Understanding talent management and succession planning at your nonprofit is about more than just knowing where your next hire will come from and planning for transitions. It’s all about understanding the non-negotiables, the employee skills and talents that are necessary for the continued success of your nonprofit. And, in the long run, it’s about carefully planning for the future ahead of each critical position.
Building your Talent Management Capabilities
Successful agencies don’t simply happen overnight, and neither does successful succession planning. It’s important that key people within your organization recognize that people will leave, employees will retire, and key positions will need to be filled ASAP. When this recognition happens, you can begin approaching succession planning within your agency as an opportunity to train and support talented employees in a way that moves their career forward.
When you are open and up-front with employees about the opportunities available for them at your organization, you position yourself and your Board for success. But you also get employees involved in the talent management of your agency.
Getting employees on board early and often, means that they’ll be prepared to do the work required to grow to their aspirations. It also helps ensure that they’ll understand the steps required to get a promotion and help new hires assimilate to your mission. To do this you must start with an internal review of your existing talent management steps and be prepared to change them as necessary.
To get started, begin considering what you’re doing now to develop the people within your organization that you know you would like to groom for future leadership. Ask questions that will help you gain understanding and insight into areas which they need strengthening in, and prepare to demonstrate the importance of investing in their development to others within the organization.
Some questions to consider before you begin explaining the importance of talent management and succession planning might include:
- What is your average turnover/tenure rate?
- How do you identify internal talent with a high potential to take on leadership roles?
- How do you measure their performance and support their growth?
- What would you do if a key member of the agency gave a two week notice today?
- What problems or obstacles would their successor encounter before they are fully integrated into the agency?
As you get past the planning stage and actually begin drafting a plan overview, make sure that you remember key items such as visible support from key management and Board members that strong succession plans often include. Lastly, make sure that key leadership criteria with incorporated information from focus groups and industry best practices, and agency accountability and follow-up options should also be included in your plan.
Defining Success at your Agency
Before you get too deep into writing the plan overview and creating the framework for your organizations talent management though, it’s important to determine what the most vital positions are.
You’re first thought might be to say your agency couldn’t survive without the Executive Director, or the CFO, but what about the Intake Coordinators, Fundraisers, and front-line workers your agency couldn’t live without?
While determining which positions are most important at your organization, be careful that you’re not only including top management, top performers, or current, well-liked employees. Include positions that are crucial to the daily functions of your organization and give these the highest priority for review based on the risk the organization runs with each vacancy.
Once the most important positions are determined, develop a success profile for each position that identifies the knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience a new hire would have to have for this critical role. Now might also be a good time to take a look at the performance assessments that have been conducted on this position- regardless of the employee within the position- over the last few years.
Developing the Talent
Now that you’ve determined the most critical positions within your organization and developed success profiles for each of them, you’re ready to begin figuring out how to develop the employees you would like to groom for these positions.
You’re goal in this should be to identify and develop internal candidates that may be potential successors for specific positions. These potential successors should match:
- Your needs as a nonprofit agency
- The skill set that they can or will be developing
- The employees aspirations for their future
If an employee you think might be worth developing doesn’t match on any of the above three points, begin developing outside connections that expose you to the potential employees that would help fill the gaps in your agency.
Throughout this step you’ll want to use performance management tools that integrate organizational data outside of the typical performance review to help build a complete profile of the individual that is in the position. A more comprehensive talent inventory that involves multiple aspects of the position will allow you to identify skills gaps at the departmental level and systematically identify the people with qualifications that fill those gaps.
Recruiting and Hiring the Right Talent
Before finishing your succession planning, make sure that you have identified the timing and process for bringing new people into the organization, particularly for your critical roles. Because successful recruitment occurs long before a vacancy occurs, the profiles and assessments you create now will help you identify the types of skills and talents that your organization thrives because of.