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Workflow analysis is the key to recruitment and retention for nonprofits

Norman LeClair

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

As a leader in the HR field, I’ve had the honor of working with dozens of nonprofits at the administrative and operational level. This has given me insight into the unique problems faced by nonprofits – problems that have remained pain points for decades. Time and time again, the highest ticket problem for nonprofits with staff from 100 to 2000 people is recruiting and retaining good employees. At Corban OneSource, we’ve seen a nonprofit employee turnover rate of around 40 percent.

Getting to the Root of the Issue

Too often, the CEO of a nonprofit misses the message that recruitment and retention are their biggest problems.

Consistently, larger nonprofits (those with over 400 employees) have well thought-out, clearly written and communicated strategies for overcoming obstacles. They show me what obstacles they foresee three and five years down the road and they have strategic plans for removing those obstacles.

Nonprofits with fewer than 400 employees don’t always have a documented strategy in place to combat the highest ticket problem facing their organization. While they ELT (Executive Leadership Team) may have identified the problem, a solution has not been properly identified or planned. An effective strategy starts with a workflow analysis to identify bottlenecks around recruitment and retention.

Ask the Right Questions

These three guiding questions provide clarity into the issue and potential solutions.

  1. Does your ELT know that recruitment and retention is the costliest problem for their nonprofit?
  2. Have you done an analysis around workflow and retention to identify bottlenecks the ELT can help remove?
  3. Does your strategic plan include effective communication flow between the ELT and every single employee at each location?

Perform a Workflow Analysis

I ask every nonprofit leader I work with this question: Have you done a workflow analysis around all areas that affect your recruitment and retention? About 95% of the nonprofits I spoke with had not done a workflow analysis.

An effective analysis identifies bottlenecks around recruitment and retention – and then clearly defines a plan of attack to eliminate those bottlenecks. Every CEO knows it’s ultimately their responsibility to remove bottlenecks that cause problems within their organization.

For a nonprofit, this is especially important. A strong leader in the nonprofit sector must remove bottlenecks so that everyone can effectively execute the organization’s mission. Corban OneSource does this for a living. We go into a nonprofit and we analyze everything and figure out the most efficient, effective way to run their HR department.

Identify What Matters to Good Employees

Benefits are a key deciding factor for job seekers. What many leaders fail to recognize is that benefits are also critical to employee retention. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Compensation Survey, nonprofit workers are more likely to be offered medical plans. That means medical coverage is a bare minimum when considering what your benefits package needs to look like to attract and retain top talent.

Coverage matters, with 56 percent of U.S. adults who receive employer supported health benefits indicate that when they are considering resigning, their satisfaction with their health coverage is a key deciding factor.

If your nonprofit’s benefits are good and you’re wondering why it’s tough to keep great staff, it’s even more critical to perform a workflow analysis for a deeper look into the issues faced by your organization.

Fix the Communication Side of Recruitment and Retention

Every industry struggles with the time and resources needed to recruit and onboard new hires. For larger nonprofits with multiple locations, the process becomes even more challenging. Communication quickly becomes a bottleneck. When 30 people pass along a message – such as what your core values are – they give up and stop disseminating the information because of a lack of personal connection to what’s being communicated.

A well-documented strategy for improving recruitment and retention gets information to the right people throughout the company. Before that strategy can be outlined, a workflow analysis will show the CEO where alterations need to be made. When bottlenecks are unplugged, communication flows more freely, and that quickly has a positive impact on recruitment and retention.

Show People That They Matter

While everyone from top to bottom needs to be charged with working toward improving recruitment and retention, most people don’t really understand their personal impact. As a leader, you need to show examples of how an individual’s actions truly make a difference. Use the efforts around a workflow analysis to produce concrete examples that show employees where to alter their actions and where they’re currently doing very well.

Your people make your workplace special, and if they’re not on board, you lose good applications. After all, there are plenty of $15-$17 an hour jobs at other companies down the road.

Consider what happens when three applicants are in the lobby and the front office staff hasn’t been made aware of who they are and why they’re there. Applicants may feel de-valued by a lack of attention and may feel that their prospective position is not important. That front desk staff member should have been briefed on what jobs they’re interviewing for, what their names are – and when the person interviewing them will arrive.

When nonprofit applicants don’t get a positive experience from their time in the lobby, it isn’t uncommon for them to get up and leave before their interview even starts. Your well-documented strategic plan around recruitment and retention keeps this unfortunate situation from happening. Everyone will know how to communicate with applicants from the moment they walk through the door.

Keep Your Best Employees With a Retention Strategy

85% of nonprofits don’t have a strategic plan in place for retaining good employees.

Having an effective retention strategy boosts employee morale and productivity. When that strategy is communicated properly from the ELT to everyone in the organization, employees can see that they matter, and that the people they love working with aren’t going anywhere.

Instead of spending money on recruiting and hiring, prevent resignations whenever possible. Set yourself up for success by having a strategic retention plan in place. This investment creates a positive workplace culture and employee morale, and improves your non-profit’s market value as an ideal place to be an employee.

Change Means Getting Everyone On Board

Making an impact on big problems means getting everyone on the same page. Everyone from the CEO to the office manager should understand the problems faced by the organization – and be able to speak to what processes have been put into place to fix them.

When everyone understands what your nonprofit’s biggest problem is, and where they fit into the big picture when it comes to solving it, you’ll quickly make an impact on your recruitment and retention issues. Every member of your team will be aware that they’ve helped to make an improvement to your organization’s ability to recruit and retain excellent employees.

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