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Top NonProfit Talent Trends

When the size of the nonprofit workforce is compared to that of the nation’s 5 largest industries, the NPO workforce ranks third… behind only retail trade and accommodation and food service. So how are these organizations continuing to thrive through the craziness of 2021? Let’s take a look.

They’re attracting new generations of workers …

With baby boomers leaving the workforce in record numbers, NPOs are looking to millennials—and now Gen Z—to fill in the gaps. Millennials, of course, are fans of purpose-filled work. And although they tend to job-hop, they prefer working for organizations that benefit society and are socially responsible. Gen Z is highly motivated by social issues and making a difference in their communities, personal relationships, and in the workplace. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who became gun violence prevention activists and Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist are members of Gen Z who quickly come to mind. This generation wants to know their work will have a positive impact on the wider community so working for NPOs is a great fit.

How are NPOs sourcing, hiring, and managing these cohorts?

  • They’re connecting with potential candidates on social media. Gen Z spends most of their time on Instagram while Millennials are still more engaged on Facebook. Both cohorts also use YouTube.
  • They’re showing a clear developmental path from entry-level to the next career level in their job descriptions and outlining how employees might move from one department to another, if desired. 64% of Gen Z says that the opportunity for career growth is their #1 priority, and they’re interested in exploring multiple roles within one place of employment. They relish valuable experience, so when they see an opportunity to grow, they’re more apt to try out various roles or projects INSIDE their organization if they’re given the chance, rather than leaving the organization.
  • They’re being honest about the aspects of the job that are frustrating while selling their candidates on their missions.

They’re ensuring potential employees are a good CULTURAL fit

According to James L. Heskett, Harvard professor and author of The Culture Cycle, culture “can account for 20 to 30% of the differential in performance when compared to culturally unremarkable competitors.” In other words, the most effective nonprofits are usually those whose employees have the highest level of cultural satisfaction.

What is cultural satisfaction? Many nonprofit employees work long hours at low salaries. The best NPOs are avoiding a revolving door of employees by ensuring they’re communicating the culture of their organizations and selecting the candidates that best fit that culture.

Dr. Pat M., Professor of Teaching and Learning at a major nonprofit public university shares that when hiring new faculty members, collegiality and culture fit are just as important as the faculty candidate’s teaching and research skills. That’s why getting this kind of feedback through SkillSurvey’s digital reference checking is important:

“We’ve found that SkillSurvey gives us the information we’re seeking regarding our candidates’ collegiality: whether they’re dependable, how well they are able to build and maintain relationships across the institution, and if they have demonstrated an ability to collaborate with other department members to achieve common goals.”

They’re making Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion a priority

As our nation continues to grapple with racism and inclusion issues, more nonprofits have been stepping up their efforts to address DEI and belonging. In the 2020 Nonprofit Diversity Practices Survey, 67% of the respondents reported that their organizations made changes to their talent management practices realizing greater diversity, equity and/or inclusion.

Ideas NPOs are exploring today include:

  • Relaxing degree requirements and recognizing that alternative education like tech school or on-the-job training may prepare employees just as well for some roles.
  • Experimenting with blind recruitment.
  • Screening job postings for language that may appeal to a certain group while turning away another.
  • Conducting structured interviews which level the candidate field. Structured interviews have also been shown to be twice as effective at predicting an employee’s performance once they’re hired.
  • Replacing traditional reference checking with an online reference checking solution to reduce bias in decision-making and to bring on board the best talent. SkillSurvey Reference includes a competency area, Personal Value Commitment, which addresses attitude, respect for diversity, trustworthiness, and integrity of the candidate. Those who have worked with the candidate in the past are asked about the extent to which the candidate “treats customers, co-workers, staff and others of different backgrounds, beliefs and gender with fairness, respect and sensitivity.” This competency area directly sheds light on the candidate’s ability to work with people of all backgrounds.

Wendy D., AVP of Human Resources at a nonprofit community college says:

“When conducting reference checks in the past, we worried about the potential for an employee to ask a question that might be challenged legally. With SkillSurvey there’s now uniformity across the organization with regard to reference checking, and we know the information we gather is consistent across all candidates and also compliant.”

They’re serious about measuring and improving the talent experience at every touchpoint

Employee engagement describes an employee’s attitudes and disposition toward the employer, the mission and the content of the employee’s work. An engaged employee is more satisfied, more productive, and less likely to leave the organization which is particularly important for NPOs who tend to have a higher turnover rate.

Engagement of nonprofit talent is important not only for the current work force but also for the recruitment of future leaders and employees into the sector.  So how are successful NPOs stepping up to the plate to measure and improve their employee engagement? Let’s take a look.

The first step is to have a plan in place to measure employee engagement throughout the employee lifecycle. Successful NPOs understand what motivates and challenges their employees.

One VP and CHRO in Non-Profit Organization Management says this about SkillSurvey’s all-in-one talent intelligence platform:

“The amount of data received… helps us focus specific areas for onboarding and training, impacting our ability to better engage and retain team members.”

Once they’re receiving the engagement data from their employees, they’re in a position to identify and build more opportunities for these employees to be engaged. Some ideas include:

  • Embrace transparency. A transparent work environment fosters trust, a sense of belonging, and stability. Discuss important metrics at organization-wide meetings and ask for feedback. Facilitate cross-team relationships. More active and continuous feedback will help your team members feel more engaged and satisfied.
  • Prioritize wellness. Consider hosting in-office exercise classes, massages or even chiropractor visits. Many NPOs are partnering with local businesses like yoga studios and dance instructors who are willing to offer classes and sessions on a pro-bono basis to nonprofit employees.
  • Be flexible. Flexibility is one of the most important determinants of employee satisfaction and retention, and flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting, are becoming more commonplace as we respond to the COVID pandemic.
  • Recognize and reward contributions. Go public with your recognition—think social media. Feature staff members on your website. Consider giving career-based rewards like asking them choose an online class to take.

Each of these examples demonstrates ways in which nonprofit organizations are doing a wonderfully creative job of shifting from work versus life to work AND life as they focus on their most important resource—their employees. Learn more about how SkillSurvey’s talent intelligence solutions can help.

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