Competencies are designed to help individuals grow in their roles and their organizations. However, when competencies are poorly defined or applied incorrectly, they can undermine a nonprofit’s talent management process.
According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, 1 in 4 senior nonprofit executives will leave their organizations within the next 2 years. These departures can result in a loss of productivity and require the use of organizational resources in order to fill the position. The time and energy spent recruiting and looking for a replacement can equal an employee’s salary depending on the position. These retention rates can have an effect on the managerial level as well. Research shows that managers believe that finding employment elsewhere is the only way they will grow faster.
To reduce turnover, nonprofits can create a talent management process that defines and uses competencies that will help individuals grow in their roles and organizations. When defined and used properly, competencies can help identify particular skills, capabilities, and experiences needed for employees to perform at their best and to encourage future growth.
Here are 4 common mistakes nonprofit organizations make when defining and using competencies:
1. To use competencies properly when assessing an individual’s performance.
A performance assessment of an individual should be based primarily on how well they are doing against their agreed upon goals and target for the year. Competencies enable this performance and act as a guide for individuals to understand the skills they need to develop to improve their performance over time. Organizations that do this right use the performance assessment to identify the competencies for each individual to work on.
2. Only thinking of competencies in relation to the work of the individual and organization.
Most nonprofits, that have identified and defined competencies, use a list of job-related competencies. These are generally relevant for everyone in the organization (e.g. communication, dependability, workload management) and can include ones that are specific to certain roles. However, many nonprofit organizations forget that they need to have a set of leadership competencies along with the job competencies — to encourage organizational success.
3. Failing to tailor competencies that are both organization-specific and future oriented.
Some nonprofits have a starter set of competencies that they work with that were either pulled from an HR website or another resource. However, most organizations have not considered if these competencies will enable the organization to achieve strategic priorities. While starter lists provide a good foundation, there needs to be a set of competencies that are specific to their work and encourages future success.
4. Not defining competencies that make them user friendly for development purposes.
While many organizations have a short definition for each competency, only a few have taken the time to create a more elaborate definition for each one. This would provide a better understanding of what it means to progress from an early stage to an advanced stage for each competency.
Nonprofit organizations that approach identifying and using competencies with leadership development in mind avoid many of these pitfalls. In addition, getting the competencies right and using them for development purposes gives nonprofits a better chance at increasing retention and job satisfaction among emerging leaders.