Blogs

February 02, 2023

HR Question: Handling Rumors of Harassment

Question: Do we need to investigate rumors of harassment even if no one has made a complaint?

Answer: Yes, you should investigate. A company always has some inherent liability in relation to discriminatory or harassing comments or behavior. The level of liability usually correlates to the nature, severity, and context of the comments, the position of the employee who made them, and what the employer does or does not do about it. 

Since you have knowledge of a potential situation, you should investigate the matter and take appropriate disciplinary action if it turns out your antiharassment policy was violated. As you conduct the investigation, document the discussions you have as well as your findings, and reassure those you interview their participation will not result in retaliation. 

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

January 24, 2023

The Value of Cost of Living Raises

It is nearly impossible to find data about compensation increases without inflation figuring in every discussion. In 2022, amidst the first global pandemic in over a century, the average price of gas skyrocketed to $5.75 per gallon (up from a low of $2.68 in May of 2020). The inflation rate for 2022 finished at 6.5%, and today (for the moment), gas prices sit as low as $3.49 in some areas.  The federal minimum wage will increase to $9.50 per hour this year, varying significantly from state to state.  You can visit The Horton Group page on minimum wages for the state-specific wage rates.

Investopedia.com defines inflation as “a rise in prices, which can be translated as the decline of purchasing power over time.” Among today’s inflationary pressures we can count damage to crops, livestock, lives, and property from recent climate change events, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spiking the costs of natural gas and grain, and a new strain of avian flu resulting in eggs at $6.00 per dozen.  The pandemic itself was a force majeure expense for everyone, with shortages ranging from microchips to baby formula.

And yet, we have emerged from this tough time with an appreciation for U.S. workers that we haven’t experienced since the 1950s. Employers continue to be affected by the great labor shortage and unexpected increases in opportunities, pay, and benefits for workers.  Driven in no small part by younger workers unwilling to settle for low-wage gigs, companies have been hiring at significantly competitive salaries and vying for new workers by burnishing their employer brand as emphatically as they do their brand. Things have changed.

BDO USA, a global accounting firm, anticipated that budgets for merit increases in 2022 would hover around 3%, but found that in the final quarter of 2021, the increases topped out just below 4%. The talent shortage had pushed raises into the 4% range. Concurrently, inflation was approaching 1982 levels, which BDO anticipated would push salary increases still higher (the term for this is a wage-price spiral, which Americans last heard about in the mid-1970s). BDO conducted a poll of 440 organizations across multiple industries--including 127 nonprofits—in January and February of 2022 and determined that compensation budgets for all participating companies averaged 5.1%, with nonprofit firms averaging 4.4%. The last time salary-increase budgets exceeded 4% was in 2001.

BDO cautioned, “For nonprofits, this may be a significant shock for their 2022 budgets, as a 4.4% budget increase represents a 47% hike (emphasis also mine) compared to the previously standard 3% budget. It is likely that many organizations are not in a position to increase salary budgets to this degree.”

Journalist and social media strategist Lia Tabackman succinctly laid out the good and bad news in her article in 501c.com, Nonprofit Compensation Battles with Inflation: “Salary and wage increases at U.S. organizations have not kept pace with the rising prices of inflation, and recent trends suggest that in many cases there is financial gain to be had from leaving workplaces that can’t keep up. To put a fine point on it: employers who aren’t able to provide compensation increases that account for inflation risk losing their employees to those who can.”

Fortunately, there are plenty of voices in the for-profit and nonprofit worlds who offer useful guidance in addressing the challenge. BDO suggests inflation’s impact on salary gains will vary by situation.  Here are some of their tips to bolster your workforce.

  • As energy prices rise, consider extra financial support for employees that need to commute by car or drive as part of their job duties. This can be delivered in the form of gas cards, parking vouchers, or passes for public transportation.
  • If increasing your budget for merit increases is not feasible, consider doing a mid-year assessment to determine whether a second pay adjustment is needed and can be supported.
  • Identify personnel that are mission-critical, as well as top performers to ensure their contributions are recognized and reflected in pay levels according to the organization’s pay policies and financial condition.
  • While there are always exceptions, lower wage employees are the most impacted by inflation. Their salary increases typically do not result in a significant change in purchasing power. Focus salary increase dollars on those who are most impacted.
  • Allocating more of the budget to pay increases for lower-paid employees can do more than just promote retention, it can help differentiate your organization as one that prioritizes fair compensation practices and demonstrates that management values its employees.

Lauren Mason, senior principal for the Career Business Division at Mercer (an HR consulting partnership) made these recommendations for employers to consider for this year's compensation planning period:

  • Prioritize Hourly Pay.  With unprecedented levels of churn in the labor market, wage growth at record pace and increasing external scrutiny, now is the time to focus on hourly pay strategies.
  • Consider A Segmented Approach.  Ensure budget dollars "are focused on addressing gaps in competitiveness . . . Consider a segmented approach by offering higher wages to both new joiners and high-performing current employees in critical business segments, as well as those whose pay is below market rates.
  • Keep In Mind The Employee Experience.  Employees have heightened expectations around pay, so equip leaders with the resources to communicate pay decisions effectively.

CapinCrouse, a national CPA and consulting firm serving nonprofits, provided the following from their three-part series Inflation’s Ripple Effect on Nonprofits and Their Employees.

  • Nonprofit compensation is enough of a puzzle without the added challenge of market fluctuations. But while every organization is different, there are options for leaders who want to communicate the value of their team members through more than just cash compensation.
  • Many nonprofits are opting to give their employees one-time bonuses rather than setting themselves up to maintain promised increases in future years. This provides an immediate benefit to employees who are feeling the real-time impact of market conditions without setting the precedent of an increased baseline wage.
  • Since times of economic inflation tend to put more strain on lower-level (and lower-earning) employees, nonprofits may also want to consider providing tiered incentives such as:
  • Increased retirement plan contribution percentages
  • Stipends to accommodate elevated gas prices (consult with a tax advisor first to ensure they understand and disclose the potential tax implications for the organization and employees)
  • Higher merit increases or one-time bonuses

In March 2022, hundreds of nonprofit workers gathered in New York City to demand that the city write a minimum wage of $21 per hour and a 6% cost of living adjustment into the city budget for nonprofit workers. Minor Sinclair, Executive Director of The Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) wrote for The Chronicle of Philanthropy to explain how CPR increased their employees’ wages, beginning with a “contingency fund” to augment salaries to help offset the impact of inflation. Staff members received a $1,000 payment from the fund in spring 2022, which CPR planned to renew in the fall. CPR also upgraded employees’ benefits packages, including a “modest allowance” to help cover utility and internet costs for staff working from home. Employees also received an extra week of vacation to be taken at the end of the year. Additionally, CPR made short and long-term disability-pay plans available to staff.

It is important not to lose sight of the fact that the nonprofit sector is the third largest employer in North America, employing one out of every ten working Americans (about 12.5 million workers). Think about the strength in those numbers. If nonprofits can't retain quality employees, their fundraising and program delivery will suffer. During tough economic times and good, investing in people pays dividends for your nonprofit’s present and future successes.

This blog post was written by Amélie Frank, consulting copywriter to UST. To learn more about Amélie’s professional portfolio you can find her online at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amelie-frank/.

January 13, 2023

Consistently Benchmarking Compensation Ranges

It is vital to the success of your organization that you approach employee compensation with the accuracy of metrics. Routine benchmarking of your salaries and benefits against those of your employment competition can help you retain valuable employees. Before you can offer the right pay, you must know what the competition is offering.

What Benchmarking Means to Your Retention

In order to reach your goals and fulfill your mission, you need to know what skills are required and how many people you need to achieve success. To determine the answers to these questions, you must analyze vital metrics including employee turnover, wages, opportunities for promotion and your organization's hierarchy. Knowing this information can help you understand, identify and correct underlying weaknesses in your organization. If you're hiring and training people only to lose them before your expense has been covered, studying key metrics on turnover rates combined with average wages may help you focus on the cause of your problem, be it pay, engagement, or something else entirely. From there, you can find employees and strategies that make for a better fit.

You then need to learn how to interpret and respond to the metrics you uncover. But don't fear the answers you uncover—there is no "ideal" turnover rate, even within your specific mission. However, knowing where you fall within the range of employers in your geographic region and mission can help you make deliberate and informed choices in pay and benefits. Simply put, you won't know what you can do until you see a complete picture of how you compare.

An annual benchmark report card covers all the basics, but if you find that a particular issue or program requires additional follow-up, which will most likely be the case, you should consider tracking it quarterly in order to continuously monitor key metrics.

Affordable Benchmarking: Nonprofits Helping Nonprofits

While paid data resources can provide detailed information, their costs generally reach beyond the budget of a small- or medium-sized organization. Fortunately, most states offer affordable resources for the information you need. The National Council for Nonprofits, a nonprofit itself, connects nonprofit organizations with localized associations that offer data-based best practices information. A quick review of the map will provide the contact information you need to get in touch with the nonprofit association in your state. For example, the Maine Association of Nonprofits (MANP) publishes a survey that describes the latest rankings of salaries and benefits for all participating nonprofits in the state. "Any nonprofit experiencing staff retention issues should, first, verify that their salaries correspond to regional benchmarks with other nonprofits," said MANP Executive Director Jennifer Hutchins. "Once you have the data, your executive director should have a conversation with your board of directors ensuring that the organization is adequately investing resources in retaining the staff needed to achieve desired outcomes toward reaching mission goals."

Maine's association also provides other resources for nonprofits, such as training, advocacy and legal assistance. Their publication, Guiding Principles & Practices, provides a free online best-practices guide for nonprofit leaders including the chapter, "Staff & Volunteer Management." The associations in most other states offer similar reports. For information on benchmarking against for-profit businesses, contact your state's department of labor or your local chamber of commerce. Membership in associations vary by state and are usually based on a sliding scale so that newer or smaller nonprofits can take advantage of the information without financial hardship.

Nonprofits with larger operating budgets may be able to invest in research conducted by the Employers Council. This nonprofit provides help with Employment Law, HR, Training and surveys. While their fees are higher, you'll find a broad scope of research that includes for-profit salaries and benefits. If most of your employment competition is coming from the for-profit sector, it may be worth the investment.

Start with Salaries

You went through a rigorous hiring process and found employees who formed a team that has created awesome results. But then, one by one, members of your team leave for other jobs. What went wrong? It may be tempting to solely blame the comparatively low financial picture of a nonprofit organization. However, there are winning strategies that the smart HR professional can use to retain employees longer, so the organization benefits from their professional growth and accumulating experience. It's not just about money—nor is it just about the mission. Employees need you to understand that a complex blend of mission and compensation—including professional development—will help them stay with you longer.

Some salary benchmarking strategists argue that employees these days have a lot more access to compensation information on the internet. It's true, there is more transparency than ever, but it doesn't have to act against you. With the right benchmarking plan in place, you can make good use of this information. Bear in mind that low turnover can be a sign that you're paying more than the standard. Finding a balance between overpayment and underpayment will only happen when you benchmark your salaries against the competition.

What Else to Benchmark?

Retaining personnel requires benchmarking information that goes beyond the hiring process. For example, knowing how often you promote from within could be a crucial factor in staff retention. You should dig deeper than this, of course. Say, for example, your organization diligently promotes male employees to management positions but fails to promote females at the same rate; this could signal a serious problem. It's important to study all aspects of "promotions" as a topic in order to uncover issues.

The first step, of course, is to know where your organization stands by benchmarking your situation regularly. The ADP Research Institute (ADPRI) provides the benchmarks needed to gain a better understanding of employee retention in different organizations. This new data will help you measure the effectiveness of your diversity and inclusion programs. If your organization lacks such programs, this data will show how you compare to other employers who do have such systems in place.

It's no secret that pay gaps between men and women still exist in today's society. And yes, even in well-intentioned nonprofits, gender-based pay disparity remains a critical problem. If you catch this with benchmarking, it's critical that you monitor the situation closely.

In an Ever-Changing Field, Knowledge Truly Is Power

You must be aggressive in pursuit of frequent benchmark updates. Stay abreast of your status in relation to compensation by industry and location. The employee you hired six months ago could go online today and discover new information on salaries and other perks that recently developed for a particular skill-set. With the shortages of skilled labor, transferable skills are more desirable today than ever before. The question then arises: How often should I benchmark? The answer is simple (though painful): How often do you want to be caught off-guard when a valued employee leaves?

Pay careful attention to your nonprofit's annual calendar when planning your benchmarking activities. Find those times when you can move ahead with benchmarking, and then be sure to follow through consistently. Be sure to understand the particular needs of your nonprofit and know that it might not reflect what is measured in the for-profit business world. Of course, it's valuable to study the metrics for your particular location. If you're located in a region where the cost of living is higher than the national average, be sure to recognize and measure the degree to which it affects your employees' ability to stay with you.

Retention Is Not Enough

Tracking retention, alone, is not the solution to all of your concerns. Some employees may be staying in place while waiting for a better opportunity to present itself. They're not necessarily doing their best work for you, and they will not hesitate to leave when the chance arises. So, for the weeks, months or even years that they are occupying that position, don’t assume everything is good. More than retention, you need employee loyalty.

Try measuring who is satisfied in their job for the long term. How do you know what to measure? Business expert Jon Picoult listed nuanced metrics to prioritize:

Ask the right questions on employee satisfaction surveys. How likely would it be for the staff member to recommend your organization as a workplace and why.

Track your real referrals. When you interview job candidates, ask them if they were referred by a current or past employee.

Track employee suggestions. A loyal employee is more likely to make suggestions for workplace improvements.

Whether you're making your first foray into benchmarking employee retention, or you're taking it to the next level with regular studies on employee loyalty, you're already doing better than many other organizations. Remember to create and follow a solid benchmarking schedule to track this information frequently, and then you will be properly prepared to build and maintain your organization's robust workforce. There truly is power in knowledge, and this is how you plug in.

This is an excerpt from UST’s eBook, “5 Vital Employee Engagement Practices to Foster a Desirable Workplace” in collaboration with Beth Black, Writer and Editor.

January 09, 2023

HR Question: Hours Worked and Exempt Employees

Question: What is the minimum amount of time that an exempt employee must work to be credited for the entire day?

Answer: If an exempt employee does any work, they must be paid for the full day—there is no minimum. For instance, if the employee came to the office for the first 15 minutes of their usual 8-hour day, then went home sick, they would be entitled to their full pay for that day. 

The only exceptions to the Full-Pay-for-Partial-Day rule is during the employee’s first or last week of employment, when the employer is offsetting amounts received for civil service like jury duty or military leave, or when the employee is taking unpaid leave under FMLA. 

Employers can, however, use an employee’s paid time off to fill in the gaps. So, if the employee had paid time off available in their PTO bank, the employer could use a partial day of that time to cover their absence. But if the employee was out of paid time off (or was never offered any), the employer would still owe them for the full day.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

December 28, 2022

HR Question: Terminating Employees Looking for Work

Question: We’ve recently learned that one of our employees is planning to leave the company and has been applying for positions elsewhere. Can we terminate them?

Answer: Terminating employment because an employee is looking for work elsewhere isn’t expressly prohibited by law, but we wouldn’t recommend it. You might be surprised by how many of your employees are looking for other opportunities—either actively or passively—while still doing good work for your organization. If you start terminating everyone who is keeping an eye out for the next opportunity, you may find yourself with woefully few employees left. This is also the kind of organizational behavior that makes the water cooler news, hurts morale, and may even make it into an online review of your business. For all of these reasons, we’d suggest a different approach.

Instead of terminating this employee, you might consider talking with them to determine why they are looking for work elsewhere and what might motivate them to stay. There may be issues you can fix. In fact, a lot of employers regularly conduct both exit and stay interviews to get more insight into the reasons that their employees leave or what keeps them motivated to stay. This information helps them better engage their workforce and increase retention.  

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

December 20, 2022

The Changing Landscape of the Nonprofit Workforce

No matter where society struggles or how much change comes to your nonprofit, everything always comes down to the people who form your team and support your community. If you lack the flexibility and resilience to confront perilous forces such as socioeconomic upheaval, a pandemic, or a workforce revolution, your organization runs the risk of collapse.

In order to achieve stability, nonprofits need to reinforce the steadfast support of a dedicated staff. Download the bundle to uncover strategies for:

  • Navigating the talent gap crisis in a post-pandemic workforce
  • Adjusting your hiring and onboarding practices to accommodate the current talent shortage
  • Addressing employee burnout and what you can do to help
  • Strengthening your employee development strategies
  • And much more

For just $19, this information-packed bundle gives you access to a wealth of helpful resources—including our Changing Nonprofit Workforce eBook and Toolkit—filled with the tools you need to support a dynamic workforce.

December 16, 2022

[Webinar Recording] UST Live: Volunteer Management

From recruiting and training to engagement and retention, your organization has likely invested a great deal of time and effort into ensuring your volunteer program is successful. Volunteers make up an essential part of a nonprofit's workforce—making effective volunteer management strategies vital to an organization's day-to-day operations and key to developing and maintaining volunteers that are knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated.

In the latest rendition of UST Live, we were joined by thought leaders from across the U.S. with expertise in volunteer management. Discover how your nonprofit peers are improving volunteer retention rates while increasing engagement and what you can do to keep volunteers excited about the work your nonprofit does to support its surrounding communities in this on-demand recording of the session. You’ll also discover:

  • Ideas for increasing volunteer acquisition and retention rates
  • Tips for developing and implementing thoughtful training strategies
  • The importance of volunteer recognition and keeping them engaged

Upcoming UST Live Webinars: This webinar series was designed to equip nonprofits with the strategies and resources they need to survive (and thrive) in a constantly evolving environment. Be on the lookout for future UST Live sessions.

December 09, 2022

Handling Internal Complaints

Are you conflict averse? For most folks, conflict can be a nasty trigger. It sets off the brain’s panic center—the amygdala—activating responses of fight, flight, freeze, or (new tactic for those who don’t mind how bad it makes them look) fawn to cope. It’s neither fun nor fulfilling to work in an office frequently disrupted by this type of energy. However, workplaces now abound with all kinds of people from a variety of backgrounds. Conflict is unavoidable.

Conflict is a reality of working life. All workplaces wrestle with conflicts of some sort at point or another.  Because companies issue policies to mitigate such trouble as sexual harassment, discrimination, and the misuse of technology, they have provided better guidelines for HR departments to resolve weighty disputes sooner than later. However, conflict doesn’t require illegal behavior. If sentient beings work together, there will always be the potential for headbutting.

Under the right circumstances, an internal dispute may provide a company a way to become better informed and more resilient in facing flack in the marketplace. A company that fosters diverse talents and viewpoints among its crew will keep its eyes and ears open and its tactics flexible for problem-solving. A company smart enough to perceive conflict as a teacher may wield it to kick open new doors or avert unforeseen disaster.

What is Conflict?

A 2008 international study by CPP Global, publisher of the Myers-Briggs assessment tool, defined conflict as “any workplace disagreement that disrupts the flow of work.” The same year, a Psychometrics study in Canada described conflict as “a struggle that results when one individual’s concerns diverge from another person’s wants.” Indeed.com discerned that the first definition fits a negative view of conflict, while the second definition may goose the parties locked in confrontation to seek novel, potential win-win outcomes.

Common causes of conflicts among individuals include:

  • Divergent personalities, cultures, experiences, work styles, personal habits, or perspectives
  • Competition between colleagues
  • Poor communication or unclear supervision
  • Uncertainly about roles and responsibilities

Employees responding to CPP’s survey cited personality clashes and egos (49%), stress (34%), heavy workloads (33%), poor leadership (29%), dishonesty (26%), unclear roles (22%), clashing values (18%), harassment or bullying (13%), and the perception of discriminatory practices (10%). Nearly one third (27%) had seen conflicts evoke personal attacks.

Tellingly, CPP respondents observed that conflicts were highest (34%) among frontline or entry-level employers—those likely untrained in conflict management.

Here are four types of team conflicts as formulated by Indeed’s career coach Jennifer Herrity.

  • Task-based conflicts (a team member doesn’t hold up their part of a task, affecting another member’s or the team’s ability to finish on time; different teams put at odds over resources, budgets, and policies)
  • Leadership conflicts (clashes in leadership styles, one director impeding inclusive and collaborative directing)
  • Work style conflicts (self-starters versus those who prefer step-by-step guidance)
  • Personality/relationship-based clashes (people not getting along)

As workplaces grow, more people connect and occasionally collide over different values and methods for doing their work. Negative conflict can manifest in arguments, difficult relationships, verbal abuse, harassment, bullying, or unethical behavior that affects the entire company. Positive conflict can inspire competition, motivate players to work harder for their goals, and tolerate confrontations over different strategies, which can give way to new and better approaches.

What Does Conflict Cost Us?

According to Human Resources Online, managers spend 15% of their work time mediating conflict. Workplace discord can freeze the pace of projects and deliverables. Where misunderstandings and resentments proliferate, an institution can hemorrhage time and money. Pollack Peacebuilding Systems unveiled its Workplace Conflict Statistics for 2022 with some eyebrow-raising data.

  • U.S. employees spend approximately 2.8 hours each week involved in conflict. That’s nearly $359 billion in hours (the equivalent of $385 million day) focused on squabbling rather than collaborating. (It sounds a bit like Congress!)
  • A company’s average cost for litigated issues was $160,000, averaging 318 days to resolve. Most employment disputes don’t make it to court. For cases that do, the damages can be hefty. The median judgment runs about $200,000, not counting the cost of defense. One in four cases ends in a judgment of $500,000 or more.
  • Almost one in ten employees (9%) have seen projects fail because of workplace conflict.

For nonprofits, employee retention is an existential issue. Any atmosphere made noxious by conflict can demotivate employees and volunteers who can leave to find a more hospitable gig elsewhere.

How Do We Handle and Resolve Conflict?

If you Google for answers on how to handle internal disputes, you can bag dozens of skills lists and even more pages detailing resolution techniques. Widely regarded as a leadership skill, conflict resolution is the art of addressing differences between two or more parties and finding common ground for everyone to work together. How HR departments investigate internal conflict and why it’s important to train employees in conflict resolution skills is vital to your nonprofit’s longevity.

HR Investigations

A company cannot let conflict fester until it damages the company’s process, employer brand, or consumer brand. It must also guard against a courtroom verdict that could damage the brand and bring ruinous financial loss. HR seeks to resolve disputes in-house whenever possible. Companies task their HR departments with fielding contention, and HR runs point until it is resolved or must be escalated to outside mediation, arbitration, alternate dispute resolution (ADR), or a court.

Your company should have an established internal complaint process for HR to follow as it investigates complaints. The Australian Human Rights Commission offers protocols for such a process, emphasizing the urgency to address complaints quickly and fairly—particularly complaints about workplace discrimination and harassment. With an internal complaint process in place, your firm can improve workplace practices and policies, raise staff morale, productivity, and retention, and avoid forwarding problems to external agencies or for legal action.

With a responsive complaints process, an employer can demonstrate the company took “reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence” to prevent discrimination or harassment. The policy, coupled with a consistent record of swift action, can make your organization look properly responsive if the complaint winds up with an investigative government agency or in court.

The Nonprofit Risk Management Center notes for nonprofits that, “There are various types of internal dispute resolution options, ranging from a very formal, binding mandatory arbitration procedure . . . to the informal open-door policy favored by most mid-sized and small nonprofits. Some options are:

  1. Mandatory binding arbitration,
  2. A commitment to bring disputes to alternative dispute resolution (ADR), using non-binding arbitration,
  3. A formal two- or three-step grievance procedure, with a review committee comprised of various board and staff members,
  4. Referral of the dispute to an impartial party, who may or may not be connected with the nonprofit, to serve as the arbiter of disputes,
  5. An open-door policy, and
  6. A peer review committee.

NRMC assures that “an internal dispute resolution procedure . . . provides an outlet for employees’ concerns. A grievance or complaint procedure gives the employee his “day in court” and can be helpful for the nonprofit’s management because misunderstandings or unhealthy disputes between staff may be uncovered and addressed before the conflicts spin out of control. Serious concerns, such as sexual harassment between co-workers, can be uncovered and addressed by the nonprofit before a lawsuit is filed. The goal of internal dispute resolution is to solve the problems at the lowest level possible, so that workplace disputes don’t escalate into legal actions.”

How Peer Workers Can Help

Workers receive a variety of coursework and training during their onboarding period. It makes sense to offer training and certification in conflict resolution so that they may defuse workplace friction as it happens. In circumstances where a disagreement results from a basic miscommunication or a poorly defined workplace procedure, a well-trained employee with appropriate training could persuasively lower the temperature on a situation without having to formally involve a manager or HR. Training in such skills as observation and empathy can enable one coworker to see how another coworker might be misread by their peers because of such traits as autism, food allergies, color blindness, or other facets of our many diversities that may be invisible to others.

Returning to the CPP study for a moment, note that 76% of all workers who participated reported conflict creating positive results, improved problem-solving, and deeper insights about their colleagues. Pressure, as they say, makes the diamonds. CPP’s research suggests that the key to effective conflict management is developing the skills and mindset to deal directly with conflict. Instead of being conflict averse, one should embrace it as a process that yields good outcomes.

With growth, competitive pressure, warp-speed technology, and worker diversity, workplaces are becoming more like ecosystems where conflict is the natural byproduct of not the new normal, but the wildly unpredictable—a form of never normal. Savvy companies may see turmoil as a springboard for growth and a path to the future, keeping buckets on hand to catch the strange ore glimpsed under pressure.

This blog post was written by Amélie Frank, consulting copywriter to UST. To learn more about Amélie’s professional portfolio you can find her online at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amelie-frank/.

November 18, 2022

Implementing Change to Build Resiliency

Some argue that they couldn’t prepare for the pandemic, because it was a black swan event—defined as unforeseeable. While that may be true, it’s imperative to develop and implement better defenses against future incidents—regardless of forewarning. Whether the next calamity is a virus, an extreme weather event, or something else, the effects to your nonprofit can be mitigated. Take strategic steps now to protect your clients, workers, continuity of services, and overall sustainability from whatever the future may bring.

Three Major Threats

Start by understanding and correcting three common vulnerabilities. First, study your supply chain and its logistics risks. Those with global supply chains may be at higher levels of vulnerability to any kind of worldwide incident. Next, make sure to complete your survival plan to manage your continuity in the event of any kind of shutdown or crisis. And third, understand that communication helps to reduce uncertainty, so develop a clear communication plan with your team and partners. Once you’ve taken these initial steps, you're ready to deep-dive into real preparedness.

Three Keys to Recovery

Nonprofits strengthen their resilience through robust, faster, and more inclusive post-disaster rebuilding. When the process is robust, organizations become less vulnerable to future disruptions; when it's fast, people can get back to their normal life earlier; and when it's inclusive, nobody is left behind in the recovery process. Now, imagine that public and private stakeholders across the land are performing the same process. This can include small and large governmental agencies, for-profit companies, private citizen groups, and nonprofit organizations. Encourage your nonprofit to join the conversation, as everyone pulls together to build back better, with faster communication, inclusive thinking, and robust planning.

The Unfolding Future and Disaster Risk Reduction

The effects of climate change are already increasing destruction and the risk of life globally. Many are already seeking ways to mitigate and prepare for upcoming disasters. Flood, fire, and disease are on the rise, as we continue to survive through natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. The United Nation’s 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR) predicted that “the risk of economic losses is rising as a result of the rapidly increasing value of assets that are exposed to major hazards.” In addition, a large proportion of losses continue to be associated with small and recurring disaster events that severely damage critical public infrastructure, human lives, animal and wildlife, agriculture, housing, and production.”

It is no longer practical to put off disaster preparedness in the hope that it won’t happen. True, nonprofits must work within limited budgets, often relying on the ingenuity of their leaders. Because of this, the best plan for long-term resiliency is to integrate sustainability into everything your nonprofit does. Resilience means that your nonprofit will be able to adapt and recover rapidly from disruptions due to emergencies.

No matter how devastating an emergency might be, recovery can take place. It might require months or even years, but when communities work together, balancing short-term objectives and long-term goals, involving all stakeholders, and following a common vision for the future – they can pull together funding from more sources, additional technical support, and information gleaned from other nonprofits to build back better, stronger, more adaptable, and more resilient.

The good news is various programs are now available to reduce the impact of natural, technological, and human-made events on your nonprofit’s community. The National Hazard Management Association (NHMA) has developed the Disaster Risk Reduction Ambassador Curriculum (DRR) in cooperation with FEMA. The DRR Ambassador Curriculum helps community stakeholders find ways to understand and prepare to implement programs and measures handling the entire disaster cycle – pre, during and post disaster. This supports nonprofit and other community leaders as they engage in community-level discussions with multidisciplinary educational resources, self-study materials, and training workshops. You will find three stand-alone modules, each taking about 1 to 2 hours to complete. Whether or not you can complete this training, your nonprofit could benefit from the aid of a DRR Ambassador. They come from various backgrounds and groups with the goal of helping their communities take strong proactive steps to mitigate risks from natural hazards. Bold decision-making comes from a process of education and discussion, but the rewards will take your organization beyond the minimal protection provided by existing federal standards.

DRR Ambassadors use a reference guide titled Building Your Roadmap to a Disaster Resilient Future. The Roadmap provides ideas for community disaster risk reduction along with explanations and hyperlinks to a wide array of technical and other resources needed at various junctures. Communities that avail themselves to NHMA’s program are clearly better prepared to face natural disasters in the future.

The Seven Basics

Here are seven important steps to a stronger, more resilient future:

Conduct annual risk assessments. Begin by seeing the potential scale of a hazard. Three areas deserve special consideration in gauging risks:

  • Finances. How manageable is your cash flow, debts, and expenses? Can you predict your nonprofit’s financial health up to a year? Address those red flags of worsening scenarios.
  • Technology and equipment. Cybersecurity threats can damage your bottom line and reputation. Its critical to audit your security often, as technology is constantly evolving.
  • Workspace Safety. How safe is your building and its location? Work with government agencies to weigh your risk for weather-related disasters, including floods, as well as natural disasters like earthquakes. Follow health safety updates for your building.

Cross-train employees with a clear training plan. Do your best to triage topics so they learn CPR and first aid first. Teach an escape plan, disaster preparedness, and preparation for other risks to life. Additionally, help employees train to work in additional roles and under different working conditions, such as a temporary worksite.

Stock up on supplies. Your team might be required to shelter in place at the office. Are you prepared with three days of shelf-stable food and water—enough for everyone? Remember to keep fresh hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial wipes, gloves, masks, flashlights, batteries, blankets, and phone chargers well-stocked for emergencies. Note expiration dates.

Save for a rainy day. Try to build up a cash reserve equal to three to six months of your nonprofit’s expenses. A 3-month fund should be considered bare minimum. If you have a 6-month fund, you will be prepared for unexpected opportunities.

Put your people first. Enact policies to address your staff’s needs during an emergency. Help them handle their primary concern, their families, so they can then focus on your nonprofit. Plan for work-from-home options and possibly providing childcare. Also, take some time each year to review your paid leave, health insurance, and sick leave policies. How might you build in more flexibility? Set guidelines for hazard pay to help those working in essential roles under tough conditions. Show them they are valued to motivate your team during challenging events.

Re-examine and diversify your fundraising efforts. If you’ve always relied on an annual gala event, it’s time to consider additional funding options. Build your adaptability in the event of closures. If you already have a variety of sources, conduct an audit to see which are the most successful and find ways to grow those.

Apply what you’ve learned. The pandemic provided vast learning opportunities. Explore all your strategies—from policies that protected your employees’ health to ways you handled financial losses. What worked? What didn’t? Consult your organization’s stakeholders including experts, like accountants and lawyers. Be proactive in fixing what didn’t work and promoting what did.

Agility and the Post-COVID Landscape

Are you exhausted from deploying stop-gap measures? Have you been slashing budgets, shifting services online, and doing whatever else you can to help your community and protect your nonprofit? The truth has become obvious. Each challenge is only one in a series of ongoing crises that will continue to threaten your organization. You must develop a frame of mind that continuously generates fresh, new solutions – with creativity and resourcefulness. Integrating sustainability is key to adapting more rapidly to crises. Those organizations that were committed to this before the pandemic struck were better able to navigate the challenges it brought.

Many nonprofits discovered to their dismay that the tools and policies they had in place as pre-planning prior to COVID failed to manage the speed, scale, breadth, and duration of all the pandemic’s impacts. Advance investments in your human and social capital that will help. Your team’s awareness of several potential pressures that could combine toward disaster will help you move toward best-practice management of your potential risks.

While you deploy stress tests and other exercises to prepare for the future, think about how your team has communicated during the pandemic. Everyone was forced to reconsider presuppositions and communicate clearly, no matter how fluid the situation. So now, you must encourage innovative thinking, rehearse dynamic situations and seek to empower your workers to own and manage risk within their scope of influence. This is one way of weaving resilience into the fabric of your organization’s culture. Investing in your staff first, helping them to communicate effectively with stakeholders, and building their leadership skills will position your nonprofit to better navigate future crises.

You’ve seen how everything is connected. Natural events, social order, and economic systems all flow together to impact your nonprofit. More than ever, events strike with ferocious speed and impact requiring sudden changes in strategy. We will continue to feel the increasing effects of climate change, deepening inequality, biodiversity loss, political upheaval, and more. Work with your nonprofit’s leadership to be clear, decisive, and authentic in all communication with the team so that everyone places their priorities in alignment, and your organization will be better prepared to pivot.

The following guiding principles have helped other nonprofits maintain their equilibrium as they’ve worked with donors, boards and government agencies to spark endless innovation:

• Keep going. Your ability to pivot might not always look perfect, but it will fail completely if you allow yourself to be stopped by disruptions. Many nonprofits were deeply challenged by the shift to virtual services, but those with an unrelenting attitude were eventually able to adapt. You must keep moving, trying, pushing, and innovating.

• Question fundamental assumptions, so you can imagine being part of a changed future. Take time to evaluate the changing political, physical, social, economic, and health needs of your community and targeted population. How should your mission and vision change? Be sure to test the appropriateness of multiple approach options, then explore how you might scale your chosen best result, and finally how you might escape the drag of longstanding processes that restrict fresh approaches. These three steps will empower you to solve complicated challenges.

• Focus on the most vulnerable. While it’s important to work toward larger dreams for the future, try to avoid leaving behind marginalized community members. Solutions that you devise for the most marginalized populations will find their way to help the larger society, too.

• Small steps add up to big changes. Start with small, rigorously tested ideas. Your methodology will mean everything as you design a process for continuous, everyday innovation. Start with one small problem. Generate promising ideas. Then, come up with early prototypes so that you can test, gauge, and improve whichever one has the best potential to make the most impact. Rapid prototyping is a more flexible and cost-effective approach than major initiative launches.

With each bit of urgency in a crisis, there is also opportunity. Innovate by surveying community members, brainstorming ideas, and rapidly developing simple prototypes of the most promising solutions. Start with the most severely impacted in a crisis and scale it up later. Seizing the moment could help you lead your nonprofit past whatever has blocked change in the past. You might feel like you’re building the jet plane during take-off, but when you factor in creativity, energy, enthusiasm, and constant learning … your odds of staying aloft are good.

Aim Toward Social Purpose

While many nonprofit leaders feel pressured into focusing on financial health, a broader view will help in providing more sustainability. Social purpose, with a clear understanding of your desired impact, will guide your decisions as you seek to balance your budget against your capacity to deliver impact. COVID-19 will eventually retreat into the past, but it has left in its wake a lasting effect on how we determine our effectiveness. Keeping social purpose in mind, follow these priority takeaways:

• Social Impact. No matter how society shifts, a sharp focus on your intended impact and theory of change will help you stay relevant. If you’re forced to forge new partnerships, alter your services or advocate in new ways, reexamining your social impact is critical to informing all decisions. As community need rises, develop new ways to deliver services while maintaining public support.

• Economic Viability. If you’re struggling to handle increased demand with disruptions in funding, you’re not alone. These destabilizing conditions could threaten your long-term financial wellness, and some threats will no doubt continue in the future. Sustainable nonprofits must have reliable funding and predictable expenses as well as cash on hand for routine and emergency expenses. Develop processes for managing your financial viability. First, take a clear and detailed assessment of your financial situation. Second, plan for various financial scenarios and emergencies. Finally, be honest with all your stakeholders including donors. Ask the tough questions, such as who plans to donate again. For better planning, you need to know.

• Capacity to Deliver. Four core ideals will help you maintain services. First, you must set up a strong and distributed leadership that can pivot in response to dynamic challenges. Second, your team must be flexible, recognizing potential changes in member needs, client behaviors, and the general community landscape. Third, look for more ways to collaborate with other nonprofits and agencies. Consider public-private partnerships. Make sure your cultural values are clear, give your team cooperative skillsets, and build incentives from the top-down, so your leaders model collaboration. Fourth, build your capacity for technological improvements. Work out the training your staff will need and establish whether technology can help you scale up services while lowering your long-term costs.

Under the Radar

Most companies have a new take on teleworking, which will change where people live. Depending on the nature and location of your mission, you might notice a subtle shift in populations. COVID-19 and other recent events have sparked this interest in landscapes amenable to social distancing, home-centered work, and a small-town quality of life. In ways similar to those wrought by the last century’s industrial revolution, macro-socioeconomic shifts caused by the pandemic could mean big changes are coming. Eventually, large cities could see decreased demand for services while small-town nonprofits experience growth in supportive community members.

Your new battleground might be at the digital divide, fighting to provide reliable high-speed internet access to all, especially in rural areas. Nonprofits and NGOs should recognize the opportunities for local communities collaborating to put the COVID crisis behind, overcome the challenges of social unrest, and work together toward solutions. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that real estate agents in small towns across America have become partners toward social change, as the National Association of Realtors published information on equity, stabilization, and developing community engagement for their members.

Rural and suburban communities are remaining online. In fact, growing their online presence, like online crowdfunding, becomes a viable financial resource for nonprofits. Most of all, keep your eyes open for further societal evolution—perhaps, the next macro-adjustments will alter the very core of your nonprofit.

This is an excerpt from UST’s eBook, “3 Key Strategies for Nonprofit Resiliency: Preparing for Future Crises” in collaboration with Beth Black, Writer and Editor.

November 10, 2022

The Value of an Employee Handbook

O, humble employee handbook! Nonprofit employers count on you to provide organizational best practices to their workforce while ensuring they maintain compliance standards. Unfortunately not enough attention is paid to updating the handbook as there should be—placing these employers at risk.

Today, companies put the handbook online, posting anything from a 2,000-page guide for GitLab to a 5x8” gray card for Nordstrom that reads “Use your good judgment in all situations.” One thing about the employee handbook has not changed. It remains invaluable and indispensable to its company and their employees.

Do you know what a help an employee handbook can be for your nonprofit, your workers, and your constituents? Let’s break the handbook down to its core elements to see what makes it so powerful and beneficial.

Employee handbooks contain both policies and procedures. What is the difference between a policy and a procedure?

A policy is a principle or rule that governs decisions and actions. It functions within the framework of a company’s mission as set by management. Policies include rules for employees regarding smoking, non-disclosure agreements, vacations, dress codes, technology use, and plenty more.

Policies have scope (covering all workers) and purpose (the law that necessitates the policy). Policies promote consistent conduct and equal treatment of all employees, keep employees mindful of their duties, and help the organization comply with the law. Noncompliance can result in fines, lawsuits, loss of the company’s reputation, or risk for the employees.

Finally, policies change as the company grows, as the larger industry evolves, and as new laws and technologies arise. With good policies in place, companies and their employees can thrive in a safe, secure environment. They stabilize a company, enabling it to avert or manage workplace incidents (like an accident) or crises (like a pandemic). They hold management accountable, uphold expectations for the workers and set behavior and performance standards so that everyone can achieve success. As personnel come and go, policies sustain resilience and continuity for the institution because they will always tell new employees exactly what to do. Without policies, a company would run on chaos, but not for very long.

A procedure is a reliable process broken down into a series of steps to attain a desired result. They are instructions adopted by management to carry out policy. While policies offer the why behind a company’s actions, procedures advise how to carry out those actions. A procedure also has scope (a specific employee performing a task and who they report to) and may not apply to everyone working at the company. Procedures are required for training, process auditing, process improvement, and or compliance initiatives. They guarantee the consistency that decreases process variation, which increases procedure control. Decreasing process variation eliminates waste and boosts performance. The best procedures are written in simple, clear, and concise language.

Compiling policies and procedures into a well-organized document accessible to everyone isn’t just a good idea. It can be a lifesaver. Can you imagine police and fire departments without well-managed policies and procedures? How about the law firm or brokerage handling your personal affairs? Or the lab manufacturing your child’s asthma inhaler? Smart policy and its consistent administration ensure safer communities, safer products, and safer work spaces. They are fundamental to any nonprofit’s long-term success.

Some companies issue a policies and procedures manual, a detailed repository of every policy and procedure, even those that don’t concern employees. Other companies issue an employee handbook, which covers everything pertaining to employees, their responsibilities, and the company’s responsibilities to them. For nonprofits, an employee or volunteer handbook would include protocols for donor privacy, fundraising, whistleblowers, records retention and destruction, in-kind gift acceptance, and other situations specific to philanthropic institutions and the laws that regulate them.

Some entities issue both, providing the employee handbook to staff and posting the voluminous policies and procedures tome on the company intranet in case someone needs detailed information about a particular subject (corporate history, news articles, etc.).

Of the two, the employee handbook is the more essential document for the following reasons:

  • As part of the onboarding process, the handbook introduces new hires to the company’s mission and principles. It helps the freshly onboarded acclimate to their new roles, enabling them to become productive more quickly.
  • It sets and sustains the company’s tone and culture and shows how employees can succeed within that culture.
  • It clarifies what the company expects of each employee as well as what it offers them in compensation and benefits.
  • It ensures compliance with the law. Clear explanations from the handbook help protect the organization, showing that it endeavors to obey the law and expects its employees to do the same.
  • It outlines the employee’s legal rights and entitlements (such as the Family Medical Leave Act) under state and federal law.
  • Managers can consult the handbook to answer employees’ questions, helping to ensure both parties are on the same page concerning a workplace issue.
  • It highlights the company’s benefits, which helps to retain valued employees.
  • It can protect the company from claims and lawsuits brought by current or former employees. The handbook is one of the most useful documents to produce in the company’s defense. A legally sound employee handbook can prove that the company has exercised “reasonable care” towards its employees.
  • It requires the employee to sign the handbook’s acknowledgment page. The signed acknowledgement page verifies that the employee had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the organization’s policies, ask related questions, and agreed to follow the terms and conditions of employment set by the organization.

With the increase in flexible work schedules and more employees working off site, companies are putting their employee handbooks and policies and procedures guides online. For many, this is more convenient and efficient—and it saves on the cost of printing. But wait! There’s more! Companies are putting their entire policies and procedures guides live on the internet for everyone to see. Why would they do that?

Many of these electronic handbooks come from newer companies or tech firms to demonstrate their commitment to corporate transparency. Such firms include Basecamp, Trello, Netflix, Zappos, Hubspot, Nordstrom, Sterling Gold Mining Corporation, Facebook, and Twitter (likely rewriting their employee handbook very soon).

Some of these handbooks are masterful achievements in design, copy writing, and corporate branding. And they are unique. Regarding Twitter, EmploymentSolicitor.com challenged other law firms to help create The Employment Solicitor.com Twitter Staff Handbook, with policies stated in 140 characters or less. Meanwhile, Netflix kept it simple: “Act in Netflix's best interest.” These are not your daddy’s employee handbook! Did I mention these handbooks are downloadable?

Beyond their novelty, publicly accessible handbooks reap handsome rewards for their companies. Obviously, they don’t post anything confidential online for legal reasons, but everything else they share with an eye toward burnishing their employer brand as well as their products and services. As they give visitors a taste of their company culture, they get to market millions of eyeballs for minimal expense.

They can also attract desirable employees: Check out our benefits! See how well we treat our employees! Note how committed we are to the environment! Plus, it’s a useful way to engage potential donors or volunteers who are doing their homework before contributing to your cause.

It’s all there for the whole world to see, yet it still serves as the employee handbook. Expect this to become standard operating procedure for many companies, including nonprofits. The more things change, the more handbooks will need updating. Updating online is simple and inexpensive.

According to a survey conducted in 2020 for People Matters, a media company specializing HR marketing, 57% of employees actually read the employee manual. When asked if they had revised their employee manuals since the pandemic, 69% of HR professionals surveyed said no. How are these unread, outdated handbooks meeting the needs of their companies? The answer is that they aren’t.

When your nonprofit decides to invest time and money to produce an employee handbook, you will find countless resources online that can help, but…

UST understands those needs because we are the leader in the field of nonprofit HR solutions. Through our cloud-based UST HR Workplace, powered by Mineral, we offer on-demand resources and expertise to help create the employee handbook your foundation needs . . . in minutes. UST’s integrated platform of HR tools, templates, and on-demand trainings will ensure that your employee manual meets your standards while maintaining compliance with federal and state law. The platform will alert you whenever a policy or law that can affect your handbook changes. And, you can track employee acknowledgments with built-in electronic signatures. With a subscription to the UST HR Workplace, your handbook will stay current and relevant for your peeps. Request a FREE 60-Day Trial of the UST HR Workplace today!

This blog post was written by Amélie Frank, consulting copywriter to UST. To learn more about Amélie’s professional portfolio you can find her online at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amelie-frank/.

November 08, 2022

Join Us in Welcoming Kristin Maurelia!

UST is very pleased to welcome Kristin Maurelia as our new Director of Strategic Accounts!

Kristin's accomplishments are not easy to summarize. Notably, she was asked to lead a new strategic alliances initiative at the National Association of REALTORS®—the world's largest trade association with over 1.5 million members. Kristin built from inception, a strategy and business unit that grew to over 160 dynamic, creative alliances, including some of the nation's largest companies and strongest brands—ultimately generating more than $100M in association revenue and providing valuable member benefits to the tune of $75M annually.

Driven by genuine curiosity and a commitment to building authentic relationships rooted in integrity, Kristin has forged impactful, long-term partnerships with allies across various industries. With a passion for mission-driven work and a call to community service, Kristin is also an active member of the nonprofit community, serving as a volunteer for Pilot N Paws and Be My Eyes.

Kristin's extensive experience, proven track record, and shared desire to see the nonprofit sector thrive make her a perfect addition to team UST and an ideal ally for our 80+ plus Affinity Partners nationwide. We're very excited to begin UST's next chapter with her at the helm of this vital role in our organization.

November 04, 2022

HR Question: Anxiety and Depression as Disabilities

Question: Are depression and anxiety considered disabilities?

Answer: They can be, yes. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

Some examples of major life activities are caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, eating, sleeping, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, such as neurological, brain, and respiratory functions.

Although the condition must “substantially limit” a major life activity, this term is broader than you might think. “Substantially limits” doesn’t mean that the condition has to prevent or significantly restrict a major life activity. Rather, the comparison is between the employee’s level of functioning as compared to most people in the general population. It is not a demanding standard. 

If an employee informs you that they have anxiety or depression and requests an accommodation, you should begin the interactive process. Basically, you and the employee determine what, if anything, can be done to accommodate them so that they can perform the essential functions of their job and have equal benefits and privileges of employment. As part of this conversation, you may require the employee to provide documentation to support their request for an accommodation.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

October 27, 2022

Unemployment Fraud and the Risks to Nonprofit

In the midst of the pandemic, unemployment benefit claims skyrocketed—impacting employers across the country with increased fraudulent benefit claims. And the number of reported incidents is staggering—driving up the cost of taxes for nonprofits and causing frustration for both employers and their employees. Nationally, states processed more than one billion unemployment claims in 2020 alone, amounting to over $500 billion in paid benefits. Unemployment systems in nearly every state have been impacted by international and national crime syndicates with 35% of applications being fraudulent.

It's more important than ever that employers carefully review their quarterly charges statements for any discrepancies—specifically for individuals listed as receiving UI benefits who are still actively employed with your nonprofit. By doing so, you not only protect your assets but you also help to protect your employees who are being targeted by these fraudsters.

While government agencies continue to grapple with the theft of millions of dollars through fraudulent UI benefit claims, UST recently compiled over-whelming statistics surrounding UI fraud and the impact on employers to create the 2022 Fraudulent Unemployment Infographic . Discover the overwhelming facts about unemployment fraud and how it can affect your workforce.

Sign up for our monthly eNews to continue receiving helpful insights, how-to-guides, and legal updates specific to nonprofits!

October 21, 2022

Recruiting With Purpose

As talent becomes harder to recruit and retain, some employers have tendered unusual perks to sweeten hiring deals. Can your company compete with the benefits being offered by your for-profit counterparts?

  • Onsite facilities for Botox injections and tanning beds (Chesapeake Energy)
  • Cryo-preserve your entire body after you die (Numerai)
  • Lunchtime surfing with daily surf reports from the reception staff (Patagonia)
  • Free use of the company yachts (JM Family Enterprises)
  • Gender reassignment surgery (Goldman Sachs)
  • For nudists (I am not making this up, I swear), Naked Fridays, a chance to “engage employees and build trust within the team” (onebestway)
  • A 3D-printed model of your head (Innocent Drinks)
  • Flexjobs found one firm that vowed, “We promise not to poke you with a sharp stick.”

Whatever extremes some employers may undertake to lavish their appreciation, it all underscores that human capital is any business’s most important asset.

Whether they are active job seekers or the passive ones keeping an antennae out for anything interesting, an enormous talent pool is in flux. Workers now prowl for jobs with greater learning and growth. Companies need to burnish their reputations to lure in the best and brightest. Fueling this career migration is a desire for purpose. Companies are figuring out that aligning their employer brand with a candidate’s yearning for purpose can entice desirable workers to apply.

Purpose seems like one of those immeasurable intangibles. If you’re a nonprofit lacking funds to offer expensive perks on your employees, how do you snag recruits with a concept? 

The good news is that, as a foundation for good, you already have what it takes.

It All Starts with Purpose

Be it the Preamble to the Constitution, a corporate motto, an employer brand, or a nonprofit’s mission statement, the institutions we’ve built began with a purpose—a compelling reason why. For most companies, the purpose resides with the employer brand. Not to be mistaken for branding elements such as logos, fonts, colors, and other instantly recognizable cues, your employer brand also defines your values and your work culture. It is both a message and a promise, speaking directly to all stakeholders—customers, employees, competitors, and partners. Anyone who encounters it knows precisely what the brand stands for. When Allstate Insurance tells you that “You’re in Good Hands,” you know the brand and its values..

Does a statement of purpose translate into financial success? A Harvard Business School study verified that, over a ten-year period, values-driven companies outperformed non-purposeful ones by a factor of 12 in their stock price. Where purpose is active, performance thrives. Imperative’s 2016 report into workplace purpose revealed that:

  • 85% of purpose-led companies showed growth
  • 42% of non-purpose-led companies showed a drop in revenue

Purposeful organizations succeed due to dedicated employees. To what are they dedicated if not purpose? It takes a company’s purpose to recruit, engage, and retain this kind of talent. The organization does best when its hiring practices align with its purpose and with the purpose of its employees.

Tips for Recruiting with Purpose

Eighty-five percent of US employees said they would stay longer with a socially responsible employer. Here are four practices to help you score top talent.

  1. Showcase purpose from the start.
    Do you understand your nonprofit’s mission?  While every business knows what it does, very few know why. Until you can explain why your company exists, you cannot connect meaningfully with anyone, including your stakeholders. We want to know how the world is better because your nonprofit is in business.
     
  2. Build purpose into recruiting and onboarding.
    State your values and your mission-driven initiatives in all communications. Use your application and interview processes to demonstrate your nonprofit’s reason for existing to candidates. Make sure that job descriptions are free of biases and optimize those hashtags! Don’t just state the requirements of the position. Job descriptions should speak directly to the values of the people you want to hire. Ask yourself if the content is original and fresh if the posts are mission oriented and updated frequently. Include employee presence and participation on your website. Probe interviewees for their purpose. Ask about their goals, values, and the issues they care about most. Ask how they will contribute. In turn, share your personal purpose and how it comes alive for you through your work.
     
  3. Make your Job Board a site with purpose.
    Update your job board to show prospective workers how your new job opening is anchored in your values. Ask yourself: Does our job board inspire prospective talent? Is it user friendly? Does it delineate what we stand for? Does it reveal that we provide opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute? Does it offer behind-the-scenes glimpses of what it’s like to work here? Does it feature the faces and voices of our staff? Are the posts individualized to reflect the uniqueness of each open position? If you can’t answer yes to most of these questions, it’s time to revamp your job board and find a more efficient way to tell your story.
  4. Make your mission real for newbies.
    Give candidates a purpose that motivates them to work for you. Tell them how their efforts can change the world. During onboarding, share stories that bring your purpose alive with videos, testimonials, and employee profiles. Share details about company projects that have positively affected the lives of others. Have employees share what working for your company has meant to them. In everything you do, demonstrate that your company’s purpose is authentic and straight from the heart.

Avoid Poor Employer Branding

Today, 75% of job seekers consider an employer’s brand before applying for a job. Lousy employer branding can range from an unhappy interview experience to an annoying campaign jingle to a job board that fails to convey what a great place your company is to work or hire. A sour interview experience can wind up as a low rating on Glassdoor, which can damage your reputation and several such reviews can undermine your purpose and your credibility. At a minimum it will certainly discourage promising candidates from applying to work for you.

Your employer brand must always be supported across all departments at your company. Mindful practices of consistent communication, courtesy toward all candidates, and practicing what your mission preaches will protect your ability to shine in this competitive marketplace. It will also sustain your credibility with your employees, preserving both their engagement and retention.

About Remote Workers

Remote work and hybrid workplaces are issues that expose a significant rift between employers and employees. Many employers want their workers back in the office. Many employees don’t want to return to the office. From INC, one in three U.S. workers doesn't want to work for anyone who demands employees be onsite full-time. Another survey by Envoy affirms that nearly half of employees will likely look for another job if their current employer doesn’t offer a hybrid workplace.

Remote discrimination is a problem at hybrid companies as remote employees are excluded from specific perks or advantages enjoyed by those working on-site. To avoid making remote personnel feel unappreciated, companies need clear hybrid working policies.

From Recruitee’s Adrie Smith: “We know there’s a talent shortage in many areas and skills. In fact, 78% of HR managers said that most skills will become even more niche in the next ten years. This statistic alone has led many recruiters to look for candidates further afield. And for hiring teams to consider remote employees.”

Fortunately, she assures, new tools emerge daily to help workplaces connect with distant candidates. Below are some remote hiring guiding principles.

Video interviewing is a core skill. Take the time to master the technology, overcome glitches, and develop the social graces involved in virtual face-to-face meetings.

Elongate the hiring process. Give yourself every opportunity to get to know your candidate better.

Prioritize collaborative hiring. Involve your team in the hiring process. Focus on the candidate’s skills, personality, and experience.

Mind your job promotion platforms. Certain types of remote talent will spend their time on different platforms, communicate in different ways, and respond to different kinds of job outreach. Whether on your site, social media, or job board, your remote job description should . . .

  • Accurately describe the remote policy. Not every remote situation is the same. Some offices are “remote first,” “remote-friendly,” or “hybrid.”
  • Explain why a particular position or certain teams are remote if you still have employees working in an office.
  • Communicate any logistics requirements that result from remote work. You may need to have remote workers living or working in a certain time zone or to be flexible to travel to headquarters each month.
  • Summarize your communication culture. Candidates should know what to expect regarding communication and collaboration. This will weed out people unprepared to collaborate in a hyper-communicative environment.

If you want to staff your organization with the best people, take the money you are using for workplace perks and invest it in purposeful hiring. In return, you'll have more time to focus on your products and profits.

By 2035, the labor majority will be Gen Z workers. Many of them will be replacing the workers who opted to be fully cryo-frozen over at Numerai.

This blog post was written by Amélie Frank, consulting copywriter to UST. To learn more about Amélie’s professional portfolio you can find her online at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amelie-frank/.

October 14, 2022

2022 HR Compliance Toolkit

Human Resources departments play an important role in the overall success of an organization. One critical function is ensuring compliance by adhering to state and federal regulations which can influence organizational sustainability. To help nonprofit employers streamline strategies that can help to protect your most valuable assets—we've created the 2022 HR Compliance Toolkit.

This free toolkit includes an involuntary termination checklist, strategies to address unemployment fraud, tips for managing unemployment compensation and more:

  1. Best Practice Tips for Unemployment Compensation
  2. Misconduct vs. Poor Performance
  3. Things You Can Do To Help Prevent Retaliation Claims
  4. Ways to Minimize Your Unemployment Costs
  5. The Essential Interview Checklist
  6. An Introduction to Employee Benefits
  7. Involuntary Termination Checklist
  8. Exit Interview Checklist
  9. Addressing Unemployment Fraud in the Workplace
  10. [Webinar Recording] Nonprofit HR Compliance: How to Avoid Critical Oversights

To access more HR-specific articles, templates and checklists, you can sign up for a FREE 60-Day Trial of UST HR Workplace today! You'll also gain access to live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, and a virtual compliance library.

October 07, 2022

HR Question: Keeping a Remote Workforce Engaged

Question: We’ve transitioned to a remote-first workforce. How can we keep our employees and managers engaged with video meetings and messaging apps—especially those employees that are missing the social aspects of working together physically?

Answer: Even with video conferencing and messaging apps, fully involving remote employees in team and company meetings remains a challenge. There may be no replacing the experience of being physically in the room, but you can take steps to make these meetings more productive and inclusive. 

The most important thing to remember when “meeting” with remote employees is that you can’t conduct the meeting in the same way as you normally do when everyone is physically present. You have to find a way to replace the advantages that close proximity has, especially the ease of reading body language and picking up social cues. These, unfortunately, do not translate well over the screen or the phone. So, what can you do? 

What remote employees need to fully participate in meetings is space and time to speak. You can provide this space and time in a few ways. First, if there are some physically present participants, ask them to pause for a second before jumping into the conversation. This gives remote employees time to get a word in, plus it helps counter any time delays caused by the conferencing technology. Second, whoever is leading the meeting should regularly invite remote employees to add anything if they have something to say, preferably before moving on in the agenda. Third, when possible, have a remote employee lead the meeting or a section on the agenda. This focuses attention on the remote speakers and can help remind everyone that the meeting isn’t just happening in the physical room. Finally, if a group of remote employees are located in the same workspace, occasionally setting their site as the physical meeting space can help your non-remote employees get a feel for the challenges of being remote during a meeting.

Some preliminary work before the meeting can also help make the meeting itself more efficient. First, test any systems ahead of time so that they’re working for everyone when the meeting starts. Second, email the agenda out so everyone knows what to expect. Third, assign someone in the meeting room to be the contact person that remote employees can email or message if they have questions, concerns, or issues. 

After the meeting, check in with any remote employees and ask them to be candid about their experience. What worked well and what could be improved? See what you can do to accommodate them in the next meeting. 

You may not be able to fully replicate the experience of physically being in the room but taking these steps can enable remote employees to feel more involved and make the meeting itself run more smoothly.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

September 30, 2022

[Webinar Recording] UST Live: Succession Planning and Preparedness

In the latest rendition of UST Live, we were joined by thought leaders from across the U.S. with expertise in succession planning. Guest moderator, Jennifer Hutchins from the Maine Association of Nonprofits, lead the conversation as the group discussed how organizations nationwide are experiencing a shift in the workforce as employees seek out other opportunities. Whether a transition occurs due to an unexpected vacancy or the anticipated departure of a long-tenured leader, it's vital that nonprofits have a succession plan in place to ensure organizational sustainability.

The group also discussed why proactively addressing how your leadership needs will evolve in the future and identifying activities to strengthen leadership capacity can help create the resiliency and agility an organization needs to thrive.

Watch now to discover:

  • Succession planning as a risk management strategy
  • Common mistakes to avoid when preparing for succession planning
  • How to encourage development and training that cultivates leaders from within

Upcoming UST Live Webinars: This webinar series was designed to equip nonprofits with the strategies and resources they need to survive (and thrive) in a constantly evolving environment. Be on the lookout for future UST Live sessions—scheduled for November.

September 23, 2022

The Do’s and Don’ts of Difficult Conversations

If you want to be an effective leader, you must have strong communications skills and a good amount of composure. In today's workforce, the only thing that separates one leader from the next, is how they communicate, handle conflict, and lead. Being a team leader can be an incredibly rewarding role but it comes with its challenges. And while handling difficult conversations may be the least appealing part of managing employees, it's an important part of leadership that every manager should be prepared for—whether it's about poor performance, attendance, peer conflict, or behavioral issues, these conversations are ultimately inevitable in any workplace dynamic.

It's common for defenses to be high when having a difficult conversation, so it's imperative that you have a plan for when they come about. Prepare ahead of time and pick a neutral time when it's calm. Go into the conversation with an open mind and ready to listen. It takes a nanosecond to invoke defensiveness—employees may respond with a blank stare, a passive sigh, or even an angry rebuttal so be clear and concise, using non-defensive communication while also being professional and friendly in nature. Poor communication can affect morale, performance goals, and sales so take some time to ensure you know the facts and have a plan for whatever response you may get.

Below are some do's and don'ts on how to effectively (and respectfully) navigate difficult conversations in the workplace while maintaining morale, fostering trust, and maximizing productivity.

  • Do think about what you want to say and how you'll say it—come prepared to have a productive conversation.
  • Do sort out the facts beforehand and ensure you have documentation to support everything.
  • Do create an environment of trust and honesty.
  • Do use active listening and allow your employee time to provide feedback and ask questions.
  • Do put yourself in their shoes and seek to understand what they're feeling—defensive, embarrassed, etc.
  • Do allow your employee to feel emotions and ensure you're sensitive to their feelings.
  • Do find a solution together—establish actionable items that both you and your employee are clear about.
  • Do ask for confirmation at the end of the conversation to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Do keep the lines of communication open and make it a point to check in on your employee in the weeks following your conversation.
  • Don't procrastinate having the conversation—a lack of action on your part can make things worse.
  • Don't have a difficult conversation where others can possibly overhear—ensure your employee feels safe.
  • Don't dance around the issue. Be as explicit as possible.
  • Don't let professionalism overpower humanity.
  • Don't begin with the end in mind. Consistently consider your employee's perspective which can help provide a complete understanding of the problem.
  • Don't start the conversation in an accusatory fashion—avoid using "you" statements and instead focus on the behavior being addressed.
  • Don't be dismissive of your employee's feelings.
  • Don't make assumptions or jump to conclusions—there may be circumstances at hand that you are unaware of.
  • Don't let your emotions get the best of you—difficult conversations are often over sensitive topics which can cause employees to respond defensively.

Difficult conversations can be awkward and unpleasant but with some thoughtful tactics in your back pocket, you can successfully address a tough situation and find effective solutions to whatever issues may arise while also ensuring you maintain respect with your team.  

September 21, 2022

How to Improve Communication Strategies with Your Team

Working on a team requires more than just hard work, morale amongst co-workers, and willingness to work with others. The most important yet often ignored that attributes to a team’s success is effective communication. Communication is a vital part of any business environment—especially a nonprofit organization since many employees wear multiple hats—as it facilitates a consistent flow of information. When it comes to team communication, the purpose of interacting among co-workers is to share information that is essential to achieving organization goals. In addition, good communication makes it easy for team members to coordinate with one another effectively.

An organization’s communication strategy usually consists of techniques that encourage open communication and effective teamwork in a workplace environment. Having an action plan in place for your organization can help to improve your communication skills, work on team building, and executive tasks efficiently. This kind of proactive leadership is even more important today, given the rise of remote teams and virtual collaboration.

Here's just a few of the many benefits that result from an effective communication strategy:

1) Supports Employee Engagement: Effective communication in the workplace increases employee morale and engagement by helping team members feel connected to the work they’re doing and the organization their working for. Thoughtful team-building activities can also help nurture communication skills, which improves camaraderie and employee engagement. Increasing employee engagement can lead to reduced turnover, a better customer experience, and even increased profitability

2) Helps with Productivity: Inefficient work habits or missed project deadlines are almost always the result of poor workplace communication skills. By using effective communication strategies, you can be clearer about expectations and ultimately get the results you need to deliver projects in a timely manner.

3) Opens Up Doors for Innovation Opportunities: An environment of open communication in the workplace fosters creative problem solving, more adventurous ideas, and out-of-the-box thinking. It helps you create space for innovation by fostering a “no bad ideas” attitude and encouraging your team to try new things—even if those projects don’t work out as anticipated. Making space to learn from different collaboration styles can really expand the possibilities for your organization.

Effective communication in the workplace might sound straightforward but it’s about so much more than having a simple conversation—especially when not everyone communicates the same way. You need to be intentional and use the right strategies that provide diverse opportunities for both formal and informal communications across the organization. By employing communications strategies that foster open communication and collaboration, you can build an organization full of employees who are engaged, efficient, and innovative. And that’s the kind of team that makes an organization successful and most importantly, support the communities you serve.

September 08, 2022

HR Question: Banning Personal Electronics

Question: Can I ban cell phones at work? How about audio and video recordings?

Answer: This question has brought up issues that have been the subject of recent litigation, so it's a great time to be asking.

To answer your first question: yes, you can limit or even prohibit use of cell phones during work hours. Employees can be expected to give their undivided attention to the work you pay them to perform, and if that means cell phones need to be turned off or put away, you are entitled to make this request. However, employees should be allowed to use cell phones during their break and meal periods, as this time needs to be truly their own in order to satisfy the requirements of state law. Fair warning: if you attempt to prohibit cell phone use during all non-break time, you may receive some fairly aggressive push back. A more lenient policy may do the trick. Typical standard language says, "Personal cell phone use should be kept to a reasonable limit during working hours. Reasonableness will be determined by your manager." This language gives your managers considerable discretion, but they should be trained to use the same standard of reasonableness for all employees to avoid claims of discrimination.

To answer your second question: no, audio, video, and photography cannot be strictly prohibited, but they can be limited. The National Labor Relations Board, which enforces the National Labor Relations Act, has said that employers cannot outright prohibit recordings as this could interfere with employees' ability to organize with respect to their terms and conditions of employment. For instance, employees might choose to record a conversation during their lunch hour related to asking for raises and want to share that recording with employees who work different shifts. This would need to be allowed. However, you can still have a policy that prevents recording (via audio, video, or photograph) confidential information, such as proprietary business practices, customer lists, client or patient information, or employees' personal information. Be aware that you cannot deem all information confidential, e.g. "all conversations in the office" or "anything related to customer/patient care." 

If you feel it is important to have such a policy, you may say something like, "Audio and video recording devices, including cameras and smartphones, may not be used to record or capture any confidential information, whether it is proprietary business information or clients' or employees' confidential personal information. If recording non-confidential information, e.g. taking photos of colleagues, please seek the consent of all parties to the recording." A policy like this can be added to your handbook during your next handbook review, or if you feel the need is urgent, you can distribute it to all employees now and have them sign an acknowledgment form. 

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

August 26, 2022

Offer Development to Groom Current (and Future) Leaders

Leadership development is an attractive benefit that is becoming commonplace in the current job market. About half of Millennials expect their company to help pay for leadership training, and 60% say they'd prefer a job that provides professional development over one that provides regular pay raises.

How Know-How Helps

First, employees want to gain mastery over current job and life challenges. But then, one in five will leave their current position in search of a job that provides additional professional development opportunities. Nearly a third of workers say education would help them feel more engaged and loyal. Yet fewer than half of businesses offer leadership training. Even fewer offer mentoring or career counseling. Think about offering all that with these four levels of staff development.

  • On-the-job training. Hands-on, informal and unstructured, make use of available resources.
  • Training and Development. Professional, expert and targeted instruction.
  • Capability development. Organizational focus to benefit your workplace culture.
  • Talent and performance training. Offered as part of a benefit program in career development.

Try to make education an ongoing process with multiple built-in opportunities. On-the-job training can be the most cost-effective approach for smaller organizations. Coaching fosters teamwork and saves funds by working internally. Leadership education is important to succession planning as well as retention. Whatever their path, give employees the opportunity to practice and implement the skills and knowledge they have gained.

Leadership Realities

In the past, businesses had two ways of moving people up to leadership levels: Climbing the ladder through promotions or following a career path that included educational leadership development. Today's post-recession workers feel the need to protect their careers from further economic downturns by staying employed where they can receive training and development. In a tight market, you should expect to include some training in their benefits package. The best practice for this situation is to make an effort to align their leadership development with the anticipated needs of your nonprofit.

Your nonprofit might be overdue in training new leaders. Baby Boomers who started organizations decades ago are retiring or preparing to retire from their leadership positions. Add to that, about half of current young professionals will leave the nonprofit sector. If you're facing an upcoming leadership crisis, by all means focus on leadership training. Your workforce will enjoy a successful career path, and your nonprofit will benefit from well-trained leaders who know how to take your organization forward.

Development 101: Begin Simply

One of the best ways to offer career development is to build leadership skills through practical hands-on experience. It will help your managerial staff to know their organization well so encourage managers to delegate and coach where needed in order to build a list of success stories. Some cost-effective ideas to start you in the process include:

  • Team leadership. Team members organize and run a meeting or event.
  • Communication. Employees present verbal reports at a monthly meeting or create material for an internal newsletter.
  • Volunteer leadership. They're in charge of coaching volunteers to assist with a fundraiser or other campaign.
  • Project ownership. Employees manage projects, such as appreciation events or redesigning your website.

A Sensible Approach

While you're considering how to best juggle all the possible educational benefits, take a pragmatic look at the costs. There's a simple formula you can use to maximize educational effectiveness without breaking the budget. The Center for Creative Leadership promotes a cost-effective model for leadership development that you should consider:

  • Begin with 70% on-the-job learning
  • Add 20% coaching and mentoring
  • Round it out with 10% formal training

Many nonprofits fail to follow this guiding principle and the result is often an unfocused, unsuccessful training program that does little more than pay lip service to the idea of leadership development.

Make Mentoring Happen

Do your managers notice emerging leaders in their teams? You can design a formal mentoring program or keep it informal, as you see fit. Make sure they have a safe space to learn so that they can accelerate learning. Allow time during work for mentoring sessions. If your nonprofit cannot support an internal mentoring program, you may be able to partner with other local organizations and businesses for potential mentors. Resources include the Aspire Foundation, which provides global, free online mentoring to women working in nonprofits. Search online to find the numerous mentor-training resources available.

Affording Formal Training

As you know, finding adequate funds for your training initiatives can be a challenge. There are ways to leap past those hurdles. Here are some possible means of funding formal leadership development in your nonprofit:

  • Nontraditional grants. Check online for the specific kind of training you want funded. Taproot Foundation provides service grants in some cities.
  • Free and Low-Cost Online Classes. Some valuable opportunities await online, such as the SBA's and SCORE's free online training on business topics and other online courses offered through organizations such as FutureLearn, Coursera and +Acumen.
  • Local colleges or universities. Some schools still allow people to audit classes.
  • Connect with Corporations. Your corporate partners might be willing to invite your staff to join their development trainings for free or low cost.
  • Pull from your board of directors. Form a board committee to focus on leadership development training.

Funds spent on leadership training provide high returns on investment (ROI). And this ROI isn't just fiscal. It's a great way to increase your mission impact, bring in higher revenues, control costs and provide for greater stability as you build employee loyalty. Strengthen your training programs to focus on success in achieving leadership roles, and employees will stay as they reach for the heights of leadership succession.

Logic Dictates

A recent study showed that only a third of nonprofit executives rose through the ranks of their organization. If two-thirds of nonprofits are having to hire executives from outside, that suggests they lack appropriate leadership development. They may even be neglecting larger strategic issues. The results of this lack of focused strategy means that nonprofits are not rising to meet the challenge of diversifying their leadership in race, ethnicity, or educational background. It's critical that they improve their ability to groom talent from within.

You may experience push-back from an executive who doesn't want to dedicate resources to leadership development. The truth is, some leaders dislike the idea of training their replacements. It makes them feel that their time is coming to an end. If that's true in your nonprofit's case, you will need to explain that a strong leader is someone who prepares for the inevitable, which includes future changes. It will likely help if your organization's board of directors makes succession planning a part of the job description for all executives. A legacy can be ruined by leadership succession that is ill-planned. Instead, your executive has the opportunity to make an enduring mark on your organization by leaving it in capable hands.

And, often, the best way to do this is to promote from within.

This is an excerpt from UST’s eBook, “Innovative Strategies That Overcome Nonprofit Retention Barriers” in collaboration with Beth Black, Writer and Editor.

August 22, 2022

Upskilling and Reskilling Your Nonprofit Workforce

As a nonprofit leader, when it comes to the future of your workforce, focusing on skills is an essential step. However, many upskilling strategies are missing the mark. The confusion often starts with a lack of understanding the difference between upskilling, reskilling and cross-skilling—the lines tend to blur and identifying the role of each will better equip your organization to prepare for the future of work. While both upskilling and reskilling are about learning new skills, the context for each is a bit different. Upskilling is focused on helping employees become more knowledgeable and develop new competencies that relate to their current position while reskilling is about equipping workers to switch lanes and move into new roles within your organization. Cross-skilling is the process of developing skills that are valuable across multiple functions.

There’s no denying that upskilling and reskilling initiatives require a significant investment, in both money and time. Superior approaches generally include both compelling content as part of a Learning and Development (L&D) curriculum, as well as experimental opportunities such as mentoring and projects. Given the effort upskilling and reskilling require, some might wonder if it might just be easier to prioritize external hiring. While it might sound like a simpler strategy on the surface, turning to new talent won’t solve your skill-building concerns. Even if your organization manages to recruit employees with the necessary skills, these recruits will need to build new capabilities in the future. Since the pace of change is accelerating, offering opportunities for upskilling and reskilling has become unavoidable this day in age.

When determining the best form of training for your employees, it can depend on the permanency of their positions. It would be a poor use of resources to invest in the professional development of an employee whose role is becoming obsolete. Upskilling tends to benefit positions that can easily evolve with the organization, while reskilling is perfect for helping employees of changing departments get ready for entirely new workplace obligations. Organizations that are content with their current staff can use upskilling to continuously help their employees develop their qualifications without reassigning them a different position. You can help support your staff grow as professionals by providing them with enriching training opportunities while maintain an effective forward-thinking team in the workplace. 

Taking into account the skill set of your team, your organization can then determine if a particular employee will remain in their current position or if their capabilities will be more beneficial in another area of the organization. Staff members who exceed the organization’s expectations in their department and have proved to be excellent leaders should undergo reskilling to prepare them for a promotion. Where a promotion isn’t an option, perhaps they could make a lateral move, in which their salary and hierarchy stay the same but their position changes. Employees who would benefit from honing their existing abilities can do so through upskilling programs.

Upskilling and reskilling your professionals will have significant impact on their careers. Offering either form of training to an employee can develop their professional skills and position them as a valuable member of your organization. Businesses that understand the benefits of both processes will help their employees find success in whichever position and responsibilities they undertake.

August 12, 2022

HR Question: Managing Remote Employees

Question: What are effective ways to manage remote employees and monitor their work? 

Answer: Managing remote employees can certainly be a challenge. Here are some of the practices we recommend: 

  • Set measurable goals around quality of work. Whether employees get their work done to your satisfaction is more important to your bottom line than whether they’re always at their workstation. Make all the resources necessary for employees to do their jobs remotely easily available. These may include phones, computers, extra monitors, video conferencing software, and instant messaging apps. If you need employees to have fast internet speeds, consider subsidizing the necessary costs. 
  • Create and communicate a work-from-home policy so everyone knows what’s expected of them.
  • Talk regularly with employees about what’s working well and not-so-well. Encourage them to reach out to HR or a manager if remote work is causing any difficulties or challenges.  
  • Hold all meetings virtually, even if some people are working in a company office, so everyone is equally able to participate. This means having employees who are in the workplace login from their individual computers and not be in the same room as their other in-office colleagues during the meeting. 
  • Promote a good work-life balance by making sure remote employees know when their workday ends. It’s very easy for employees working at home to spend more time working than they would in an office environment.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

August 03, 2022

Addressing Burnout & Compassion Fatigue In Nonprofit Employees

             

Nonprofit workers strive to make the world a better place. However, these passionate professionals often face long working hours, limited resources, funding deficiencies and an unrelenting stream of other on-the-job challenges. All this and more can lead to employee burnout, as well as nonprofit compassion fatigue.

How can nonprofit employees of all levels better address such difficulties and avoid becoming overly strained? Below are some actionable ideas to help prevent employee burnout and work toward a healthier work-life balance.

First, what is nonprofit compassion fatigue and what does it look like? Referred to at times as secondary trauma or vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue is a way to describe the excessive stress affecting those exposed to the traumatic suffering of others leading to desensitization, indifference or apathy. When untreated, it could lead to exhaustion, irritability, reduced productivity and absenteeism, along with physical and mental health problems.

Essentially, compassion fatigue means that a person working continuously under strenuous conditions no longer feels able to care about the people they serve. Often, these individuals get to this point by minimizing their own suffering. In fact, industry reports have found that 62% of people who engage in emotional work tend to hide their personal feelings. Combine this with being buried in work and these people can easily develop feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

Over time, this not only affects an employee’s health and relationships, but it can significantly impact employee retention. A 2021 study found that 69% of participants believe their organizations are understaffed. Chronic staffing issues ultimately whittle away at a nonprofit's ability to achieve objectives.

What can leaders and HR professionals do to address compassion fatigue and burnout? It starts by implementing a strategy designed to promote a healthy work culture. Everyone should be encouraged to capitalize on vacation time, lunch breaks and time off-the-clock to de-stress from the important work they are striving to accomplish. Leaders should also establish and enforce reasonable work hours.

Another way to help address arduous workloads is to create a prioritization system for projects and tasks. While the job market is understandably in flux, efforts should be made to hire more staff or recruit additional volunteer support.

Lastly, open the door to enhanced communication strategies. Extend genuine thanks to the staff and encourage honest feedback, anonymous or otherwise. Not only are these methods more sustainable, but, in the end, they can generate greater employee engagement, retention and job satisfaction.

For employees, to avoid becoming burnt out and feeling powerless, it’s advised to utilize vacation time and take regular breaks. By “unplugging” during the day — even if it’s only a short break — it’s possible to reduce stress, gain perspective and feel more in control. Also, learn to say “no” without feeling guilty. Setting clear boundaries on messaging after hours, task delegation and more could do wonders for future productivity.

To learn more about combating nonprofit employee burnout, please see the accompanying resource.

Resources:

https://www.qgiv.com/blog/how-to-overcome-nonprofit-burnout-and-compassion-fatigue/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesnonprofitcouncil/2020/01/24/how-to-avoid-compassion-fatigue-care-for-your-staff-so-they-can-care-for-the-world/?sh=ffa58b276f88

https://hashtagnonprofit.org/index.php/resources/mentalhealth/355-recognising-compassion-fatigue-in-the-npo-workplace

https://www.missionbox.com/article/98/combating-compassion-fatigue-finding-balance-in-the-nonprofit-workplace

https://www.keela.co/blog/nonprofit-resources/3-leading-causes-of-nonprofit-burnout

https://www.idealist.org/en/careers/recognizing-compassion-fatigue-helping-professions


July 21, 2022

Five Tips for Successfully Leading a Hybrid Workforce

A major shift has been underway, fundamentally altering, when, where, and how work occurs. As organizations adjust to today’s new hybrid workplace, collaboration among team members who aren’t co-located is emerging as the primary way to get things done. This way of working brings new opportunities—along with new uncertainties and challenges—for those leading the hybrid workforce. Effective hybrid workplace leadership requires building cohesion among colleagues working together from different locations, fending off burnout, being intentional about inclusion, and strengthen shared culture.

The nonprofit workforce has evolved in ways no one could have foreseen, and leaders continue to adapt to a changing management style. Forced to re-invent not just how they worked, but where, many are embracing hybrid teams—a blended model of in-person and remote workers. For some leaders, the shift to managing hybrid teams is a radical departure from business as usual but with the right use of technology, strong communication, and clear expectations, hybrid teams can be highly effective. Nonprofit leaders can utilize UST's 5 Tips for Successfully Leading a Hybrid Workforce to ensure productivity and engagement. These essential tips include:

  1. Communication is the key to success
  2. Prioritize team building activities and celebrate successes
  3. Create opportunities for collaboration
  4. Provide what they need to succeed

The pressure is on leaders to find innovative solutions to make hybrid teams happy and productive as the hybrid model can be more complicated than a fully remote team. Take this opportunity to pay close attention to your team and continue to find ways to address their unique position. To successfully manage a hybrid workforce, leaders must create processes, build trust, and ensure a strong shared experience across all teams. Sign up for our monthly eNews to continue receiving helpful insights, how-to-guides, and legal updates specific to nonprofits!

July 15, 2022

Hire and Develop Managers People Want to Work For

As of early 2020, the nonprofit employment sector is reported to be the third largest in the nation, following manufacturing and retail. Job statistics will no doubt remain unsteady in the next few years, as unfolding events put these employers at risk. Beyond catastrophic demands placed on them for services, a lot of nonprofits also had to deal with financial losses caused by the pandemic. The result is that you are likely dealing with the ramifications caused the Great Resignation, not to mention facing financial challenges in hiring right-fit people for your organization. One important way to attract more qualified candidates — and retain them — is to hire managers who support and sustain their teams.

Recognize Your Challenges

Have you done all you can to assure that every manager in your organization has the temperament and training to effectively run a department without alienating staff? The challenges you face can be daunting. You may be forced to offer lower compensation for longer work hours. Additionally, slow progress toward your mission’s goals can weaken your employees’ resolve to stay. So, while burnout might be a problem, your bigger challenge might be finding enough qualified candidates who are inspired by your mission.

Specific skills can be taught in most cases, or an inventive employee might come up with smart ideas to improve your processes. Also, consider work and life experience, because in an often-gritty world, your organization could draw strength from people who have life lessons to share. Contract workers can transition into excellent full-time employees. The one common denominator they must all have is passion. Be sure to ask for their story. Find out what happened that brought them to your office and you might be impressed by what you hear.

Manage Your Talent

You want the right person for the job. You can also find the right job for the person. Either way, you should consider the following guidelines to boost your success over the long haul:

  • Think Future. If you’ve thought about where you want your nonprofit to be in 5 years, you need to give equal time to what workforce you’ll require. You can’t grow your own expanding workforce. Eventually, there will be specific skills that require significant training, so now is the time to strategize what you will need in the future and how you will attract, hire and retain that talent. Include soft skills, such as drive, trainability and emotional intelligence to build a smart, driven, adaptable team.
  • Take a Second Look. While building a candidate pipeline from external sources is good for your organization, you should also give current staff members a fair chance to move up in the organization. Help diverse team members rise into management roles. You’ll benefit with leaders who know about the culture. And you’ll also build employee engagement when others see upward mobility happening.
  • Follow the Numbers. Always design a job with clear performance goals, so that the person in that role can be evaluated easily by others.
  • Orchestrate Your Teams. Like a symphony conductor, you need to put together teams that work well in a collective setting with more productive results.

Your Managers

As individuals, companies, industries and nations work to rebuild after upheaval, workers need a paycheck, of course. But along with that, they need a strong sense of purpose and opportunity. When they feel that, your staff members will engage, perform, commit to staying and seeing your nonprofit through challenges that lie ahead. The only way to ensure that dedication and loyalty in workers is to provide them with leadership that supports their efforts, trusts them to perform and guides them toward future successes.

Make sure your managers:

  • Motivate each team member with a compelling mission and vision. Beyond your organization’s mission and vision, how about each team? If your nonprofit provides housing for homeless people, does your marketing team have a mission and vision of their own to share the message?
  • Assert themselves to overcome adversity and resistance. How does a manager help team members with their problems? What energy does a great manager put forth to support each team member’s success?
  • Create clear accountability. Does everyone understand what’s expected and what they must do to succeed? Is there honest follow-through? Or is there favoritism? Does the manager encourage a team spirit that supports everyone pulling together for the success of every project?
  • Build relationships based on trust, dialogue and transparency. Do the managers encourage pay equity and transparency? Do they have the ability to communicate and trust their team members?
  • Make decisions based on productivity, not politics. Do your managers choose people and projects that work or are they unable to control office politics on their team? Can they protect team members from organizational politics and lead everyone to the greater good?

Additionally, here are five core qualities that every management candidate should possess. Whether you’re promoting from within or seeking someone new, make sure to look for someone who:

  • Listens. You want a leader who takes the time to hear about issues and come up with solutions.
  • Mentors. Most managers possess a veritable wealth of experience and expertise, but it’s critical to find someone who is eager and capable of sharing it with staff.
  • Empowers. Find a manager who offers workers the power to make their own decisions. This builds engagement and employee development.
  • Leads by Example. Smart, honest, big-hearted, hardworking and open-minded leaders will inspire their team to behave the same way.
  • Has Their Back. When workers feel respected and protected by their manager, they’ll be more interested in working harder and smarter to achieve team goals.

Take the opportunity to review your leadership development options and implement what you need to develop managers who have these qualities and can prioritize this kind of conduct. Strong, appropriate leadership is an urgent need, and equipping future leaders with these critical skills will help to assure your nonprofit meets the demands of the future.

Acing the Interview

Success in an interview is often talked about from the perspective of a candidate. But the truth is, the interviewer should design a session that illuminates qualities of the candidate, teases out relevant details and helps the team make a decision.

Prepare questions that can bring out specifics. Instead of “yes/no” questions, ask about issues and strategies a candidate might devise to help her teamwork through them. To learn, for example, if a potential manager would have their backs, you might ask what that person would do if a team member admitted making a mistake. What would they do? Would they take away the project and finish it on time? Would they work through the mistake together with the employee to fix it? Listen for their answers to understand how they might succeed or fail with respect to the traits listed above.

Once all blind interviews have been conducted, allow yourself to cautiously acknowledge general first impressions on finally meeting a new candidate. Does that person make eye contact? Greet others with a smile?

Lose Your Implicit Bias

You want to trust your “gut feeling” about a candidate, but the truth is that you must do so with caution. Implicit bias happens when you allow stereotypes and preformed attitudes to affect your actions on a subconscious level. It can make you misread your emotional responses to a person you don’t know. We are all hardwired to prefer people who are similar in some ways, so it’s important to pay attention at every step in the process and take action to remove implicit bias, as much as possible.

Take steps to control it by asking yourself these questions as you work through your hiring process:

  • Is your job description limiting your responses? The words you use reflect your employer brand messaging, so choose them carefully. A word like “driven” could alienate potential female candidates who might see it as too masculine.
  • Do you speak with people before you see them? One small step toward fair initial impressions would be to conduct a phone interview first. Listen intently to the content of their answers; Anything else, such as tone, pitch, accents, even regional articulation, should be unimportant.
  • Have I assigned a writing task? Prior to an in-person interview, ask a candidate to write a 500-word essay presenting ideas to respond to a strategic issue. Then, you can weigh their responses without the bias of visual or vocal stereotypes.

If, after you’ve gone through a thorough vetting and interviewing process, removing as much implicit bias as possible, you still feel some nagging doubts about a person, then try to understand why you feel that way. Ask other team members for their input and find out if they have the same reaction. And try not to rush the process. At some point, you will have to make a decision. Make it your best possible effort.

Ultimate Interview Tips

Escape the trap of the traditional interview by using a little imagination. Consider these three principles to gain a clearer picture of the person you’re interviewing:

  1. Creativity Counts. Challenge your candidates with unusual questions and allow them to show you who they really are. Ask questions like: What is your natural strength? What qualities of your parents do you like the most? The reasons they give for their answers can tell you a lot about their level of self-awareness, their ability to fit a role and their ability to evolve beyond their current skills.
  2. Up for a Challenge? Design a situation that elicits their managerial behaviors. Have them guide a team to make a quick project and watch what happens. Can they provide steps for a committee to draw an unnamed object (such as a tree)? How’s their attitude?
  3. Go Team! Make the manager’s potential team part of the hiring team. Will they trust this person, understand instructions and feel confident in their ability to make progress on projects together? Will they be able to learn from this person? Let them express concerns.

Beyond the Interview

These days, it’s easy enough to check any candidate’s social media profiles as well as their references. If you can arrange extra reference checks in addition to those provided by the candidate, you’ll probably learn more. Be sure to ask about their behavior under stress as well as how that person worked with others. And remember, what that person has accomplished, what goals they’ve reached and challenges they’ve overcome, really do matter more.

This is an excerpt from UST’s eBook, “Workforce Management Tactics that Strengthen Nonprofit Brands” in collaboration with Beth Black, Writer and Editor.

July 08, 2022

HR Question: Ensuring Your Online Training Strategies Are Effective

Question: How can we make sure our online trainings are effective?

Answer: Online trainings can be a useful tool for developing talent, but they can also end up being a waste of time and resources, even if the content and presentation are good. The difference between effective and ineffective training often comes down to whether employees are able to absorb and retain the information they receive.

There are lot of obstacles to absorption and retention of trainings. Busy employees may listen to a webinar while they work on other things, catching only tidbits here and there. Or they may put a training video off until they’ve finished a project and are too exhausted to give it due attention.

To avoid these training pitfalls, consider these three tips:

Follow the AGES Model. The NeuroLeadership Institute argues that we learn quickly and retain information best when we focus on one topic (attention), actively connect what we learn to what we already know (generation), experience positive feelings while learning (emotion), and space our intake of information (spacing). For example, cramming training on multiples topics into a tight two-day workshop would be much less effective than spreading that training out over a few weeks. You can learn more about the AGES Model here

Give employees time to reflect and practice the skills they’ve learned. In some professions, like music and athletics, you spend most of your work time learning, building, and reinforcing skills before the big performance, whether it’s a concert, game, or race. Good performance necessitates constant practice. But in most professions, practice seems like a luxury you can’t afford because you’re expected to be performing during your work time. This is one reason trainings fail to deliver results. To master new skills, employees need time to focus on building those skills. That means some work time needs to be set aside post-training for them to reflect on and practice what they’ve learned.

Align trainings with the present needs and future goals of both the company and the employee. When assessing employee training goals, consider what additional knowledge and skills would enable them to do their jobs better now, but also set them up for success in their future careers. Employees are more likely to be excited by and personally invested in their training if they understand their personal return on that investment. If they don’t recognize its value, it won’t have any value to them.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

June 30, 2022

Celebrate Success in the Workplace to Increase Engagement

Without the staff to support your mission-driven initiatives nonprofits across the globe wouldn’t exist. Recognition plays a huge role in employee satisfaction and job longevity so it’s imperative that you implement strategies that work solely to create an employee experience that keeps employees engaged, productive and loyal. Employers who take steps to celebrate successes—professional and personal-- while also encouraging employees to celebrate each other create a positive work environment where employees are happy.

There are many ways to celebrate and recognize employees that aren’t the obvious award ceremony. It’s important to consider your employees’ preferences for recognition as some people don’t enjoy being the center of attention but may not mind receiving recognition via email vs. in person. Using a short survey to get a feel for how everyone prefers to be celebrated and what kinds of rewards they’d like can go a long way in making sure your efforts don’t fall flat. The last thing you want to do is embarrass anyone you’re trying to celebrate or praise. It might take a little more effort to personalize your recognition program but in the long run it will be well worth the time spent surveying employees to better understand personalities.

Celebrating successes not only improves morale but it can also help to boost confidence, decrease absenteeism and strengthen your organization’s reputation. Discover some of the ways UST celebrates its employees in our 5 Creative Ways to Celebrate Your Team and add them to your employee engagement initiatives. Having a strong culture of praise and encouragement is a win-win for all involved and in this day and age employee retention efforts are vital to the success of your nonprofit.

June 24, 2022

How to Help Employees with Career Development

Employees are the backbone of every nonprofit and your most valuable asset—contributing to the overall success (or failure) of your organization. When employees are engaged and excited about the work they do, you’ll experience increased productivity, improved job performance and higher retention rates. A key factor in employee satisfaction is career advancement and development opportunities which shows your workforce that you care about more than just hitting your numbers.

In an effort to keep employees engaged, employers must invest in their time and resources in training and development initiatives. It’s imperative that both employers and employees take skill enhancement activities seriously to ensure longevity of individual careers and organizational goals. The importance of offering training and development is more important than ever as employees continue to leave their current jobs for ones with better benefits and growth opportunities.

In a recent article by Intoo, “7 Ways to Help Your Employees with Career Development,” they discuss how you can contribute to the professional advancement of your employees with helpful tips for providing employees the tools they need to advance their career with your organization.

This article was originally published by UST’s outplacement partners at Intoo and is being shared with their permission. 

June 17, 2022

Solicit Involvement for Employee Engagement Initiatives

Modern benefits are indeed useful for retention but that is not the whole story. To be fully engaged, nonprofit employees need to feel they have a say in what goes on at work. The trick is, you must involve your staff in developing and implementing the critical cultural and environmental initiatives designed to engage them in their work. The following strategies for this are intuitive, low-cost and easy to execute.

Common Keys to Engagement

Studies have long proven that engaged employees are more likely to stay and disengaged employees are more likely to leave. But the question remains, how do you quantify, support and grow engagement? The 2018 State of the Workforce Management Report advises that a stressful work environment was tracked at 21% of reasons for failed retention, and limited opportunities for advancement cause more than one in ten employees to quit their job. You can avoid this by sharing openly how and when your nonprofit will remedy any such situation.

Make this dialogue part of a strategic retention plan to prevent and solve the crisis of disengagement. While setting up and maintaining a viable set of strategies presents its own challenges, they are minimal compared to problems posed by a lack of preparation. Another recent report²⁰ shows that 18% of executives say a lack of an employee engagement strategy is the biggest challenge they face. They're troubled by "an inability to measure and assess engagement" — a situation you can address by following some basic guidelines mentioned in this section. Then, you can solicit managers and employees to improve their work experience.

FIRST FOCUS: MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR MANAGERS

According to TLNT.com, "Up to 75% of the factors that frustrated [lost workers] and caused them to begin looking elsewhere were controlled by their manager." Advise your managers to get actively involved in working with staff on employee engagement and retention initiatives. Provide them with the tools to keep their staff happy and watch your retention levels rise.

Loyalty Leaders

A surprising half to three-quarters of all turnover is actually preventable, if managers know how to implement all the tools and strategies available. Do your managers have the tools they need? Help them to develop a loyalty leader mindset²¹, and your team will benefit greatly. Knowing what to suggest to managers can help in times when most employees are "at will" and free to resign, with or without notice.

Following are some low-cost Retention Tools provided by TLNT.com for managers that produce high-impact results:

Conduct "stay interviews." Ask current employees why they choose to stay. Once you know, you can implement strategies to support these reasons.

  1. Show them the impact of their work. This is a common tactic in nonprofit management, but if it has been a while since your staff has seen the beneficial results of their work in the community, make time for it.
  2. Ask highly valued employees to let you know if they plan to leave. If key employees are frustrated in their jobs and seeking other employment, wouldn't you want to know before they leave? Learn why they're making a change and discuss possible ways to keep them loyal.
  3. Identify what motivates your targeted employees. Be sure to know what keeps your highly valued employees in place. Compensation? Benefits? Culture? Mission? Their needs will likely change over time, so it's a good idea to survey them at least once a year.
  4. Develop a list of positive/negative job-related factors. Consider giving them more of what works and less of what doesn't. If their survey responses share that they enjoy working on a new piece of equipment, find out how you might update other equipment they use. Items that employees often report as negatives, such as paperwork or back-to-back travel, should be managed meaningfully in the employee's work schedule.
  5. Personalize Your Personnel Department. Maximize the impact of surveys by developing individualized employee retention plans for workers based on their responses. Show you know and care about their personal needs and wants.
  6. Work with staff to create personalized "how to manage me best" profiles. Ask workers to spell out the most-effective and least-effective strategies for their own management. Create a profile when they start at your organization and update it every couple of years.
  7. Give them a say in solving problems. Most staff members want to produce more, and often they know what is holding them back. Help them resolve barriers buried in the organization's culture, scheduling, or somewhere else.

Every one of the above recommendations will serve your organization well if used appropriately. Care should be taken, however, to follow the "spirit" that underlies this list: Know your employees' needs. If a manager has a longtime staff member who is overdue for promotion, sending an email of thanks for a successful project could backfire. This is especially true if the employee has been watching younger staff members hopscotch past them

SECOND FOCUS: GO STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE, THE STAFF

You've begun improving staff engagement by working with managers, but it's also critical to solicit employee involvement directly. Colorado Nonprofit Association Director of Membership Services Gerry Rasel has the distinct experience of working for a nonprofit that supports best-practices in other nonprofits. Personal experience informs her work. "My best tip for any nonprofit is that it's always about listening to your staff," she said. "I work at a place that is really, really good at that. As an employee, the respect I feel and the knowledge that my opinion is heard goes a long way to keeping me engaged at work."

Share timelines and give your employees a voice in the organization's retention initiatives. Implementing a plan is a critical beginning, but it's important to update your strategies regularly, and to do so you should hear the voices of your employees. Not all nonprofits make that effort. Nearly three-quarters of nonprofit executives make a conscious effort to engage employees, but only 37% report that they've recently updated their employee engagement plan. This reveals the underlying issue that many nonprofits fail to formalize their engagement plan schedule as much as they formalize other routines in the organization. With a formal schedule in place to ask, listen and respond to your staff members, you're more likely to raise employee engagement and hold it at acceptable levels. More than 70% of nonprofit executives surveyed cited "Increasing Employee Satisfaction & Engagement" as a priority. The only priority that earned a higher number was "Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent." So, whatever you can do to increase employee engagement and retention will go a long way to meeting what are likely the top two priorities of your nonprofit's leadership.

A Culture of Action

Dialoguing with your staff is important, but it can also be risky. If employees share their ideas but nothing is implemented — there's no active response — they will disengage altogether, quickly. You can prevent that disaster by moving forward efficiently with a culture that supports communication and action. Organize their input into four distinct areas for a coordinated response:

1. Leadership.

  • Schedule regular informational sessions with various team leaders to explain the organization's status and opportunities for the future
  • Create opportunities for employees to share their understanding of the organization's values.

2. Enablement.

  • Create a transparent resources report so staff members can see and discuss openly where funds are allocated.
  • Bring clients in to share their success stories and allow coworkers to share their successes that were dependent on the help of their teammates.

3. Alignment.

  • Ask employees to write their own job descriptions when hired and then annually. Look for changes in the descriptions and let the manager and staff member work it out and then update HR if changes have occurred or if original descriptions were incorrect.
  • Use an Intranet to encourage staff/leadership communication. Leaders can pose and answer questions online.
  • Schedule a quarterly awards event that recognizes staff for their achievements. Avoid rewarding the same people repeatedly at the expense of quieter employees.

4. Development.

  • Offer personal or professional coaching. Set up a budget and allocate a set number of sessions but allow the employee to maintain control regarding the content.
  • Create a peer-tutoring program where workers can share extra-curricular or work-related skills with their fellow employees while improving public speaking skills and honing leadership abilities. Note responses to various topics.

You shouldn't throw everything at all four engagement areas at once. Don't risk chaotic and failing programs, especially when funding is tight and time to devote to these initiatives may be short. Organizations that report the most impactful results carefully select one or two projects at a time.

Go Beyond

The good news is many engagement initiatives suggested from for-profits already happen in nonprofits. While your for-profit competition is trying to align their company with a purpose, your nonprofit has made a mission of it. Now, build on that with ideas that go beyond the usual:

  • Healthy Snacks. Fewer than half of employers make healthy snacks or a healthy cafeteria available to their employees. Yet, three-quarters of employees want access to healthy foods onsite. Rethink the choices in your vending machine and take a vote for options to increase staff input.
  • Vigorous Health and Wellness Programs. The economy is quickly moving to a freelance paradigm. Robust health and wellness programs make a significant draw for employees. Help build health, relaxation and fun by offering on-site yoga or dance classes.
  • Have Fun. Set aside Friday afternoons for a staff activity that's just for fun and team-building. Host a scavenger hunt for animals in the local zoo, take a group bike ride, enjoy a frozen yogurt social or take a group painting class. Find something fun for everyone.
  • Make It Visual. Create and share a flowchart that demonstrates how certain tasks performed by an employee ultimately help to fulfill the organization's mission.
  • Let Them Explore. Create paths that help team members move laterally within the organization. A transferred worker can explore a new passion while you keep that person in the building.
  • Make Leaders Approachable. Have the organization's leader host weekly office hours, two hours a week, where employees can explore ideas and concerns that keep them engaged.
  • Pay Attention Online. Watch for patterns in Glassdoor reviews to spotlight areas that need improvement.
  • Reward Coursework. Offer points or tangible rewards for those who take work-related open-source courses. Online classes and tutorials abound. Encourage your workforce to learn.

Think creatively, proactively and prudently, and you'll discover a multitude of affordable ways for your team to become involved in developing their own reasons for engagement.

his is an excerpt from UST’s eBook, “Innovative Strategies That Overcome Nonprofit Retention Barriers” in collaboration with Beth Black, Writer and Editor.