Not-For-Profits The Workforce Shortages are Real: Do we need to lose hope?

image of a hand with a pen and the written words Non ProfitBy Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified

This week’s article is for our not-for-profit friends. Because after all, you’re still in the midst of huge struggles to attract and retain qualified professionals, am I right? Other sectors might be laying off folks, but most of you are just trying to keep services going.

No, you’re not alone.

Almost every not-for-profit I know is in the same talent leaky boat. It’s gone on for so long that you may have lost hope that a talent pool of happy and satisfied folks who love their work is even possible.

Having worked in NFPs my whole career, this is not new. I’ve worked with over 100 teams, and whenever my team or I was called in to help with morale, we consistently saw disengagement, distrust, and disillusionment. Turnover started as folks looked for greener pastures, leaving folks short, escalating burnout, burdening the most experienced staff, and increasing injuries and sick leaves, which all fueled further short staffing, gossip, and, before long, even the newest members didn’t stay through probation. Exhaustion of the mentors onboarding staff and the leaders hiring them impacted morale and the ability to deliver quality service to clients.

True, churn is happening faster, and tenure is shorter than ever in the NFP world. Sometimes, folks leave to work for themselves, others retire early, some jump from role to role, and others leave the sector entirely. Employing for life is a thing of the past, as is a career for life.

It probably feels like there’s no way out of the constant experience of workforce chaos. It’s demotivating and disheartening.

Please don’t lose hope.

The Way Forward

image of a person planting a small treeAs the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the next best time is today. A solution we’ve discovered during this time of crisis in the NFP world would have been super helpful 20+ years ago when I started my career, but knowing all I know now and in light of our current situation, it is the perfect time to focus on a four letter word: STAY.

Let me tell you what I mean.

For most of my career, I have helped folks leverage recognition as an activating agent in rebuilding morale and creating cultures where people want to stay. What if there were a way to be even more strategic in ensuring that in every phase of the employee experience – of which there are now ten – from prehire to post-retire – we were satisfied and chose to stay every day?

This isn’t just a Pollyanna vision. It is a strategy disguised as hope. Let’s pull back the curtain.

A Strategy for Stay

This is the new and better way of doing people planning.

Forget three-year people plans that align nicely on paper with the strategic plan but don’t get implemented or are too cumbersome that they were destined for failure before folks even left the boardroom. Let’s get way shorter term, base the planning on real-time data, identify root causes behind the data, audition options that could address them, identify a few solid strategies to move the needle on retention and morale, and then study, study, study as those plans roll out.

People planning, with the people about the people.

In 20+ years of working with teams and organizations, I know this: when we’re reacting to a problem, we need to study how we got there and co-create a way back with the people most impacted by it. Doing this together builds bridges, gives a shared focus, and creates accountability.

If we don’t feel we can control something, we don’t feel we can fix it. And if we don’t think we can fix it, we stop trying. We just deal with it. We react. We don’t proact. There is a better way.

Stay Day Planning Testimonial from Sarah McVanel on Vimeo.

A Real Example…Bold Enough to Hope

image of a group of people with hands up to volunteerRecently, an incredible developmental services organization decided to tackle its turnover and retention issues head-on. They were unwilling to see morale, quality of care, or burnout grow any higher.

We started by helping the leaders study their metrics. We brought those metrics to a cross-sectional group of staff, managers and executives for a one-day stay planning session. A preferred future was established, and ways to get there were explored. We consolidated and then vetted them to identify quick wins and pulled out a few key priorities that would have such a high impact they were worthy of being major projects. We distilled it all into a one-page Stay Plan that day. Folks put up their hand to be accountable to execute them, and even more robust measurements have already been implemented.

Two months ago, there was less hope. Now, there is a focus on a reason to stay every day with clear deliverables and measures.

So, if it’s that simple, why haven’t we been doing this all along?

It isn’t difficult to see a problem when we can study it intensely. How can you fix and study the problem simultaneously, though? When you’re firefighting, as is the reality of NFPs today, you don’t have the bandwidth to be curious and creative. You contain the fire for another day. But you look back, and you see a charred forest. Let’s face it: some days feel like one hot mess. That’s not motivating.

Forests grow back stronger after a burn. What if this is the time of regrowth, but better?

For a stable workforce of talented, passionate people who love their jobs and consistently deliver quality service to clients, we need to give them a reason to stay every day, and how we enable that to happen is with a Stay Plan.

image of the Stay Plan

Book a call with Sarah to discuss your Stay Plan

Hope as an Action Word

image of two hands holding the word hope in front of a sunset over the waterI hope not-for-profits like you reexamine the employee experience end to end to mine for everything that’s working, has worked, could work, and is worth trying into a co-created, aligned and morale-building plan that every person in the organization can see, understand, and get behind.

If you would like to explore if this might help your NFP, we could send you more information about the process, or perhaps you’d like to hop on a call.

Most of all, let me leave you with this. You’re doing the best you can. You’re showing up to lead and contribute to the organization and hold the faith for everyone. That’s a lot of pressure. Thanks for doing what you do and opting in every day. Every day you stay gives your team a reason to stay.

Keep going. And if we can help, let us know.

Check out these previously published blog posts for even more ideas:

Disclaimer/Humble Brag Moment: 100% of this content was human-generated (by us folks here at Greatness Magnified). We are committed to authorship integrity and will inform you what percent, if any, is AI-generated.

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