Blogs

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.

June 10, 2022

Stress in the Workplace: How is it Affecting Your Employees

“Round and round and round she goes, and where she stops, nobody knows.”

~ Major Bowes Amateur Hour, c. 1930s

Nonprofits across America are facing the same situation. Rising demand for services in the face of a severe labor shortage. Each part of this problem aggravates the other, until it might seem that you’ll never find a way out of all the struggles. To be sure, the pandemic triggered some thorny nonprofit sustainability challenges, such as the Great Resignation. But let’s be honest — a lot of the problems currently overpowering the American workforce have been brewing since well before COVID-19. In this post, we’ll take a look at where we are today, how we got here, and what you can do to help your staff cope with that wild and wicked ride known as STRESS.

Where We Stand

Mental Health America (MHA) reported in April that 70% of American employees they surveyed last year were finding it difficult to concentrate at work. The study of 11,300 US employees shows a precipitous rise in the stress symptoms employees are feeling from 65% in 2020 and 46% in 2018. Of course, the pandemic has played a large role in this, but we should also consider other factors. Clearly, the events of 2022 — even with the easing of some pandemic pressures — have done very little to assuage workers’ concerns.

With everything going on in the nation and the world, it’s no surprise that American workers are feeling vulnerable and anxious. Threats to personal wellness and safety constantly lead national news stories. Included in the mix, COVID-19 still looms, and inflation has tugged at the nonprofit worker’s ability to make ends meet. Your employees must heap these external fears upon the traditional career concerns, which results in pernicious workplace stress.

How We Got Here

Consider the most common stress-inducing problems related to workplace culture. These remain unchanged from survey reports of years past. Lack of recognition for employees’ contributions remains a problem. There’s also workplace harassment which unfortunately, some nonprofits have done little to address. Left unhandled, this kind of problem will not only stress employees to the point of burnout, it will stain your employer brand permanently.

Also, many nonprofits lack a real path to career success for everyone, not just a chosen few. Developing a culture of support in all areas has been difficult for many nonprofits. The MHA survey reported that:

  • Only 40% of employees agree that their company invests in developing supportive managers.
  • Less than half of employees know about their company’s mental health services, and only 38% would feel safe using those services.
  • Two out of every three employees are not comfortable providing feedback to their manager.

The survey lists more illustrations of problems taking place in America’s workplace cultures. If you haven’t done so lately, this is a good time to survey your own team for their particular stressors. It will be no surprise that different fields bring varying challenges; medical nonprofits often face compassion fatigue while workers in educational nonprofits can be stressed by low pay. Find out what is ailing your staff, so you can determine the best way to address those issues.

Unrest From Uncertainties

With the advent of the Great Resignation, positions are staying unfilled longer, which means that remaining employees are exhausted. Like riders unable to escape an eternally moving carousel, the fact that they are stuck in such an uncertain and incessant situation will no doubt make it feel worse. Even the most dedicated workers will eventually burn out. Nonprofit leaders who have failed to carefully balance workloads between remaining team members will likely notice this more than others.

After more than two years working remotely, some employees are still just simply not ready to return to onsite work. While a number of nonprofits have required workers to return, the fact remains that this is causing stress for those who don’t yet feel safe in the workplace. Help them adjust by ensuring that you keep up with current CDC guidelines in knowledge and practice. Then, communicate your safety practices. Transparency will ease tension. As COVID-19 case rates rise and fall, help your employees trust that you are going to do everything in your power to keep them safe, which includes establishing a caring culture.

Even remote workers may be feeling stressed about their careers. Take steps to account for proximity bias, an unconscious preference that leaders feel toward staff members they see in person over employees who aren’t onsite.

Uncertainty remains a huge stressor. This is the “nobody knows” part of the rhyme above. Unclear or changing job expectations will cause your employees to lose faith in their abilities to meet your demands. Uncertainty is a given in today’s world, but vague job performance expectations will only add to the weight they shoulder regarding overall career ambiguity, organizational changes, and even the dread of workplace violence.

Individuals & Organizations

Eight in 10 of the survey respondents stated that the stress from work affects their relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. Of course, it also affects their employers.

Stressed workers exhibit lowered performance, possibly due, in part, to lack of sleep. They become anxious and uncommunicative. At some point, most burn out and quit. This has been part of the Great Resignation, particularly for nonprofit employees suffering low-pay issues. They will resign to find better paid jobs in another industry, if that’s what it takes to escape the stress of unpaid bills. Longtime employees who have always taken strength from their belief in your mission might lose that resolve when they can’t afford to put gas in their car or food on their table.

Employers have been using temporary or contract workers to fill talent gaps, which can help in the short term. But bear in mind that this rarely provides a long-term solution. It’s an employees’ job market, and unless they want to work on-call, gig workers are finding opportunities to move up to full-time positions that have become more available.

When workers are stressed, job satisfaction scores plummet. Turnover becomes a problem and hiring new staff with a tarnished employer brand will be difficult.

Steps to Take

Here are some steps that can help destress your staff and keep your nonprofit moving forward:

  • Communicate more than ever. Try transparency, as in posting an equitable pay schedule that lets everyone know your compensation is fair. Open discussions on all topics of stress, including workplace safety. Be honest, and approach discussions with a real interest in addressing their concerns.
  • Offer wellness benefits. Provide services for mental and physical health, and advocate for a positive culture that encourages using these services as part of constructive healthcare practices.
  • Offer fun and healthy activities. Whether it’s online Yoga classes for remote employees or group walks at lunchtime for those who work onsite, be creative in providing opportunities to enjoy life and increase their wellness.
  • Offer paid time off. Encourage your employees to take time off for their needs without having to explain why they’re absent.
  • Build more flexibility in deadlines and schedules. If they’re covering for lost coworkers, offer overtime pay, too. But equally important, let them catch a breath between assignments.
  • Be the example that speaks to your culture. If you work long hours, your staff will see that as a requirement for success. Work-life balance is essential to everyone, and an annual vacation should be encouraged for all, including you.

UST’s Content Library provides valuable resources to help you halt that stressful unmerry-go-round, so your staff can find their footing on solid ground, once again.

This blog post was written by Beth Black, consulting writer and editor to UST. Visit PracticalPoet.com to view Beth’s online portfolio and learn more about her editorial services.

June 03, 2022

HR Question: Employee and Mental Wellness

Question: An employee says that the stress of the job is affecting their mental health. How should we handle this?

Answer: This employee may just need to talk through their concerns and get your help prioritizing or delegating. They may, for example, feel like every single thing on their to-do list is life-or-death by Friday at close of business, when that’s not really the case. Some manager guidance can go a long way, especially for your employees who are usually self-directed.

On the other hand, the stress and mental health effects the employee describes may rise to the level of a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In this case, we would recommend beginning the interactive process to determine what, if anything, can be done to accommodate them so that the essential functions of the job get done to your standards and the employee is able to keep working. As part of this conversation, you can request a doctor's note to substantiate the disability.

If you have more general concerns about the effects of stress in your workplace, you might consider ways to help your employees reduce and manage their stress. Tried and true methods include offering health benefits so employees can access health care professionals and paid time off so they can take a day here and there to rest and recharge. Simply encouraging employees to support one another and allowing them breaks during the day can also be a great help.

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.

May 26, 2022

Creating a Unified Company Culture

If you haven’t experienced it, consider yourself lucky. Most of America’s workers have, at one time or another, faced problems with a toxic workplace culture. It might have been bias against a minority (including women, even if they’re a company’s majority). It could have been a difficult manager who was allowed to target others with impunity. Or, it simply might have been a culture that failed to support its workers’ dreams and wellbeing adequately. Whatever the issue, most American workers have quit a job that came wrapped in a dysfunctional culture.

The Great Resignation has launched this trend into the stratosphere. In the month of March, alone, more than 4.5 million American workers quit their jobs. This is not going to change anytime soon. And it’s expensive. Every employee who flees your toxic culture will likely end up costing you several thousand dollars to replace.

It’s time to cut off any culture concerns before they consume your organization. Here are some ideas and steps to help you ensure your culture is avoiding toxic situations and proactively developing a positive, supportive culture that will sustain your workforce, your nonprofit and your mission.

Common Culture Concerns

In nonprofits across the nation, shared beliefs and behaviors lead to the way employees interact. It leads to the way nonprofit leaders, and ultimately, nonprofit employees make decisions. Whether you want it or not, your nonprofit has a culture.

You might be imagining culture as some nebulous concept floating in space. The truth is, most workers will point directly at their manager to place the blame for negative work experiences. Here are some reasons why:

  • They don’t feel safe being honest with their manager about job-related or personal problems.
  • They feel there is no transparency or open communication coming from their manager regarding job expectations, burnout prevention, training, mentoring, career advancement pathways or even a status update on the health of the organization.
  • They don’t feel their manager has protected them from workplace discrimination.
  • They can’t expect a positive outcome from reporting harassment, sexual or otherwise, to their manager.
  • They may actually have been targeted for harassment, sexual or otherwise, by their manager … with no larger oversight.
  • They don’t feel truly valued by their manager, and hence, the organization.

Why It’s Important

Even if your employees choose to stay with your organization, you will likely experience a negative effect on individual and team productivity. People who experience any of the above reasons will have difficulty concentrating on projects and working effectively in teams. And your employees’ daily sense of wellbeing can impact your recruitment efforts, as they will react with poor reviews on sites like Glassdoor, thereby damaging your employer brand irreparably.

Don’t underestimate the destruction caused by burnout brought on by a toxic culture. Problems that you might not know about could be affecting your workforce. For example, proximity bias has become a serious problem for remote workers, particularly as some of their colleagues return to the workplace. Those who remain remote, either for geographical or health reasons, have been discovering that they’re not in line for training or leadership opportunities simply because they don’t physically walk into their employer’s building to work.

Yet, this can be difficult for an employer to see, especially one who relies on remote workers. It would take some effort to track conversations and career tracks for everyone on staff to determine accurately if you’ve been remiss. For instance, have you been showing the same interest in your remote workers careers as the paths allowed to those you see in the hallway at the office? Remember, you don’t have to be aware of a bias to have one.

Determine Your Culture’s Toxicity

The first step is a willingness to accept the possibility that your culture isn’t perfect. From there, you should ask these questions and search for signs of dysfunction:

  • Gloom and doom. When you look at the faces of people around your workplace or in remote meetings, do they reflect any happiness? Or do they look like they just lost their luggage? Lagging enthusiasm at work is an easily notable feature of a toxic work environment.
  • Error Terror. It’s normal for people to fear making a mistake at work, but trying to avoid an embarrassing moment and living in anxious fear of the threat of consequences means they’re working in a culture that penalizes failure.
  • The Slow Boil of Constant Turmoil. When communication fails, teams fall apart, individuals lose connection and nobody knows what to do in their role. From there, trust dissolves and power struggles ensue. Collaboration will fall by the wayside, derailing projects, people and your nonprofit.
  • Drama Trauma. Some gossip is normal in any community setting, and workplaces are no exception. But when the rumor mill spins out of control with malevolent half-truths at tennis-match levels, it’s a clear sign that workers are trying to operate in a communications vacuum as part of a dysfunctional culture.
  • They Come, They Go, They Don’t Even Show. Higher than normal employee turnover is an undisputable sign of a culture in need of repair. Many are leaving positions without securing a new job elsewhere first. Mental health and the need for wellness is affecting your employees’ decisions. In these trying times, workers won’t just walk away from a toxic culture. They’ll run.

Cut off Culture Concerns

You can think of your culture as a tree with many branches. Over the years, people have developed initiatives that worked at the time, or habits have developed that may have been overlooked. Some of the branches are robust and strong, green with leafy foliage and hosting birds’ nests. Some of the branches are scraggly and half-dead, bringing nothing to the tree but dead weight. Every branch came from the center or from another branch, just as your cultural practices have come from the leadership and behavior of your employees over time. Now is the time to shape your culture by pruning away that which doesn’t serve your workforce and mission and to allow which is healthy to blossom as a beautiful part of the community.

What to do next:

  • Ask. Conduct a company-wide anonymous employee engagement survey. Ask about problems in key areas, such as harassment, bias and inclusion. Find out if your culture supports Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Access and a sense of Belonging for everyone. Ask them to describe their experiences. Look at age, religion, race, gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, distance (remember remote workers), physical and mental abilities — plus as many additional categories as you can find. Make it bold and encompassing, so that all staff members understand that you’re really addressing their issues. Do not retaliate against any whistle blowers.
  • Listen. Talk to your employees. An open door policy and a respectful ear might lead to some honest comments that will strengthen your culture. 
  • Learn. Learn from the results. Look at your team leaders to discern any additional issues.
  • Apply. You may need a professional consultant to help your team launch the initiatives that come from this new information. Or, you may be able to figure out some strategies that will empower your team to overcome what has been going on. Give it time, but don’t let it slip away. Be sure to use additional surveys and metrics regularly to guide your actions as you move forward.

Seek and Destroy

Five major forms of dysfunction will lead to all kinds of trouble in your culture. Clean these up and your culture can shine. As categories, they are:

  • Disrespect. Loss of dignity or consideration.
  • Non-inclusivity. Biased against subgroups, cronyism and nepotism.
  • Dishonesty. Unethical behavior or failure at regulatory compliance.
  • Ruthlessness. Cutthroat or backstabbing behavior and competition.
  • Abuse. Hostility, harassment or bullying.

Equity vs. Equality

While both are vitally important, equality and equity are not the same. Understanding how they differ will help you find a way to enshrine both as central themes within your renewed culture.

  • Equality: Everyone is paid the same for equal work. It doesn’t matter if they’re male or female, local or remote. Making pay transparent throughout the company is one way to ensure that it happens.
  • Equity: Take the needs of individual employees into consideration for the sake of fairness. A two-story building with offices upstairs — but no elevator — would not be equitable for a person in a wheelchair. While everyone has equal freedom to use the stairs, not everyone can.

Your culture probably doesn’t suffer from all of the ills mentioned here, but understand this: No culture is perfect, and every organization could benefit from an honest discussion, at least, to address the concerns of the hardworking people you need to achieve your mission. Handle it with a caring heart and deep concern, and you will be able to achieve a world-class organization where people really want to work.

This blog post was written by Beth Black, consulting writer and editor to UST. Visit PracticalPoet.com to view Beth’s online portfolio and learn more about her editorial services.

May 20, 2022

On-Demand Webinars: HR Strategies and Risk Management Tactics

Here at UST, we aim to create content designed to educate 501(c)(3) nonprofit leaders and strengthen the nonprofit sector. As part of our on-going commitment to serve nonprofit organizations, UST has published two on-demand webinars on relevant topics important to the sector. For just $29, you can register to watch one of our on-demand webinars to discover nonprofit strategies and best practice tips. PLUS, with your registration, you’ll also receive essential handouts for nonprofit leaders.

Human Resource Strategies: Employee Engagement and Nonprofit Brand

Today's increasingly virtual landscape—along with the workforce's evolving strategic priorities—has not only changed how we work, but it's also impacted the way we interact with one another. To maintain positive morale and strengthen company culture, nonprofit leaders must prioritize employee engagement and brand reputation strategies. During this on-demand webinar, discover helpful tactics for building a string nonprofit brand while fostering on engaged workforce. Register here.

The Workplace of Today and Tomorrow Managing Risk and Reward

During the last few years, nonprofits around the globe have been forced to develop contingency plans and re-examine the nature of ‘essential’ services. Learn how to identify (and mitigate) nonprofit risk while fostering an engaged workforce. During this on-demand webinar, you'll learn how to identify (and mitigate) nonprofit risk while fostering an engaged workforce. You'll also be able to download several handouts essential for managing risk at your nonprofit. Register here.

May 17, 2022

Build Competitive & Creative Benefit Packages

You probably already know that nonprofits generally work with lower budgets than large corporations, especially when it comes to employee benefits and perks. That means you must make your nonprofit appealing to job seekers in other ways. This is the time to deploy your creative genius and stand out in the employment marketplace. The global pandemic put just about everyone through a life-altering experience. And as a result, many career trajectories are changing. Seize the opportunity to offer something attractive that will improve their quality of life, enriching them in ways that go beyond dollar signs—and it must be more than your mission.

Offered in many shapes, the employee benefits package has kept its golden status as a form of compensation that goes beyond wages to draw job seekers. Often referred to as perks, the varied benefits included are special and not offered by all employers. You should begin by re-examining your basics to see if you’re already offering any of the following:

  • Improved Work-Life Balance. Given that so many spent more than a year at home, it might seem contrary to offer additional personal time off. But the pandemic lock downs, complete with furloughs and layoffs, were not the same as paid leave from a job that inspires you to return with energy. Flexible hours can also help families cope with new work routines. And longstanding employees might appreciate the opportunity to take an educational sabbatical, especially if they return with helpful new skills. That's a win/win!
  • Healthy is Happy. The pandemic exposed a health divide across the nation. Help your workers enjoy greater wellness by providing budget-friendly benefits they will appreciate. Organize a lunchtime walking group or offer healthy snacks instead of the traditional vending machine. Those working in the office again may need a quiet space for relaxing breaks. Put that empty office space to good use. If your nonprofit can afford it, consider partnering with a local gym to reimburse part of their membership fees.
  • Teach and Learn. Offer opportunities for staff to share special skills, such as a foreign language. Or set up links to crafty educational YouTube videos for crafts in the break room coupled with basic supplies for beginners. At lunch, they can learn to crochet or make a mosaic.
  • Form an Affinity Group. If your nonprofit is large enough, you may be able to take advantage of affinity group benefits⁸, such as insurance deals or club memberships. Check into offering a discounted membership in Auto Club (AAA), for example, which would then provide numerous discounts and services to your employees.
  • Have Fun Together. Bring some joy to your workforce culture by offering memorable enjoyable events. For example, cell phones are ubiquitous, so how about a photo contest? Dedicate some wall space, perhaps in the lunchroom (or an online page) for your employees’ artwork—photographic or otherwise. They can share around-town selfies, landscapes, or perhaps local architecture.

When you must work with a limited benefits budget, it’s crucial to choose only the benefits that your employees will care about. Clearly, most workers need help with healthcare costs. If your nonprofit is small, and you don’t provide a group health insurance plan, consider offering a Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA) — an affordable way to help defray your employees’ healthcare costs. The pandemic left many Americans in debt and reducing these expenses will help reduce their risks of financial devastation. Even before the pandemic, millennials struggled with deficient wages, affordable housing shortages, and outrageous student debt. They already make up the largest segment of the workforce, so whatever you can do to help them with essential expenses will be appreciated.

Financial Tools That Help

Americans are recovering financially, as the economy revives, though it breaks along socioeconomic and racial lines. About 60% of White and Asian adults report that their finances are in excellent or good shape. By contrast, about two thirds of Black adults and nearly 60% of Hispanic adults report that their finances are in fair or poor shape. Roughly half of non-retired Americans say the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak have made it harder for them to achieve their financial goals moving forward. These employees need your help managing their budgets. Consider the following tools for this purpose:

  • Access to Funds. Work with a payroll service that provides free access to funds between paydays. This can help protect your workers experiencing surprise expenses from credit card late fees and overdraft charges, as they return to work and rebuild their financial wellbeing.
  • HSAs and FSAs. Provide a tax-free way to pay for covered expenses.
  • Set Up a Retirement Plan. Whether it’s a 401(K) or a 403(B), you can help your staff prepare for the future with deposits that are automatically deducted from their pay. Make it spectacular by including a plan to match contributions up to a specified amount.
  • Identity Theft Protection. Scams and security breaches are rampant. When you offer free enrollment in a credit monitoring program, you’re showing how much you care by protecting their safety and security.
  • Student Loan Assistance. This will be huge for millennials, their parents and recent graduates from other generations who might be feeling abandoned by governmental agencies that allowed promised funds to dwindle. Just a hundred dollars a month could save your employee three years of payments.

Nearly 86% of workers between 22 and 33 years old say they would commit to an employer for five years if the deal included student loan assistance. Encourage loyalty with a monthly payment that helps reduce their debt.

  • Help Families Flourish. Is your family leave package robust? Find creative means to help with child or elder care. Celebrate families with bring-your-child-to-work days. Whatever helps busy moms and dads get through their week with less stress could be just the ticket.
  • Share the Swag. Does your nonprofit use branded swag for fundraising or other purposes? Share some of those goodies with your employees, so they can really feel like part of the team without having to donate part of their paycheck to do it.
  • Paid Volunteer Time. You’ve hired people who care. Let them put in some extra time without sacrificing a paycheck. It’s good for the community, the employee, and your employer brand!
  • Auto Insurance Premiums. With more employees working from home, their car insurance rates likely dropped significantly – perhaps enough for you to help with the premiums.
  • Supplemental Insurance. Offer these programs at group rates for employees, including spousal insurance, long-term care, disability and more.
  • Make the Workplace Comfortable. As the pandemic slowly subsides, it’s time to rethink office supplies that go beyond hand sanitizer. Save your employees the expense of caring for their comfort by providing blankets for those under air conditioning vents, free healthy snacks to keep energy up, and perhaps serve lattes once a month as a sign of appreciation for all they do. And remember birthdays because it's personal to the employee and it shows you care. Give them reason to connect you with empathy and caring.

With so many members of the American workforce continuing to work from home, you should also consider helping to defray their communication and efficiency costs. Offer a corporate cell phone plan or give them one to use for work. If you’re not already doing this, it’s time to cover the cost of upgrading their internet speed.

Party Heart-y

And one virtually free method of supporting your staff with joyful memories is to ask employees to recognize each other. Co-workers feel highly motivated to earn the esteem of their peers and will network better, gaining newfound appreciation for their teammates, as they seek reasons to recognize each other.

Seize the opportunity to go over the top by coupling it with a seasonal party event. Serve in-season snacks, such as cocoa for winter, and warm each other’s hearts with your very own mutual-admiration society.

Virtual Team Building

If your staff is now working remote, you can find virtual events to enjoy online. Many types of fun shared experiences await, from game shows to virtual escape rooms, virtual tropical beach gatherings, online shared puzzles to solve, trivial challenges, and more. Your team could be lounging on a virtual tropical beach together. Just a few clicks away! If your budget doesn’t allow for a third-party provider, simply visit Google Earth, and plug in far-away cities, then share the domain and enjoy virtual travel together! Wander the streets of Italy’s Positano or a Japanese fishing village. The opportunities are global!

Experience Success

Whether your employees enjoy them at home or someplace around town, experiences are the hot new perk. Even before the pandemic, Millennials had developed a reputation as seekers of experiences rather than accumulators of goods. That’s not to suggest ignoring their monetary needs; they still have student loans and other high costs disempowering their buying choices. But prior to COVID-19, HR teams were already searching for emotionally impactful activities that could act as bonus incentives. And Millennials largely took them up on experiences that boosted a sense of interpersonal contact and community.

The pandemic galvanized this mindset and spread a desire for recreation to all workforce generations. Of course, the sporadic need for social distancing has complicated fulfilling desires for contact and community. So, be sure to include engaging experiences that they can enjoy from the safety and comfort of their homes. Some companies offer memberships in Peloton or virtual leadership coaching. It could be something fun and relaxing like an in-home cooking class or even a meal prepared by a private chef. Or it could be hiring professional respite care for an elderly family member so that the employee can enjoy a break from routine. The limit to this is your creativity and the dreams of your workers. The truth is, an experience given as a gift or reward is more personal than a gift card or bonus check. Look to provide moments of connection, even if it requires using digital tools to deliver them. Online platforms offering curated activities as incentives are available, and employees can even choose what is most meaningful to them. The menu options are abundant and worth considering. As the nation reopens, many more opportunities will become available – from tours to scuba lessons. Whatever the offerings, each activity celebrates the person who works on your team and will build your employer brand to new levels of success.

Set Up Your New Employee Benefits Packages

Now that you’ve considered the new possibilities, you’re ready to leap in, right? Of course, setting up a new employee benefits package will take some expertise. But you should allow your creativity to provide foundational ideas that will build the package of your employees’ dreams. It’s an opportunity to stand out. First, however, you need to know these startling facts:

• A full 40% of US employees report that their employer is not currently offering employee benefits programs that help.

• An impressive 69% say that having a wider array of benefits would increase their workplace loyalty.

• A frightful 32 million members of the US workforce don’t receive paid sick time off, which is especially horrifying to note in pandemic times.

Of course, there are some basics: Many employers offer life insurance, retirement plans, overtime pay, and PTO or sick pay. The US federal government does require larger organizations to offer medical benefits and unpaid family leave to full-time employees. Some states add to this. Beyond that, benefits are an ideal way to serve budget-conscious nonprofits in the current job market. Excellent benefits that are affordable for an organization can incentivize employees to stay longer despite lower cash wages. Lower turnover saves your nonprofit as well. A great benefits package can build workforce loyalty and push your team toward greater success with your nonprofit’s mission.

Be Their Best Friend’s Best Friend

For something truly unusual, offer a paid day off for a staff member to bond with her newly adopted puppy or kitten, offering to send a treat for rescued pets. Some nonprofits offer subsidized or group-rate pet insurance as an option. The most affordable option may simply to offer a pet-friendly office space for worksite employees. Take precautions to protect employees with allergies and specify the kinds of pets that are allowed, normally well-behaved dogs. Some organizations bring in animal therapy to help de-stress their staff. When a puppy makes the rounds, he’s always followed by a lot of smiles. These benefits aren’t too common, so you’ll make your brand stand out by offering furry wellness perks.

Expand a Popular Offering

What’s better than PTO? Extended PTO! Look into stretching paid time off to include some half-day Fridays. Every other week, staff members who have their assignments completed on time can take the afternoon off, paid. The benefit supports mental wellness with extra-long weekends to rest and relax—some companies offer unlimited vacation time. Even if you only offer these time-related benefits during summers or perhaps on a once-monthly basis, it could keep your staff motivated and excited about employment at your organization.

Perks Work!

The good news is that most benefits you select can be customized to suit your budget, workforce, and nonprofit culture. Business strategist Kenichi Ohmae said, “Rowing harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction.” If you’re offering the wrong benefits, or you’re trying to find other means of remaining competitive in today’s tight job market, it’s time to consider a new direction in benefits packaging. Ask your staff about their dream rewards, come up with creative offerings that speak to those dreams, and then share the news with everyone.

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

May 12, 2022

2022 Employee Engagement Toolkit

As the workforce continues to evolve and nonprofit employers struggle to find (and retain) top talent, leaders must prioritize employee engagement strategies and include development initiatives. To help nonprofit leaders rethink the employee experience, we've compiled our top resources to create the 2022 Employee Engagement Toolkit.

With all that you do for the communities you serve, it's critical that you focus on those who keep your mission moving forward by fostering a work culture where employees feel valued, involved and supported—keeping them intrinsically motivated and engaged. Download the free toolkit and gain access to all of these resources:

  1. 7 Ways to Re-Engage Your Workforce
  2. Employee Engagement Checklist for Leaders
  3. Creative Workplace Benefits
  4. Basics of Creating a Training Program
  5. Basics of Creating a Training Program
  6. Employee Suggestion Form
  7. Workplace Flexibility Fundamentals
  8. Key Steps for Implementing a Mentoring Program
  9. How Employers Can Stand Against Racial Injustice
  10. [Webinar Recording] Nonprofit Retention Strategies

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.

May 03, 2022

HR Question: Avoid Turnover and Increase Retention

Question: We’ve seen a lot of turnover lately. Do you have any tips for increasing retention?

Answer: Employee retention is one of the most difficult and expensive challenges faced by business owners, managers, and HR departments. Fortunately, the keys to retention are simple and straightforward, though certainly easier said than done. The following three practices are essential:

  • Pick the right people in the first place. Put thought and care into your recruitment and interview procedures. The more time you and other employees can spend with candidates, the surer you’ll be they believe in your mission, understand the challenges and frustrations of the position, and want to contribute to your success.
  • Make sure your compensation and benefits remain competitive. This is a tall order and may squeeze your bottom line in ways that make you uncomfortable, but it’s necessary if retention is at the top of your priority list. Make it a goal to do a yearly analysis of your total compensation package to ensure it’s at least keeping up with the market. Many employers who know they can’t offer competitive pay offer other compelling benefits, like generous PTO and the ability to work from home.
  • Be appreciative. A little gratitude can go a long way. And you can show it in multiple ways–from flexibility when employees need it, to a willingness to hear out ideas, to employee appreciation programs. Even a simple thank you can work wonders.

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.

April 18, 2022

How Compensation Growth Strategies Can Help Sustain Your Organization

Studies in 2016 by both SHRM and Nonprofit HR showed that nonprofit workers resigned from their jobs at the same rate as for-profit workers — both at 19%. This myth-busting truth surprised a lot of nonprofit leaders at the time. And now with the pandemic, it’s continuing on a larger scale. The Great Resignation has created an intense employee-employer job shuffle, where lower-paid workers are quitting their jobs for the financial rewards of corporate careers. Meanwhile, higher-paid workers are leaving those jobs in search of more meaningful work.

Nonprofits Feel More Turnover Pain

There are reasons why it seems like nonprofits lose more employees. The truth is nonprofits often feel the pain of employee loss more than corporations — even when the same number of employees are leaving — simply because they tend to lose institutional knowledge that was never properly recorded due to a lack of infrastructure. Who in your organization knows critical donor information? Is it accurately recorded for posterity? Protecting your nonprofit from this type of loss could mean investing in a better program that helps to keep accurate records. Or it could require investing in more companywide training—empowering your staff to use your records system competently.

If you believe such expenses are unnecessary, do you know how your organization bounces back after someone leaves? How difficult is it to adapt everyone’s workload to cover for the last person who left? Was that person a paid employee or a volunteer? What does the organization lose in time, effort and funds to rebuild what was lost?

Remember, as you work to sustain your organization through turnover, it is important to focus some energy on building a resilient and flexible infrastructure that won’t suffer if a key employee leaves.

If you have already strengthened your infrastructure as much as possible and still need to stabilize your workforce, you can easily calculate your actual turnover rate to determine the urgency of your compensation status. If you do have high turnover, especially since the pandemic, it's time to consider how you might improve engagement with adjusted compensation strategies.

Great Resignation Results

Nonprofits face advantages and challenges in regard to both groups of resigning workers:

  • Your nonprofit will benefit by engaging and retaining your current workforce (who already value your mission), but you must offer compensation that realistically addresses their personal financial needs.
  • At the same time, your organization will gain some valuable advantages if you can attract and recruit corporate workers with your inspiring mission and compassionate culture, but you will only be able to retain them with credible compensation that provides for their needs.

Your compensation plan can support employee engagement and retention while setting a tone of respect and appreciation. Just follow these two tenets:

  • Payment in fair exchange for their time, focus and hard work.
  • Expressing gratitude for the benefits that your organization has realized as a result.

Both of these concepts support the adequate pay and rewarding culture that will sustain your nonprofit with an engaged workforce.

Compensation Growth Defined

The term “compensation growth” often leads to two action plans. First, if needed, increase your nonprofit’s pay scale, allowing salaries to reflect current best-practices. Second, meet with each employee upon hiring and then annually to develop a clear compensation plan that allows for reasonable cost-of-living increases and merit raises. Help them trust in a future with your organization. Handling the first action plan will allow you to implement the second. So, where does all that increased compensation come from?

A Valuable Distinction

Total rewards compensation involves thinking beyond the dollar signs on an employee’s paycheck. A more comprehensive approach takes two basic forms: Direct compensation includes the employee’s salary, commissions, bonuses, allowances, and overtime pay. Indirect compensation includes benefits such as health insurance, retirement funding, use of a company phone, discounts to public events, and invitations to internal events such as company picnics. Indirect compensation’s beauty is that it can rise to the size of your imagination without costing a lot.

Find opportunities in your company culture. For example, remote or hybrid schedules will likely remain popular for years. If possible, adopt scheduling flexibility and give employees more say in determining when and where they work. AARP recently reported that the Great Resignation has included many seniors who no longer wish to work full-time schedules. Simultaneously, others need more hours to make up for financial losses from the Great Recession. The trick is to work with them to meet their needs.

There are plenty of other indirect options, such as improved training availability and clear leadership paths. Mentoring and coaching for all employees can keep your staff engaged — even those who are chosen as mentors will value the experience and the trust you place in them. 

Mental Health: 2022’s Best Benefit

Mental health services are critically important in 2022. Socioeconomic and political upheavals accompanied by pandemic and war have left many workers experiencing anxiety and depression. If your nonprofit provides services that help — and you build a culture geared for better overall health — your engagement should rise significantly, and employer brand will shine in the marketplace. Consider these options:

  • Offer coverage for mental health care.
  • Offer Walk and Talk sessions with a paid therapist or coach.
  • Offer paid time off for mental health days.
  • Provide enjoyable activities that boost socialization and wellbeing.
  • Support a walk-a-thon to promote mental health and destigmatize problems.
  • Provide discounts for massages, weekend getaways, local museums and more.
  • Balance workloads and reduce stress related to unreasonable deadlines and overwork.

Sometimes Money Does the Talking

No matter what, they’ll need to earn a decent living. Ease their personal budgetary concerns by properly managing your organization’s budget. If traditional income streams have dried up, these options might help:

  • Increase your funding through sales. Work with one of several online outlets to create a line of branded products. If you have a website, you can set up an online store. Be sure to develop that with a professional. Promote your products on social media.
  • Increase your funding through donors. There are myriad ways to increase funding these days, such as online crowdfunding apps like GoFundMe, Mightycause, FundRazr and Fundly. Research several to pick the best one for you. Items you sell could also be useful as rewards for crowdfunding donors. A branded mug, for example, would be a great gift for those who donate $35 to your cause.

You’ll benefit from a clear business and marketing plan with specific designated use for collected funds. Be honest with donors about your organization’s need for compensation growth. When you compensate them properly, your workforce will help you reach impressive goals that build your brand, draw more donors, and sustain your nonprofit organization.

This blog post was written by Beth Black, consulting writer and editor to UST. Visit PracticalPoet.com to view Beth’s online portfolio and learn more about her editorial services.

April 12, 2022

HR Question: Employees and Mental Wellness

Question: We’ve been both super busy and understaffed recently. Is there anything we can do during this time to help our employees avoid extra stress or burnout before we can hire more employees?

Answer: Yes. Here are a few things you can do to make this time run as smoothly and stress-free as possible:

Remove nonessential work duties: For the positions that seem most stretched, make a list of tasks that could be put on hold (or perhaps reassigned). You can invite input from employees, too, but I’d recommend acknowledging that they’re overwhelmed and saying that you’ll do your best to alleviate some of the pressure. Then hold off on nonessential tasks until business slows down or you’ve increased your headcount.

Allow for flexible scheduling: If employees need to work longer hours on some days during the week, consider allowing them to work fewer hours on other days of the week. Note that some states have daily overtime, spread-of-hours, or split-shift laws.

Budget for overtime: Employees may need to work extra hours to keep up with the current demands of their job, so allow them to work overtime if you (and they) can swing it. If you’re pretty sure overtime will be necessary, inform employees of that ahead of time, so they can plan accordingly.

Ensure all equipment is fast and reliable: It’s important to identify, troubleshoot, and correct any slow or nonworking equipment issues (such as laptops, internet hardware, cash registers, or vehicles). If not resolved, these issues can slow down work and add to everyone’s stress.

Look for ways to automate: Consider whether any of your employees’ manual and time-consuming tasks could be eliminated or simplified with the use of new or different technology.

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.

April 08, 2022

Strategies to Improve Employee Bandwidth

To improve the overall effectiveness, the performance, of your team, you’ll want to improve in two areas: efficiency and productivity. Be sure to take advantage of a highly effective yet often-overlooked best-practice procedure for improvement in this area. Ask your employees to identify ways that the team can be more efficient and productive. When you involve the front-line workers who experience systemic barriers, they’ll help you find better solutions in a shorter amount of time. Also, you need to know the difference between the two and which one should be tackled first.

Productivity vs. Operational Efficiency

Efficiency is about accomplishing the same goals with fewer resources, while productivity is about accomplishing more without increasing your consumption of resources. Resources could be worker hours, supplies, phone lines, funds or whatever it takes to get the job done. For example, if your organization uses 10 people to make calls and solicit restaurant donations for a community food bank, improving efficiency could be improving the phone system so that eight people could make the same number of calls in the same amount of time. Improving productivity would be training those 10 people to achieve a larger donation with each call. If you improve both, you've built a smaller team that can achieve more. It’s best to begin by improving efficiency. Always start by reducing the amount of wasted effort and resources. Once that has been set and stabilized with a clear baseline of operations, you can work to increase productivity without undermining efficiency. Why spend resources training all 10 people to improve their phone skills if you’ll only need eight people after modernizing the phone system? But once you’ve set up the right team of callers on a modern phone system, you can then target exactly who needs training with greater results. Create a lean, mean machine and then make it run like a dream.

Take the time to strategize your best practices when preparing to improve your efficiency. It’s not simply about cutting costs. Analytics can be a key factor in making the right choices. Once you’ve fully analyzed your processes, then you can begin to pinpoint where waste occurs so that you can begin to fix it in a way that is sustainable, perhaps with incentivized buy-in from the staff.

A promising way to begin improving efficiency is to eliminate bottlenecks. These are points in your workflow where the bureaucracy overwhelms and slows the process of completing a task. Or it could simply be a matter of disorganization. Is there a file that everyone needs but is hard to locate? Do you have a disorganized email system that makes it difficult to find important correspondence? So when someone needs something from these, they have to stop the flow to go find what they need. Bottlenecks can waste time, effort, and money. One strategy to eradicate such waste is the 5S method: Sort, Shine, Straighten, Standardize and Sustain. When you clean up your organization and its worksite, your improved efficiency will lead to more fruitful improvements in productivity.

Remember Productivity and Employee Bandwidth

Once you've established a baseline of operations, the next step is to work on productivity. The current vernacular for this is employee bandwidth, which measures in large part team productivity.

But how did bandwidth come to relate to employees? The term started in IT, where it was used to describe the speed of internet that could flow through a particular electronic system. The metaphoric use, today, describes how much productive work a manager can expect from staff members in a particular amount of time. This really is not about making staff work harder or faster to beat the clock. It’s about studying and working with the complete cultural and systemic condition. Is an employee close to burnout? Why? Too much work or too little? Are employees bored with no opportunities for growth? Are some frustrated by red tape and micromanagement? All of these must be taken as part of the bandwidth equation.

UC Berkeley professor Morten Hansen wrote about a study of more than 5,000 professionals over a period of 5 years. He looked at the way people took on workloads and delineated four common personality styles that describe how different staff members behave:

  • Accept More, Then Coast. Employees who volunteer for a lot of projects but fail to finish them all.
  • Do Less, No Stress. Employees who do the bare minimum to keep their jobs.
  • Do More, Then Stress. Like the first group, they say yes to every opportunity, but then they overwork in order to accomplish it all and eventually burn themselves out.
  • Do Less, Then Obsess. This is the most realistic group. They choose a few priorities and then work hard to accomplish them with great success. 

In performance reviews of the four groups, the Do Less, Then Obsess group scored as much as 25

percentage points higher than the other three. This style clearly works better as the workers are forced to pay attention to key factors on a regular basis.

Five Tips to Improve Bandwidth

There are five simple steps you can take to raise the level of productivity with employees and bandwidth in your team.

  1. Provide opportunities to develop cross-discipline expertise. Are team members stuck in one role, never learning anything new and bored? There’s a simple cure for that. Provide the opportunity for members of different teams to leap into other silos and develop basic skills there. Other benefits include having people who can fill in for a few weeks if you lose a team member.
  2. Raise the corporate culture. No doubt you’re already working to maximize the impact of your employment culture. When you emphasize innovation, team relationships, communication, and trust, you build better relationships with your staff and their productivity will increase as they feel happier and more fulfilled in their careers.
  3. Effective communication. Avoid confusion and build a smart team filled with people who know what is expected and can express what’s going on at their level.
  4. Use technology appropriately. The advent of inexpensive apps and software have made technological advances much more affordable in recent years. You can now improve your efficiency, increase productivity, and build worker satisfaction with several available products. See what your competitors are using and find a version that’s affordable and useful for your organization.
  5. Show your appreciation. Build rapport with the team and make sure to commemorate their achievements. The more they feel recognized for their efforts, the more eagerly they will participate in the culture and proactively fulfill their assignments.

You can also improve retention and institutional knowledge by hiring staff with full-time hours and benefits, rather than bringing them in as part-time or contract employees. Grow their roles with your organization and reap the benefits of built-in bandwidth.

Help Them Avoid Burnout

Your goal of maximizing employee bandwidth is to increase productivity without burning out your staff. Employers who push their staff to do work faster or harder, risk a high attrition rate, as employees flee for safer grounds. The first thing to understand is that employee burnout usually has more to do with an organization than any particular employee. You could be overloading your most capable employees with too much work and too many responsibilities.

It’s time to begin thinking of your employees’ time as a precious resource and plan accordingly. If regular overtime is celebrated in your company culture, take another look at that value and check for damage to the lives of your staff members. Too many emails flying back and forth? Too many meetings in one day? When you begin to provide some relief from these constant interruptions, and give employees control over their own calendars, you’ll see your staff’s energy revitalize as they gain a sense of control and autonomy.

All of this comes from the common problem of excessive collaboration. If your organization has grown and developed numerous layers of decision makers, this could be hampering your employee bandwidth. As each stakeholder manages multiple projects, and must sign off on each, the staff members must make themselves available for a seemingly endless round of meetings, conference calls, and emails. The exhausting schedule becomes counterproductive to the point of chasing employees out the door. Restructuring the hierarchy of command can save managers from wasting time on redundant activities and freeing them to accomplish more.

Empower Your Employees

Remember, in the end, most workers want to feel fulfilled and competent in what they do for a living. They want to contribute and make a difference. It’s up to you to give them the workspace that allows them to fulfill their dreams of succeeding. Economist Theodore Levitt said, “Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” With this advice, you can allow employees to increase their efficiency, their productivity, and their team bandwidth.

This is an excerpt from UST’s eBook, “Strategies to Secure Nonprofit Endurance” in collaboration with Beth Black, Writer and Editor.

March 18, 2022

HR Question: Questions to Avoid During an Interview

Question: What questions should an employer avoid asking during the recruiting and interview process?

Answer: You should avoid questions that are not job-related or that cause an applicant to tell you about their inclusion in a protected class. These would include questions about race, national origin, citizenship status, religious affiliation, disabilities, pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity, past illnesses (including use of sick leave or workers’ comp claims), age, genetic information, or military service. You should also avoid asking about things that might be protected by state law (e.g., marital status and political affiliation).

Asking these sorts of questions could result in rejected candidates claiming that the decision not to hire was based on their inclusion in these protected classes rather than job-related considerations. We recommend looking at your state’s protected class list to be sure you don’t run afoul of it.

During an interview, it is advisable to present the candidate with a copy of the job description that lists all essential job functions, including any physical requirements necessary to perform the job, and simply asking the candidate if they are able to perform the job duties listed. For example, if the position requires someone to lift 25 pounds repeatedly throughout the day, you should ask the applicant whether they can lift 25 pounds repeatedly throughout the day. You should not ask whether they have back pain or any other physical issues that might prevent them from lifting 25 pounds or if they’d filed a workers’ comp claim when doing manual labor in the past. If you need someone to work Sunday mornings, you should ask the applicant if they can work Sunday mornings. You should not ask if they attend church or have other commitments that would prevent them from working Sunday mornings.

If a candidate proactively acknowledges a disability or medical condition, we recommend that you refrain from addressing this candidate's mention of it directly. Instead, confirm that the candidate can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. You'll want to be certain that you are asking this question consistently of all candidates, and not just those who have disclosed a past medical condition or those you suspect may not be able to perform the essential functions of the position. It’s also important not to make assumptions about a candidate's ability to perform their job based on their having disclosed that they have a disability or other health condition.

Finally, unless a candidate has an obvious disability or has voluntarily disclosed that they have a disability, we would not recommend asking applicants if they would need accommodation to perform job functions as it would have the effect of creating a pre-employment disability inquiry, which is prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

You can also download UST’s Interviewing 101 as a guide for preparing to interview candidates and hiring the right people for your nonprofit. 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.

March 11, 2022

Creative Workplace Benefits

Employee benefits, also known as perks and fringe benefits, are provided to employees over and above salaries and wages. Employee benefit packages may include overtime, medical, dental, vacation, profit sharing and retirement benefits, to name just a few. Offering these types of benefits to your employees is important because it shows them you are invested in not only their overall health, but their future. A rich employee benefits package can help attract and retain talent. Benefits also have the ability to help set you apart from competing organizations—benefits more often than not, can be the deciding factor when future talent decides to accept a job offer.  

When looking at fringe benefits, there are two types, fringe benefits that are required by law (i.e., social security and health insurance and fringe benefits provided at the organization’s discretion. (i.e. free breakfast and lunch, gym membership, employee sock options, retirement planning services, child care, education assistance, etc.). Organizations will offer additional fringe benefits in hopes of increasing employee wellness and employee engagement. Employees often work harder when they feel their employer appreciates their contribution to the organization. One way to increase employee satisfaction is by providing additional benefits like paid holidays, employer-provided car, workplace flexibility, etc. It will help reduce incidences of a disgruntled workforce and keep the employees engaged.

Healthcare and retirement benefits are important for obvious reasons, but the popularity of additional fringe benefits seem to be on the rise, especially following a global pandemic. Check out UST’s list of Creative Workplace Benefits for some ideas on how you as an employer, can show your staff support while increasing your chances of retaining your employees. 

Being creative with your benefits package at a budget restricted nonprofit can be less expensive and often better received than a raise, so put on your thinking cap and leave no stone unturned. Remember, money alone will not keep employees engaged so take the time to come up with a plan to show them some appreciation.

March 04, 2022

[Webinar Recording] UST Live: Advocacy & Legislative Support for Nonprofits

In the latest rendition of UST Live, we were joined by thought leaders from across the U.S. with expertise in nonprofit advocacy. Guest moderator, Chai Jindasurat of Nonprofit New York, lead the conversation as the group discussed how advocacy efforts have changed and shared what their nonprofit organizations are doing to ensure they’re being heard at the local, state, and federal levels.

You'll also hear where they see cross-sector advocacy aligning in the next 12-18 months and what you can do to capture the attention of legislators to effect change—plus much more.

Watch now to discover:

  • Top "hot" button issues for 2022
  • What legislative changes nonprofits should prepare for and how it will impact their organizations
  • How advocacy looks at the local, state, and federal levels, and what strategies work best at each level

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 May, August, and November.

 

February 28, 2022

Building a Professional Development Plan

This article was written by Mitch Stein, Founder & CEO at Pond and shared with explicit permission.

The nonprofit workforce has been through a lot in the last few years—they’ve faced job insecurity and financial shortcomings as well as mental and emotional strain—leaving many burnt out and pursuing new jobs. In order to achieve stability, nonprofits need to be innovative with development opportunities that can help combat preventable terminations.

In a recent article by Pond, “How to Build a Professional Development Plan for the New Nonprofit Landscape,” Mitch Stein shares strategies for building a professional development plan that ensures employees are prepared and able to perform critical tasks in times of uncertainty while also being supported in their career trajectory. You’ll learn how to identify skills gaps, curate professional development resources, encourage cross-training, and align your development program around your nonprofit’s core values.

Remember, in the end, most nonprofit employees want to feel fulfilled and competent in what they do—they want to contribute as well as make a difference. These strategies can help you sustain your organization’s workforce and remain competitive in today’s ever-evolving employee marketplace.

February 10, 2022

Four Ways to Create an Equitable Grantmaking Process

The grantmaking process is often exclusive and expensive, making it accessible to those select nonprofits with the right expertise and networks, which can be costly for organizations and funders to seek and distribute funding. Applying for grants is a tedious and expensive process, with a good percentage of applications taking upwards to a week or more just to write. To help those communities who’ve been commonly excluded to thrive, organizations with access to capital need to start adopting more equitable grantmaking practices—making funding more accessible to everyone. Grantmakers have a responsibility to create equitable processes, making sure that communities of color and other marginalized populations are not adversely impacted by giving practices.

When looking at grantmaking, diversity includes casting a wide net to attract diverse applicants. Inclusion might mean your reviewers are diverse, mirroring the community the organization serves. Equity might include revamping the application process making it more accessible.

In following these four tips, nonprofit organizations will be more equipped to have the right processes in place to evaluate equitable grantmaking:

1) Create a More Diverse Pool of Applicants: The first step toward equitable grantmaking is to encourage a diverse applicant pool. If nonprofits serving marginalized communities don’t know about your funding, they won’t be able to apply. Examine your pipeline to determine if you’re casting a wide net outside of your familiar go-to organizations. Look into expanding your networks—we all have a tendency to build relationships with those like ourselves. Attend diverse community meetings, events, or town halls to promote your fund.

2) Keep the Entire Application Process Simple: Grant applications can feel complicated to newer applicants. Use clear, simple language when creating instructions and applications. The general rule is to write at an eighth-grade reading level. (Word offers this functionality–you can use google to find out how to use it).  When it comes to equitable grantmaking, ADA-friendly applications are a must. For example, screen reader capability and keyboard accessibility create an equitable website experience. Without these, applicants with disabilities may have difficulty applying.  

3) Lower Chances of Bias in Review Process: Implicit bias is an unconscious association made about social groups. For example, many automatically assume business executives are male and secretaries are female. While it is ingrained in us from a young age, implicit bias can hinder best intentions for equitable grantmaking. By creating an unbiased review process, you’ll strengthen the entirety of the grant review process. Some examples include, offer implicit bias training to your reviewers and examine reasons why applicants were rejected.   

4) Review Reporting Metrics: Metrics are vital to any funder’s success—including equitable giving outcomes. Be sure to create equity metrics early in the process. You’ll want to track data points such as the number of diverse applicants and awardees. 

To reduce funding barriers, make sure to take a closer look at your processes from beginning to end. Take a look at each step and try to pin-point when diverse populations are no longer in the forefront. Be open to outside perspectives who could provide unique solutions—grantees and reviewers could offer ideas around inclusivity and/or equity. 

February 04, 2022

HR Question: Sharing Vaccination Status with Managers

Question: Can we share employee vaccination status with managers so they can enforce any policies based on that information, such as masking and social distancing?

Answer: Yes. Obviously, managers will need this information if they are expected to enforce vaccination-dependent policies, and employers should train them on how they should be enforcing the policies and how and when to escalate issues to HR or a higher level of management. However, you should not share this information any more widely than necessary. Vaccination status is medical information that must be kept confidential.

While anonymized information is okay to share widely—e.g., “80% of our employees are vaccinated!”—each employee’s vaccination status should be treated as confidential, even if the fact that they are wearing a mask to work seems to reveal their status publicly.

Q&A 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 27, 2022

Employee Engagement and Nonprofit Brand Strategies

Today's increasingly virtual landscape—along with the workforce's evolving strategic priorities—has not only changed how we work, but it's also impacted the way we interact with one another. Employee engagement practices are an essential part of any organization—they can save the company money, improve productivity, increase morale, and decrease turnover. To maintain positive morale and strengthen company culture, nonprofit leaders must prioritize employee engagement and brand reputation strategies.

For just $29 you can discover helpful tactics for building a strong nonprofit brand while fostering an engaged workforce. During this on-demand webinar, you'll learn:

  • The importance of evaluating your employer brand
  • Tips for embracing cultural diversity within your workforce
  • Creative employee benefit ideas that support work-life balance
  • And, much more

Register today and you’ll also receive essential handouts for nonprofit leaders—including an employee engagement checklist, a comprehensive onboarding plan as well as creative ideas for celebrating your team and more—FREE with your registration.

January 24, 2022

Five Best Practices to Improve Nonprofit Member Retention

Members are a vital key to success when sustaining and growing your association and retaining those members ensures a long-term survival of your nonprofit organization. While recruiting and enrolling new members is important for growth, making a conscience effort to retain members is equally as important.  Making your current members feel important and special, reminds them of why they joined your association in the first place. Some tried and true retention methods include creating specialized resources, and educational content—the more you publish industry reports, educational webinars, or offer member discounts, the happier your members will be.

The best course of action to take when retaining members include, focusing on their needs, remind them how much value they bring to your association and engaging them on a regular basis. We’ve put together a list of 5 best practices for improving member retention at your nonprofit organization:

1) Create an Onboarding Plan: First-time members are a specific group within your membership profile that need to be approached with specific strategies. Look for ways to keep new members engaged—monthly check-ins, education materials about new products, keep them informed about upcoming events like webinars or virtual conferences—give them opportunities to learn more about the work your organization is doing in the nonprofit sector.

2) Offering Member Only Benefits: Members are interested and/or passionate about your cause, and they want to feel like they’re making a difference. Communicate with them often with weekly or monthly newsletters as well as through social media. Provide perks such as exclusive, member-only offers from your partners as well as networking opportunities. If possible, provide educational opportunities such as webinars, workshops, and relevant eBooks at member-only prices.

3) Create a Community for Your Members: Encourage a thriving, engaged community of like-minded individuals. Such as, organizing/hosting more networking events, mentorship programs, and creating an online member directory—all methods that can help to increase member retention.

4) Remind Members of the Value You Offer: In your end-of-year communications to members, remind them how their membership with your organization has benefited their association over the past year and how much value their membership brings to your organization.

5) Ask Members to Complete an Exit Survey: While it’s not ideal, it is the reality that there will be members who will choose to cancel their membership. This is a great opportunity to capture unique insight into why a member is leaving by asking them to fill out an exit survey. The data acquired can bring light to pitfalls or areas of your organization to be reviewed and improved upon.

Member retention isn't just a one-time activity. It is something that’s kept in mind throughout the whole member lifecycle—it’s a strategy that requires just as much attention as recruiting new members. To keep members around long-term, you should be focusing on building better relationships with your members from day one.

January 07, 2022

HR Question: The Complicated Layers of HR Compliance

Question: HR Compliance: What It Is and Why It’s So Complicated

Answer: Running a business comes with no shortage of perks. You get the freedom to be your own boss, invest in an idea, steer its trajectory, and create wealth. It has its challenges, too. Competition may be fierce. Demand for what you offer may be low. Costs may not be sustainable. But even if everything else is going your way, there’s one challenge that’s ever-present. We’re talking, of course, about HR compliance.

The Definition of HR Compliance

HR compliance is the work of ensuring that your employment practices conform to federal, state, and local laws. This work requires learning which laws apply to your organization and understanding what they require you to do. That’s easier said than done.

HR compliance is truly an art. It requires knowledge, skill, and cooperation. You have to be able to decipher legalese, know where to go to ask the right questions, and create policies and procedures that minimize business risk. You have to ensure that everyone from the executive team to newly minted managers know what they can and cannot do. You have to conduct investigations and enforce your rules consistently. And all this is just the bare minimum—necessary, but not enough to create a truly successful culture.

The work of compliance is never entirely done. Not only do new legal requirements appear on the regular, but, as you’ll read below, compliance obligations are often unclear. While some compliance obligations are definitive, others are unresolved, and a good number require you to make a judgment call. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Why HR Compliance Can’t Always Be Assured

Some employment laws take the form of “Do this” or “Don’t do that.” The requirements may be simple, like minimum wage, or complex, like FMLA, but either way there’s usually no real question about what you need to do or not do. Compliance with these laws is pretty straightforward. Don’t pay less than the minimum wage. Provide leave to eligible employees for the reasons that qualify, continue their health benefits (if applicable), and return them to their position when their leave ends. As long as you’re clear on the details, you’re not likely to lose sleep wondering if you’re compliant.

Sometimes, however, those details are unsettled. Lawmakers don’t always specify everything a law requires before it passes or takes effect. Even when laws seem clear, trying to put them into practice often raises a lot of questions. And the legislature isn’t the only source of law: regulatory agencies demand their say, and courts get involved, too. To complicate matters, these branches of government don’t always agree with each other, and what they say today may not be what they say tomorrow. Keeping up with the latest official guidance takes time and persistence. It can feel like a marathon, when what you want is a quick sprint to the answer. You have other demands on your time, after all. 

Finally, a lot of employment laws have standards you have to follow, but they don’t tell you how. Neither the IRS nor the DOL, for example, tells you whether your workers are employees or independent contractors—unless there’s an audit or complaint. Instead, these agencies publish tests with general criteria that you use to make case-by-case determinations.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) works this way, too. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, with a few exceptions. One of the exceptions is that the accommodation doesn’t create an undue hardship on the employer’s business. The basic definition of an undue hardship is an action that creates a significant difficulty or expense. Although the law provides factors to consider in making this determination, the onus is on you to decide whether an expense or difficulty from an accommodation is significant. And, ultimately, your conclusion could be challenged in court.

Why HR Compliance Looks Like This

If HR compliance seems overly-complicated, that’s because it is. Our current legal landscape is the result of three competing philosophies about how the workplace should be governed, who should govern it, and whose rights in the workplace should be prioritized in the law.

Owner Control

According to the first view, business owners should have control over their workplaces for one simple reason. They own the business. It’s their property, and as owners they should have the legal right to govern it. Employees have no right to control aspects of the workplace because the workplace isn’t theirs. They don’t own it. It’s not their property. If they don’t like the terms and conditions of their employment, they can and should go elsewhere.

While an owner might employ managers or an executive team to make decisions about who to hire and fire, what to pay, how to assign work, and other such matters, the owner remains in charge. Advocates of this view include the economist Milton Friedman. In 1970, he famously argued that corporate executives should bow to the desires of the owners. The will of the owners reigns supreme. 

Worker Control

According to the second view, workers should have a say in the decisions that get made simply because those decisions affect them and their livelihoods. In this line of thinking, the governance of the workplace should adhere to the principles of democracy. However, proponents for this view differ on how democracy in the workplace should be practiced.

In the 1930s, Senator Robert F. Wagner introduced the National Labor Relations Act. He wanted to guarantee the “freedom of action of the worker” and ensure that workers were “free in the economic as well as the political field.” Today, talk of democratizing the workplace usually refers to bolstering unions. But there are other proposals to note. Some champions of workplace democracy, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, have pushed for employee representation on corporate boards. Others favor cooperative models in which the division between employers and employees doesn’t exist.   

Full-fledged workplace democracy is still a fringe view, though. The very definition of an employee remains a worker who does not have the right to control what the work is, how it’s done, or how it’s compensated. Employees may be given authority to make decisions. They may have influence over their superiors. But they are not legally in charge. 

Societal Control

Advocates of the third view argue that the government has an interest in exercising some measure of control over the work and the workplace. In the employer-employee relationship, employers typically have significantly more power than employees—especially an employee acting as an individual. Frances Perkins, who served as Secretary of Labor and was a key architect of the New Deal, believed that government “should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.” She saw a role for legislatures in countering long hours, low wages, and other conditions unfavorable to employees. 

How These Philosophies Have Played Out

In the United States, HR compliance is the result of these three competing and arguably incompatible philosophies. Government action with respect to employment has tried to empower workers and afford them certain rights, protections, and freedoms in the workplace, all while preserving the employer’s control over their business.

We can see this balancing act in the differences among state laws. Some states prioritize the right of owners to control their workforces and are loath to restrict that right through legislation. Other states act out of what they see as a duty to secure the rights of workers. Imposing obligations on employers doesn’t bother them.

We also see this balancing act in the way that employment laws tend to set parameters rather than dictate exactly what employers must do. You can pay employees whatever you want, so long as you pay at least the minimum, offer an overtime premium when applicable, and meet equal pay requirements. You can theoretically terminate employment for any reason or no reason at all (though we don’t recommend it); but you can’t fire someone for an illegal reason. Even laws that require a new practice, such as paid leave, allow flexibility provided you meet minimum conditions.

Takeaways

First, when you’re assessing your compliance obligations, understand that not all compliance obligations are clearly delineated or settled law. Unsettling as that may be, it’s how our system has been set up. In those cases, you’ll have to weigh your options and the risks involved, and then make a decision. Sometimes you may need legal advice in addition to HR guidance. Remember, however, that despite all the many employment laws on the books and in the imaginations of legislators, the system is designed to keep employers in charge. You can’t eliminate all risk, but by understanding the nuances and open questions, you can significantly minimize it.

Second, document your actions and decisions. It only takes an employee filing a complaint for enforcement agencies to get involved, but you are better protected if you can quickly and clearly explain to them the reason for your actions.

Third, evaluate whether your policies, procedures, and practices are satisfactory to employees. No employment law gets written in a vacuum, and no law is truly inevitable. Lawmakers passed the Fair Labor Standards Act because workers and the general public felt that labor standards were unfair. Today we wouldn’t have people pushing for predictive scheduling laws if they felt that work schedules were already sufficiently predictable. Harassment prevention training wouldn’t be mandatory (where it is) if sexual harassment weren’t widespread.

Fourth, lead by example. Make good employee relations a key part of your brand and competitive advantage. Employees have higher expectations today than they used to. Meet those expectations and motivate other employers to do the same, and you may find that the compliance landscape of the future is less winding and boggy than it could have been.

Finally, spend some time each day learning about your compliance obligations. Use resources that break down federal and state employment laws in a way that laypeople can understand. Keep up to speed on the latest compliance obligations and contingencies you should consider. HR compliance is an art. The first step to mastering it is learning what it entails and how it works.

You can also download the Telecommuting Checklist as a tool for when an employee is transitioning to a remote schedule. Q&A 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 21, 2021

HR Question: Telecommuting Policies

Question: How do I make a telecommuting policy?

Answer: Although some employers will be comfortable sending everyone home with their laptop and saying, go forth and be productive, most will want to be a little more specific. A good telecommuting policy will generally address productivity standards, hours of work, how and when employees should be in contact with their manager or subordinates, and office expenses.

For instance, your policy might require that employees are available by phone and or a messaging app during their regular in-office hours, that they meet all deadlines and maintain client contacts per usual, and that they check in with their manager at the close of each workday to report what they have accomplished. Be sure to let employees know whom to contact if they run into technical difficulties at home.

You’ll also want to specify how expenses related to working from home will be dealt with. If you don’t expect there to be any additional expenses involved, communicate this. You don’t want employees thinking this is their chance to purchase a standing desk and fancy ergonomic chair on your dime. That said, you should consider whether employees will incur reasonable and necessary expenses while working from home. Some states mandate reimbursement for these kinds of expenses, but it’s a good practice to cover such costs even if it’s not required by law.

You can also download the Telecommuting Checklist as a tool for when an employee is transitioning to a remote schedule. Q&A 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 14, 2021

Watch On-Demand: 7 Seismic Shifts Necessary to Move from Manager to Leader

Newly promoted managers face challenging circumstances in the early stages of transitioning roles. By understanding the different ways leaders approach business problems, you can learn to speak to each accordingly—integrating the collective knowledge to solve matters of strategic organizational importance.

This session takes a deep dive into each of the seven conceptual shifts necessary to move from managing to leading. You’ll learn practical tips for creating strategies to transition from tactical manager to strategic leader. In this webinar, we’ll discuss:

•     Understanding mindsets at a manager versus leader level

•     How to recognize behaviors that prevent leadership progression

•     Tactics you can use to change behaviors that limit leadership progression

Discover the seven most challenging mindsets of new managers, and how you can create development plans to move to better leadership behaviors.

You can also check out our GoToStage Webinar Channel—your one-stop-shop for viewing UST’s most popular and FREE on-demand webinars—to keep up-to-date on important legal changes and nonprofit trends that may impact your organization.

December 09, 2021

2021 Nonprofit Leadership Toolkit

Nonprofit managers are relied upon to not only lead productive teams, hold employees accountable, and manage processes but are also expected to engage and motivate employees with limited funding. They must be innovative, resourceful, and strategic. To help nonprofit leaders maintain high-performing teams—while also strengthening their leadership skills—we created the 2021 Nonprofit Leadership Toolkit.

This free toolkit includes a performance appraisal checklist, manager-employee check-in form, tips for leading a hybrid workforce, and more:

  1. Performance Appraisal Checklist
  2. Manager-Employee Check-In Form
  3. Performance Appraisal Form
  4. Addressing Employee Discipline
  5. Do's and Don'ts of Difficult Conversations
  6. Performance Improvement Plan
  7. Employee Training Log
  8. Tips for Leading a Hybrid Workforce
  9. Employee Contact Information Form
  10. [Webinar Recording] 7 Seismic Shifts Necessary to Move from Manager to Leader

Want access to more HR-specific articles, templates and checklists? 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 an extensive compliance library.

December 03, 2021

Celebrating the Holidays with a Hybrid Workforce

After an extremely challenging year (or two) of workforce disruptions, nonprofit employers are finding their footing again. And, with the holidays upon us and more organizations supporting flexible routines—working remote, adopting a hybrid model, or still meeting in-person—many are looking for creative ways to celebrate the holidays with their devoted staff. It’s these events and get-togethers that bind employees together and makes them feel valued while also improving overall morale.

Opportunities to recognize employee achievements and strengthen team connections should never be overlooked but especially not during this time of year. Whether you realize it or not, your employees miss their colleagues and the fun activities they use to do together such as holiday celebrations—even if they prefer working from home. A sense of community among your remote or hybrid team is crucial for building a positive employee experience and maintaining your nonprofit brand.

All of the activities below are designed to accommodate teams regardless of their work location or time zone. You can even run some of these activities over the course of a few days (or weeks) ensuring all participants have time to respond. And, with a little research you can find a plethora of helpful templates, checklists, and directions online to assist with coordinating a fun-filled event.

  • Holiday Scavenger Hunt – You can do a simple photo scavenger hunt where players receive prompts and must then capture those images and submit. The first person to submit all the images wins! Or you can utilize an app such as GooseChase to create an unforgettable scavenger hunt experience that everyone will love.
  • Holiday Trivia – Categories might include movies, historical events, music, or traditions.
  • Gingerbread House Decorating Contest – Provide employees with a Gingerbread House Kit and have everyone join over video to decorate together. You can even create themes such as “horror movie holidays” or 90’s Christmas” to amp up the fun.
  • Treat Tasting – Create or order kits that include seasonal chocolates, cookies, or flavored candy canes that everyone can taste together one by one.
  • Never Have I Ever – Those who are guilty stay on camera while those who are innocent temporarily switch off their webcams. You can have employees take turns at sharing never have I ever prompts that might include “never have I ever regifted a present” or “never have I ever gotten drunk at a holiday party.”
  • Online Secret Santa – Platforms like Elfster and DrawNames make it super easy to host a virtual Secret Santa Exchange that involves everyone on the team, regardless of their location.
  • Ugly Sweater Contest – This is a classic holiday tradition that is super simple to coordinate with a virtual luncheon. Ask employees to wear their ugliest or most creative holiday sweater at your next video meeting and then let everyone vote and offer awards like gift cards or gift baskets.
  • Virtual Cooking Class – Find someone who’s willing to give a cooking or baking lesson to the whole team. Perhaps there are people on the team who enjoy baking holiday cookies that would be willing to share their favorite recipe. There are also professional organizations that offer lessons of a wide variety of dishes like Virtual Team Cooking Class or Thriver.  
  • Fun Year-End Awards – Issue a survey accepting nominations for Most Enthusiastic, Best Pajama Wearer, Most Likely to Have a Dog Barking in the Background, Never Not Drinking Coffee, or Most Likely to Be on Mute and provide fun rewards to the winners.
  • Drive-Thru Holiday Lights – If all of your team is working within a 30-mile radius you can all meet up to caravan through a local holiday themed light display—and don’t forget the hot cocoa!

Get creative and take the time to celebrate your team this year by spreading a little extra holiday cheer! By planning something fun and engaging for your team, you can renew loyalty, get employees excited about the new year ahead, and nurture company culture.

November 19, 2021

How to Grow into a Nonprofit Leader

Whether you’re aspiring to be an executive leader, get promoted into a director’s position, or even launch your own nonprofit—rarely there are clearly defined paths to career development when working in the nonprofit sector. While this lack of structure can be challenging, it offers an unexpected opportunity to pave or create your own career path. Without the typical career ladder to climb, the opportunity to take on new responsibilities could be presented to you in a more timely fashion. At any age, with drive, desire and expertise being essential characteristics, you can become a nonprofit leader who wants to make a difference.

In order to create the right professional development plan, here are nine methods to follow, to consider, and use as a guide when furthering ones’ professional career as a nonprofit leader:

1) Conduct thorough interviews: Find those who hold a position that you might aspire to want one day. Take the opportunity to ask questions about how they got to where they are, what their day-to-day tasks look like, how they contribute to the organization, and what the position requires of them.  

2) Seek out volunteer opportunities: When it comes to learning, especially within the nonprofit sector, there’s no substitute for hands-on experience. Volunteering can offer exposure to the operational facets of the organization by taking on new responsibilities, such as, join the fundraising or strategic planning committee or volunteer to help with the organization’s next event.

3) Ongoing education: If you’re looking for an advantage when pursuing leadership opportunities, consider looking into continuing education (i.e.: an advanced degree, or a specific leadership training program). Having this additional training under your belt will set you apart being well versed in business management principles and the ability to juggle competing priorities.

4) Learn about your organization: Take the time to develop a well-rounded view of everything that is involved in the role of running a nonprofit. This experience will be valuable to you as you progress into a leadership position.

5) Apply constructive feedback: As you take on new challenges and work outside your comfort zone, it’s more than likely you’ll make mistakes along the way. Take the time to learn from these and plan how you will do better in the future.

6) Network amongst your peers: Find people who are at a similar point in their own careers and develop genuine relationships with them. Be sure that you add real value to the relationship and that way, your peers will come to value you—opening doors for you in the future.

7) Relocate to another organization: With a strong foundation of skills in place and a desire to take on more responsibility, you might find that your current organization doesn’t have any openings for you to move up to. Take this opportunity to look for other employment and if you find a great position within your network, don’t hesitate to pursue it.

8) Join a nonprofit board: Being part of a board will give you high-level insights about the inner workings of nonprofits. Develop relationships with others who serve on nonprofit boards and seek out an organization doing work/serving a community that you’re passionate about.

9) Find day-to-day challenges: Leaders face challenges daily, so it is crucial to avoid becoming complacent. Striving to challenge yourself on a daily basis will not only push you to find solutions, it will help you build your resume.

When applying these methods, you will develop the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully lead an organization. If you envision yourself in a leadership role, you’ll have the ability to lay the foundation by excelling in the position you currently hold. These methods will help you cultivate leadership skills, emphasize teamwork and inclusive decision-making.

November 10, 2021

Creative Ways to Celebrate Your Team

One of the main reasons employees leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated—causing many to question their work and often looking for a job elsewhere. Not surprisingly, but now more than ever before employees expect their workplace to deliver a productive, engaging, and enjoyable experience so to keep high performing employees on the payroll, leaders must consider recognition efforts a top priority. Celebrating achievements at work is also an important part of the productivity cycle and can transform the organization by keeping everyone aligned to the mission and values that contribute to its long-term success.

Impactful recognition has little to do with money and doesn’t need to be extravagant to be effective—it should however be genuine and come from a place of appreciation. It’s important that leaders celebrate wins big and small as both are equally valuable and impactful. Often missed opportunities to celebrate an employee include successful completion of large or new projects, teamwork, work anniversaries, and ongoing behavior that positively impacts fellow co-workers. When a manager takes the time to regularly demonstrate gratitude and appreciation for an employee’s accomplishments—both professional and personal—it can motive, engage, and reinforce positive behaviors and outcomes.

Remind your employees that you value their contributions and celebrate their successes. Check out UST’s 5 Ways to Celebrate Your Team for some creative ways you can start recognizing your team. 

It's up to leaders to find opportunities to celebrate their employees while also encouraging employees to celebrate each other. By creating a culture of recognition, you can improve morale and ensure your most valuable assets remain motivated to stay.

November 05, 2021

HR Question: Disciplining Employees

Question: What are some typical examples of employee discipline? Are there any you recommend?

Answer: Discipline should reflect the severity of the behavior, attempt to correct it, and be applied consistently. You’ll want to consider how you addressed certain behaviors in the past and the precedent you want to set for the future. For instance, if you jump straight to a final warning when a certain employee is an hour late to work, but let another employee come in late regularly without so much as a written warning, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.

We generally recommend progressive discipline. This means you start small and work your way up to termination. Progressive discipline often includes these steps:

  • Oral counseling/warning(s)
  • Written warning(s)
  • Final written warning
  • Unpaid suspension
  • Termination

At each step, make your expectations clear, notify the employee of the consequences if they fail to improve (that they’ll be one step closer to termination), and document what actions you took. The warnings you give to the employee should stick to the facts, i.e., what infraction was observed, when it occurred, and what policy or policies were violated. Opinions about the infraction should be left out, as these are easily disputed. For example, “Yesterday, you arrived 20 minutes late in violation of our attendance policy” simply states the facts, whereas “You’re always tardy and can’t be trusted to arrive on time” is likely to get pushback.

Q&A provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. 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 28, 2021

2021 Employer Guide: Nonprofit Leadership Development

A strong leadership team is vital to the success of any nonprofit organization—without it you risk reduced productivity, delayed decisions, and low morale. Rooted in the ability of a nonprofit to maintain sustainability, having a leadership succession plan in place is vital to organizational success.

Don't miss your chance to download a free copy of UST's latest Employer Guide, 3 Vital Steps for Developing a Durable Nonprofit Leadership Team, to discover strategies that can help identify (and develop) tomorrow's leaders with training opportunities designed to strengthen your brand and build resilient teams. In this eBook, you'll discover:

  • How to determine who your future leaders are
  • Tips for crafting leadership development opportunities
  • Ideas for managing leadership vacancies and executing transitions

The consequences of insufficient leadership can be devastating to an organization. Safeguard your nonprofit and its mission by reinventing your organizational leadership strategy—minimizing the threat (and high cost) of turnover.