part of the problem is that non-profits are facing increased demand for their services. This stretches their existing teams and resources, forcing organisations to hire additional talent in order to meet demands. Failing to do so, or not managing to in a timely fashion, places an increased burden on existing staff and only increases staff retention issues.

So, NFP companies are faced with the pressure of growing demands, in a market where talent is in short supply and going for a premium. They do not have the resources to match the offers of the competition, straining their existing teams and increasing the chances of losing existing talent, making it even harder to meet demands.

The result can be a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break.

The ability to maintain fundraising continuity

The loss of staff not only creates difficulties in effectively delivering services, it can also cause fundraising issues. When fundraising staff members are lost, maintaining donor relationships can become problematic. These relationships are vitally important to successful fundraising but often hinge on individuals who have built those relationships personally. When those individuals are lost, the donor relationships go with them. The reduces the funds available to the organisation at a time they’re already struggling to compete with offers on the table from other companies.

Non-Profit talent recruitment and retention solutions

Organisations need to understand that their human capital is one of their most critical resources. It can be easy to forget this when facing limited or dwindling funding. And yet, like any other investment, NFPs must weigh the risk and value involved in each hire.

Ultimately, if the company requires talent to succeed, and you find that talent, investing in them is in the best interests of the organisation. But how do you get around the recruitment and retention challenges we are facing in the current market?

Work on retention before recruitment

In addition to attracting the best talent, non-profits need to focus on their existing employees and take steps to retain them. In the long run, it’s far more cost-effective to retain the talent you have than it is to replace them. The recruitment process is expensive. You’ve already been through it once to hire the staff member you have. If you lose them, you’ll need to go through it again.

In addition, it’s currently a job seeker’s market, and that may not have been the case when you hired your existing team members. In order to land an individual with the talent needed to replace the one you’re losing, you may have to pay considerably more for them.

The cheaper option is to actively work on ensuring you retain the talent you already have. You can do this by focusing on creating an engaging work experience that allows your people to focus on why they love their work – your mission.

Implement automation technology

While you’re looking at ways of retaining staff and improving your chances of hiring new talent, it’s also important to look at the ways you can reduce the need for staff members.

Yes, we’re leaning into the machines taking over jobs now.

By implementing automation technology it’s not impossible to improve efficiency and take some of the load off your existing team. This not only keeps current members of staff happier, but it also reduces the number of new positions you need to recruit for. It can also streamline the skills required of a new hire by removing certain tasks from their plate. This can make it considerably easier to find the right person for the job, as they don’t need to be highly talented at so many things.

For example, implementing marketing automation and other process automation technologies can help minimise time-consuming manual processes and smooth out the impact of staff changes.

Redistribute role responsibilities

In a similar vein, you can also look at ways to redistribute role responsibilities to the staff you have, while offering to train existing employees who are looking to expand their skills and grow professionally. The result - when done cleverly - can be that, instead of facing the need to hire a new person (or several new people), you expand the scope of existing team members’ roles. By redistributing tasks that would have fallen to the new hire between several existing staff members, you remove the need to hire someone new.

Those current staff members can then benefit from the opportunity to stretch their abilities, receives training from you in new areas, and enjoy the challenge of doing something different. Without the need to hire someone new, you may also be able to reallocate the funds that would have gone on a new member of staff to give existing tea members taking on new responsibilities a salary bump. All of this will help you in retaining those staff members.

Focus on the big picture

When facing both recruitment and retention issues fear is often the greatest adversary. The fear that certain members of the team will leave can be paralysing. At the same time, fear that a new hire will cost too much isn’t affordable or can’t be convinced to choose you as their employer can prevent you from ever trying to win them.

Fear holds you back.

It helps to take a step back and look at the big picture. What are the core benefits of working with you? How does your NFP fulfil personal or spiritual goals and aspirations for your staff? How much more will you be able to achieve in your organisation with that talent on board.

The thing is, if you don’t fight to keep your staff, you will lose them. And if you don’t try and land top talent you never had a chance of doing so.

Look outside the usual box

It’s reasonable for NFPs to look for people with experience in charity work, and the specific area they work in. Yet it can be greatly beneficial to look outside your sector and consider candidates who have a different experience in other industries. Skills that can crossover into the role you need to fill, but aren’t necessarily a perfect fit for it.

By doing so, you may find you’re able to offer a more competitive package than the companies in the individual sector. You may also find you can attract new talent on the basis of your NFP status; if they are unhappy in their existing role and looking for something a little more heart-centred it’s the perfect time to nudge them into moving over to your team.

Consider looking for candidates outside of the non-profit industry who have experience in positions that require similar skillsets to the role you are filling.

We’re here to help

Attracting and retaining top talent in the current climate can be problematic. And yet, with a fresh perspective and an openness to moving things around a little, you can effectively create a superior way of handling the issues. Get in touch to find out how HLB advisers can help you manage talent recruitment and retention for your NFP organisation.

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