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Avoiding Employee Turnover at Your Nonprofit Organization

By April 24, 2023September 13th, 2023No Comments

Much has been written about the Great Resignation — a period of large-scale turnover among employees that followed the COVID-19 pandemic — but people are only just starting to glean lessons from it and think about why so many employees decided to quit.

Developing a strategy to keep your employees engaged can be a lot of work and take months or even years to complete, but it pays off in the long run. Although the numbers vary, many studies have found that the cost of rehiring to replace an employee can be as high as 30% to 50% of their yearly salary.

For nonprofits, the search for team members that not only have the necessary skills but also share a belief in the mission of the organization can cost even more. The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance has attempted to quantify this costs and offers a calculator to help determine the short-term and long-term costs of employee turnover.

Rather than considering employee engagement and retention as perks or side benefits for employees working at your organization, you can save your organization valuable time and money by making them key elements of your mission.

Defining Turnover

Technically speaking, turnover is anytime an employee leaves their workplace and is replaced. Although it colloquially refers to employees quitting, turnover has two different types: involuntary and voluntary.

Involuntary Turnover

This type of turnover means the employee was laid off or fired from their position. Most often involuntary turnover occurs because the employee did not meet performance goals, but it can also be because of a lack of funding, changing priorities at the organizational level, or something else.

Voluntary Turnover

This type is what most people mean when they talk about “turnover” in casual conversation. Voluntary turnover means that an employee leaves of their own free will, often to take another job that offers something their current role does not. However, they may also leave because of a major life event or a career change.

Keeping your employees engaged

Improving and maintaining engagement can’t be done overnight — it requires a holistic view of your entire organization. Since you believe in the mission and goals of your organization, you might assume that everyone that works there feels the same, but you could be overlooking some critical issues. Here are three effective steps you can take to assess and improve engagement:

Use internal audits and surveys

If you don’t know exactly what the issues are, you’ll have a hard time solving them. A great place to start is by gathering data from employees. An anonymous survey of employee satisfaction can be useful, but creating internal structures for in-person discussions where managers can get feedback and insights is another great tool. Data shows that employees who don’t feel comfortable providing feedback at their organization tend to move on to other companies, so creating an environment that encourages this is essential. You can also use this feedback to get insight into what is important to employees, whether it be more scheduling flexibility, work-from-home time (if applicable), or other needs.

Since employees might not always feel comfortable sharing, it’s can also be helpful to look at HR management and payroll data. Are there any team members who routinely work more than a full day or who rarely take a vacation? These can be early signs of potential burnout or an unsustainable workload.

An important thing to keep in mind is that as you collect and analyze this data, you need to remain as neutral and open-minded as possible. Although your team is united around your organization’s mission, they probably have many different ideas of how to get there, as well as different ways to do their work, including working from home. Just making the effort to listen and consider incorporating feasible ideas is a great way to show your team that you are there for them and that they should feel comfortable speaking up.

Take a look at your recruitment and onboarding process

Nonprofits are mission-driven, and it can be difficult to find candidates who share an enthusiasm for the mission while also having the skills necessary for the job, resulting in a smaller pool of potential candidates.

For these reasons, you should view retention as something that begins as soon as you start the hiring process. Getting a sense of where your hiring process might be falling short in finding good candidates and taking a hard look at onboarding are great ways to ensure that you attract candidates who are interested in sticking around and that you are doing everything you can to help them.

Excessive voluntary turnover can sometimes be the result of an inefficient or ineffective hiring and onboarding process. Only 12% of employees feel that their company has a high-quality onboarding process, which may help explain the scale and costs of turnover in the United States.

Although many managers look at the onboarding phase as a “prove it” time for new employees to show their competence and skills, it’s also critical that managers connect with them and establish an understanding of their long-term goals.

Show investment in your employees

One factor that is becoming more important in employee retention, particularly for younger generations, is the opportunities for career growth and learning that your organization offers. Because work is becoming more technical and skilled, workers are being forced to continually refine their skills and learn new systems and processes to be attractive candidates.

This could work to your advantage: Building a culture that encourages employees to seek out new skills and gives them resources and time to learn will demonstrate that you are invested and you are listening to their needs and desires. It may also provide long-term benefits, such as enabling you to promote within or give employees new responsibilities as their skills grow and saving you the cost and time of hiring for a new role.

Freeing up resources for retention

Finding ways to avoid costly turnover is not just a matter of you identifying problems. You also need the time and resources necessary to address them. 501(c) Services works with nonprofits like yours to help free up essential resources and funding. We can help you identify areas where you might be overpaying, enabling you to focus on what’s important. If you’d like to learn more, reach out to us today.

501 members and subscribers have unlimited access to HR Services. Contact us anytime regarding this subject or any other HR challenge you may be facing.

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The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice or counsel and has been pulled from multiple sources.

(Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay)

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