Implement Processes that Help Combat Preventable Terminations

Voluntary turnover harms your bottom line. Your team must focus on providing meaningful work, goal-setting, and communicating that you value their worth. Please note: Masking difficult work conditions with “fun” items like free beverages will not build the employee engagement necessary to break many organizations’ cycle of preventable terminations.

Consider the following sensible suggestions to help your team reduce employee turnover:

Know Your Stuff with Workforce Analytics

You might notice your managers losing employees, but do you know which few are high on the retention scale? Take care to standardize your metrics across the organization, using the same rules for all teams. Performance management software can help you track conversations and responses. Your job profiles will be more accurate, and you can set clear expectations of others. Keep everyone on the same page regarding meeting notes and performance evaluations. Determine which managers have markedly kept employees engaged, so you can set up a program allowing them to teach those skills to other managers.

Make the Most of Personalities

Teams excel when a variety of  key personality types are orchestrated. If you blend risk-takers with detail-oriented individuals, you’ll benefit from an innovative team that can finish projects. Too many of any one type of personality, and you risk losing innovation or failing to meet project completion deadlines. Blend these two with some people-oriented relationship builders to help everyone work together. When selecting personality assessment tools, choose one that is appropriate for the work environment, such as trengthsFinder, the DiSC assessment or the Core Values Index.

Find the Right People

It may seem like a lot of work to define skills, values, and personalities that work best for the roles you need to fill. And it’s even more work to confirm that your pay and benefits are within reasonable benchmarks for your region and industry. But hiring someone who stays for years will make it worthwhile.Repeatedly filling a slot with wrong-fit people will cost you money, time, and missed deadlines.

If an employee has been given ample time, onboarding, and additional training but just can’t finish projects or fit your values and culture, you need to let him go. Don’t give poor-fit workers the time to frustrate and drive away your productive staff members. The more you find right-fit employees, the less often you’ll be forced into one of these situations.

The Nonprofit Equation

In large part, people do not take employment at nonprofits for the money. They go into it to feel a strong sense of purpose. Just be aware that their initial interest does not solve employee turnover. People burn out. Lack of investment in a workplace infrastructure can leave staff overworked and underpaid—which will demolish employee engagement. Yet, for decades, the “low pay, make do, and do without” culture of the nonprofit sector has prevailed.

Shockingly, more than 80% of nonprofits have no formal retention strategy. They are not prepared to withstand the varied and tangled reasons for their high turnover. There are countless reasons why employees leave, including: low pay, no upward mobility, excessive workloads, lack of career development, missing mentors, lack of growth opportunities, no rewards or recognition, poor leadership, lack of organizational vision, stifled communication, challenging or even hostile culture, inadequate job reviews, long work hours with no flexibility. Nonprofit leaders simply accepted the resulting high turnover as the cost of doing business.

Before you lose another needed staff member, consider these steps to addressing the causes:

  • Transparency and Support. Be sure to model a culture of acceptance to encourage sharing. In one-on-one discussions and group support meetings, allow staff to speak freely. This is not the time to be defensive or accusatory. Provide opportunities for self-care. Some nonprofits create opportunities for walking or jogging. Invest in a small library of relaxing and fun eBooks that can be shared with remote workers. Humor, science fiction, travel, romance, and adventure—these stories allow people to escape without ever leaving their chair.
  • Help Them Grow. Even in the nonprofit sector, employees value career development more than any other perk. Professional development opportunities and potential for career advancement go hand-in-hand to explain why they choose their jobs. Yet, a recent study reported that more than a third of respondents felt their organization lacked interest in their development or advancement. If you’re not promoting from within, your employee morale is suffering as a result. Start resolving this by creating some training opportunities—anything from books to online classes.
  • Design Realistic Workloads. Employee burnout is a huge problem for nonprofits. Start fixing it by balancing projects across your team, so that some aren’t working longer, harder hours than others. Assign work based on an employee’s job, skills, talents, and interests … taking care regarding the workload level of everyone on the team.

Support Their Talents, Capabilities, and Dreams

There is a delicate balance to consider when summing up each employee’s strengths. On the one hand, you don’t want to push your staff members to do things they’re not equipped to handle. For example, a sensitive introvert might not be the best choice to handle cold calling or outbound fundraising approaches. All those rejections might scare them right out of your organization. On the other hand, you must do your best to avoid unconscious bias in project assignments. If you think someone might be unable to handle technology because of their age, think again. The same goes for gender, race, country of origin, or any other unreliable indicator. An employee’s demonstrated strengths are very different from your assumption of an employee’s weaknesses based on gut feelings. So, as you get to know employees, follow their work, and talk with them about their career goals, your genuine knowledge of their talents, skills, interests, and career goals can help you guide them in directions where they will feel engaged and motivated to pursue excellence.

Counting the Cost of Turnover

If your nonprofit is struggling with loss of staff, especially as we climb out of the COVID-19 pandemic, developing a robust retention management plan can help. It’s worth your time to learn some metrics and calculations. If you’re not paying attention to your turnover metrics, you’re missing key information necessary for your nonprofit’s ongoing survival. These numbers will help you know with clarity and certainty how your organization is doing and where it needs help.

Metrics can lead you to ask questions and find out why particular people are leaving so you can formulate targeted retention strategies that work. In all, your retention management plan will empower you to determine the extent of your losses, diagnose exactly what’s causing the problem, and then develop strategies you can implement to improve your situation. Ensure your success with the following metrics:

  • Overall Retention Rate. Divide your current number of employees by the number of employees at the start of your measurement period. Then, multiply that by 100. So, if your nonprofit currently has 75 staff members, and you began the year with 80 people, divide 75 by 80 to get .9375. Multiply that by 100 to get an overall retention rate for those months at 93.75%. This gives you a quick look at how your staff might have been shrinking in recent months.
  • Overall Turnover Rate. This is the opposite of your retention rate. It can inform you about your team’s health. Divide the number of employees who left during a specific time frame by the average number of employees during that time. Multiply the answer by 100. So, if you averaged about 50 employees during that time frame, and 5 people left, you divide 5 by 50, giving you .1 as your first answer. Multiply that by 100, and your turnover rate is 10%.
  • Voluntary Turnover. Track the number of employees who choose to resign and leave your nonprofit. It’s a strong indicator that your engagement is low, and your retention strategies are not working. It can also mean that the wrong person was hired for the job.
  • Involuntary Turnover. When you fire or lay off an employee, it’s generally your decision to make the change. The reason could be for low job performance or a poor fit between your culture and that staff member. For both voluntary and involuntary turnover, try to ask key questions and discern what led to that point.
  • The Costs of your Losses. Measuring the costs can be tricky to calculate, but if you keep good records of your expenses, that will simplify the job. The reason for tackling this is that every nonprofit leader wants to keep costs under control. It’s part of their job description. So, if your turnover costs are high, you must implement this effective and efficient tool for measuring and controlling your costs significantly.

The expense of replacing a single employee can be as high as 60% of her annual salary. Total costs go much higher. And these expenses are harder on smaller nonprofits. No matter how you feel about working with numbers, your organization is counting on you to intervene with crucial information. The numbers you generate will help you influence turnover rates and save your organization from painful costs.

Take the Turnover Tour

There are many reasons that employees leave a job. The first distinction, of course, is whether that turnover was voluntary or involuntary. They require different management techniques. First, be sure to handle the legal requirements for involuntary turnover as well as the root causes of such loss (such as an inadequate job description or depleted talent pool).

Next, pay attention to your voluntary turnover. Among workers who leave voluntarily, there are two types: Functional and Dysfunctional. Watch out for the latter. Functional turnover doesn’t generally hurt an organization, as you’re losing poor performers or easily replaced employees. Dysfunctional turnover, on the other hand, will hurt your nonprofit in many ways. You could lose your high-performers and employees with hard-to-replace skills. You also risk losing your diverse culture, as women and minority group members leave.

The final distinction separates two types of dysfunctional turnover: Unavoidable and Avoidable. If someone leaves to move out of state with their spouse, there will be little you can do to prevent it (though remote work is becoming a widespread new option). Generally, if there is nothing you can do to prevent the change, it’s unavoidable. Every employer will face a certain amount of this. Avoidable turnover is where you must focus. Find ways to improve employee satisfaction. And before you decide if a case of turnover is unavoidable, it might be time to consider how to change it. An employee who quit in the past to start a family may stay with you, now, if your organization starts offering paid maternity leave, on-site childcare, and other working-parent benefits. Some solid number crunching that compares the cost of replacing lost talent against the cost of keeping employees from leaving will help you determine your best case-by-case course of action.

Why They Leave

In considering why employees leave your organization, be sure to consider the following reasons they could be exiting your nonprofit:

• The job is unsatisfying. Your nonprofit has not been able to tip the scale of inducements over their Contributions. Look deeper at their desire to leave and ease of leaving.

• Something better became available. They may or may not be dissatisfied with their current job, but perhaps an even more appealing job was offered elsewhere.

• They’re following a plan. This could involve educational or family goals or some other life transitions that preclude their staying in the job. There will likely be little you can do about these departures unless remote work and flexible hours sweeten the inducements to stay on-staff.

• They’re leaving without a plan. This is an impulsive action. It might be their response to something negative happening at work, such as losing out on a promotion. If they’re leaving due to some preventable workplace experience, such as sexual harassment, you must find better ways to protect your employees.

Why They Stay

Employees who stay in one job for years usually find themselves embedded in their workplace, culture, and community. They’ve grown a thriving network of relationships and professional connections that fulfill both their professional and personal lives. When they leave a job, they often lose most of those long held ties. Here’s where you can support your embedded employees:

  • Links. People, such as co-workers, mentors, friends, and volunteers make up the people who are linked to your employee. To foster these connections, try to provide mentors, design work in teams, encourage team cohesiveness and employee referrals. Support participation in outside service events or sponsor community activities such as bowling or softball leagues and participation in outside service events.
  • Fit. This is the compatibility your employee feels for the position, organization, and surrounding community. For example, if your employee was drawn to your organization because you help people with diabetes, and they happen to be a Type 1 diabetic, they probably feel a personal connection to their job that they wouldn’t feel working for another type of nonprofit. To encourage a team with more right-fit employees, provide realistic information during recruitment, make job and organizational fit a part of candidate selection, and communicate clearly about your nonprofit’s culture and values.
  • Sacrifice. What would your high-performing employee have to give up in order to leave their job? Could it be loss of tenure-based financial rewards or perhaps the loss of a positive work environment, promotional opportunities, or even name-recognition in the community at large? The more they have to lose, the more embedded they become, and the less likely they are to leave.

The Pandemic’s Influence

Even before the pandemic hit, approximately a quarter of American workers were quitting their jobs in order to find something better. With the economic recovery, many are now seeking to leave after the pandemic ends. Approximately 80% are concerned about career advancement, a common problem in the nonprofit sector. However, it’s even more important to note that 72% of American workers say the pandemic forced them to rethink their skill sets. More than half of those planning to leave their jobs spent the pandemic months training to build new skills. Many did so in preparation to change jobs within the next few months. The reality of moving from job to job to increase your pay and boost your career status reportedly works better for white males than for women or minorities. In fact, this kind of post-pandemic shift carries the potential to worsen income inequality and other inequities, as college educated white workers increase their remote-work options while other employees remain unable to job hop. Take these three steps to maximize employee retention in the post-pandemic economy:

  1. Reconnect. Months of remote work left many employees feeling dissociated from their employers. This leaves them more open to changing jobs, especially when another employer reaches out to them. Rather than rush everyone back into the office, consider increasing your flexibility. Giving your employees options, especially after the pandemic, will make your organization more attractive as an employer. Some nonprofits are choosing a hybrid model, splitting time between the office, and working from home. Nearly 70% of workers find this balance to be an “ideal” model.
  2. Open Pathways. The pandemic worsened anxieties already plaguing employees about their career development. When your staff went home, did you invest in training them on technical skills for the new employment landscape? Many nonprofits were forced to focus on providing emergency resources for childcare and mental health. They had to shift their business model, but training beyond the immediately necessary was lost in the mix. It’s time to accommodate your employees career goals and give them the additional training required to be able to function in a technical world.
  3. Support Financial Wellbeing. Understand that new jobs are opening up at such a rate that many workers are finding new opportunities where none existed before the pandemic. Your employees need to feel financially safe if they will continue working for you. With their new training and opportunities, you will lose talent if you don’t pay them enough to remain resilient.

This is an excerpt from UST’s eBook, “3 Essential Practices to Cultivate a Positive Employee Experience” in collaboration with Beth Black, Writer and Editor.

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