Entries with Topic HR Knowledge .

May 26, 2023

The Process of Hiring Remote Workers After COVID

Three years after COVID spread across the globe, there is no denying that the pandemic played a pivotal role in today’s hiring challenges in multiple industries and nonprofit businesses across the country. The pandemic served as a lightning rod to bring changes that business leaders and industry experts believed were inevitable at, what seemed, some far-off point in the future.

COVID brought to light challenges such as ever-increasing skills gaps they were struggling to fill and strict budget constraints. Additionally, businesses were forced to embrace the once-unclear future of remote work after COVID.

Over the past few years, overarching trends have focused on phenomenas like the great resignation, quiet quitting, and the change that comes with fast-paced leaps in technology. During the pandemic’s peak, workers gained insights into their value, or lack thereof, to employers and since have become more likely to seek better opportunities.

Here, we will explore additional factors that will likely affect hiring after COVID for private and nonprofit businesses and the future of remote work.

Technology’s Role in the Hiring Process

The hiring process is typically long, complex and stressful for everyone involved. Busy HR professionals struggle to manage their regular day-to-day responsibilities while occasionally needing to shift over to hiring mode.

Technology continues to streamline the recruitment and hiring process. COVID played an instrumental role in the acceleration of the creation and adoption of automated recruiting, which far outpaced the originally anticipated timeline. Think about virtual interviews. While hiring managers used this technological capability pre-COVID, it has become the default first meeting environment in many cases today. It is an excellent way to meet the candidate in a comfortable setting and facilitates secondary interviews and other tools to help abbreviate and simplify the hiring process.

Whether businesses want to attract, assess, interview or onboard candidates, there are technological tools and programs to help ease and shorten the process.

Here are some technologies hiring managers increasingly rely on today.

Virtual Interviews and Hiring

No matter what anyone feels about virtual interviews and virtual hiring, these practices are here to stay, whether using Zoom, Microsoft Teams or another platform. For some businesses, remote work policies after COVID might remain the same for a long time or indefinitely.

Even if virtual interviews lack the ability to pick up on some aspects and nuances of body language and the ability to interact in real space, they are an effective tool in getting to know someone at a lower barrier of resistance.

Video interviews give everyone a chance to get to know each other better in a shorter time and without as much commitment, such as traveling for the busy, job-seeking candidate or setting up space or dealing with candidate cancellations for the hiring team. Best of all, it allows employers to search for the best candidate who may live across the country, thus saving traveling expenses while finding, vetting and hiring someone who is the right fit.


Artificial intelligence (AI) has been looming on the horizon for years, but over the past several months, it has become a household name and reality to just about everyone. This technology has progressed faster than most had anticipated, and busy HR teams are now able to incorporate AI into their hiring strategies.

One way that employers and HR teams are using AI is to manage the massive influx of applications they receive due to layoffs across industries during the past year. HR teams can manage the deluge of applications and resumes and other bulk data and HR processes.

Social Media

Social media has become a force in assisting hiring teams’ efforts to promote key positions quickly and effectively. Although social media has been around for several years, and hiring teams have used various platforms, it has gained a much bigger role in recruitment practices, such as promoting roles and receiving and reviewing applications.

Add to the fact that everyone has become more comfortable with social media after COVID, though younger workers were already well-versed in social media in many areas of their lives, including job-seeking.

The Role of Flexibility in the Hiring Process

Nonprofit companies and their HR departments understand that hiring after COVID has drastically changed, understanding they need to remain flexible or become more flexible with their hiring processes.

Essentially, it is vital that businesses and hiring managers consider the best strategy to attract and hire the best candidates for their business.

In part, that means adjusting the definition of a qualified or experienced candidate as recruiters struggle to hire hard-to-fill and high-volume positions. Perplexed and frustrated employers need to find ways to contend with workers’ lingering worry about COVID exposure and the tenuous financial state of the country, leaving many unemployed professionals feeling more comfortable relying on unemployment.

Employers and their hiring teams need new sourcing tactics to foster trust and bring qualified candidates back into the hiring pool. Some flexible talent acquisition strategies include examining current pay rates, compensation, embracing remote work after COVID, hybrid or remote workplace models and other incentives necessary to attract and hire quality candidates. In some situations, companies might need to consider offering sign-on bonuses for positions that were once easy to fill.

Companies need to remain flexible and open to innovation in these transitional times to show that they are progressive and willing to meet candidates where they are in today’s job market.

Here are some additional ways to add flexibility and innovation to hiring after COVID:

  • Produce interactive podcasts to support employee onboarding and training.
  • Give live office or facility tours to job seekers via video conferencing to give candidates a preview of company culture, layout and the general environment.
  • Offer tuition reimbursement to candidates and employees who want to improve their skills and knowledge for the company’s benefit.

Our UST HR Workplace offers a robust suite of practical, comprehensive HR tools and resources that can help your team focus on your nonprofit's mission and the communities you serve. 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 12, 2023

Employee Engagement in Nonprofits Before and After COVID

During the past decade, employers have become increasingly aware of the need to attend to employees' needs that range far beyond essential compensation and benefits.

With the understanding that workers are sacrificing large chunks of their lives to commit to their respective nonprofits' success, leaders have turned their focus to employee engagement in nonprofit organizations to ensure that employees feel recognized and valued as individuals. Knowing that highly engaged teams provide 21% more profitability, it's a goal that is well worth the effort.

Something interesting happened to employee engagement before and after COVID-19. During the peak of the pandemic, employees were happy that their jobs were preserved and that they had income. It made it easier for employers and employees to band together for a common goal, despite working in a sudden and forced remote context.

Employees were able to find the work-life balance employers had long sought to provide. The question is, where do things go from here for nonprofits and employee engagement?

Employee Engagement in Nonprofit Organizations with a Remote Workforce

As some employees have returned to the office, many still work remotely, leaving nonprofit leadership wondering how to maintain employee engagement and morale with a dispersed workforce.

Many nonprofits are now facing challenges such as remote employees experiencing a blurred work/life balance, higher burnout and worst of all, less engagement with co-workers, the nonprofit and its mission.

Here are five tips to help you encourage greater employee engagement before and after COVID-19 restrictions.

1. Commit to regular employee recognition practices: It is a long-held truth that employees need to feel valued beyond receiving a regular paycheck and standard benefits. Employee recognition drives loyalty, engagement and mutual success. Your recognition can be as simple as sending a personalized email saying, "Thank you for your hard work!" or you might hold monthly Microsoft Teams calls acknowledging top performers, providing gift cards for restaurants or shops near their respective homes.

2. Encourage regular video calls: Whether your nonprofit uses Zoom, Microsoft Teams or another video calling platform, encourage its regular use. Schedule daily meetings that last 10-15 minutes and give everyone a chance to say good morning and give a rundown of their day to help everyone maintain engagement and offer support to each other. This practice helps provide and nurture the cohesiveness they might be missing by seeing each other organically in passing in the office.

3. Provide professional development and growth opportunities: Let remote employees know that you want them to grow with your nonprofit. Offer them the same training and educational opportunities that you would offer if they were on-site. When you are willing to invest in employees’ futures, they understand that you value them for what they do now and all that they can do in the future. Employees want to work hard when they feel that you are allowing for and creating more opportunities for their growth, advancement and eventual leadership as well as the ability to make decisions.

4. Keep everyone up to speed with consistent communication: Communication is essential in any professional setting, but it has become crucial and more complex than ever before in remote and hybrid work model contexts. For instance, prevent situations where on-site employees get important company news before remote employees. If your organization is about to experience disruptions, good or bad, wait until you can gather everyone for a video conference call to share the news and discuss the path forward.

5. Find nonprofit human resource solutions that can help: The right human resource practices can help you avoid missteps in everything from daily communication to paying unemployment taxes for 501(c)(3) nonprofits. Find solutions that help you and your team remain focused on your core mission, leaving operational matters to an outsourced nonprofit human resources solution provider.

Our UST HR Workplace can help your team focus on your nonprofit's mission and everyone's satisfaction and success. 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 05, 2023

HR Question: Addressing Wearable Devices

Question: Lately, we’ve noticed employees using wearable devices while working. We have a policy that limits personal cell phone use at work. Can we expand that to include wearables like smartwatches?

Answer: Yes, you can expand your policy to include wearables or other smart devices that might cause distractions to your employees while they are working. Here are a few things to consider when revising your policies:

  • Focus your policy on the employee’s actions and not the technology itself. If your policy is written broadly enough to keep up with evolving technology, you won’t need to update it to account for every new kind of device.
  • Address how mobile devices may affect workplace safety, customer service, productivity, and security. Employees may be more receptive to limits on their use of personal devices if they understand the reasons for it.
  • Allow devices to be used during break and meal periods. Employees should be allowed to use their devices when they're not working, as this time must be their own to satisfy wage and hour laws.
  • Smartwatches have health and fitness features, so there may also be reasonable accommodations implications under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For example, an employee might use a smartwatch to keep an eye on their heart rate or respiration. Learn more about the ADA on the platform.
  • You can prohibit the use of devices that may be distracting while employees are working, especially if there are safety issues. Employees can be expected to give their undivided attention to the work you pay them to perform, and if that means smart devices need to be turned off or put away, you’re entitled to make this request.
  • You should consider whether employees need to be reachable during the day for emergencies (like most parents). If your workplace doesn’t have a central line or a way for employees to be reached directly, it may be unreasonable to require that phones or devices be turned completely off.
  • While you can ask that wearable devices be turned off or put away, you may want to instead limit what employees are doing with their smart devices (e.g., texting). Many people use smartwatches for telling the time, and if their phones are also put away, they may not have another way of getting that information, which could ultimately affect productivity.
  • You could also opt to allow limited use when employees are working. For example, a non-customer-facing employee may be able to use headphones and their mobile device to listen to music while completing their work.

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 28, 2023

Ways to Help Employees Overcome Mental Fatigue

Nonprofit employees are some of the most dedicated and passionate workers out there, often working long hours with limited resources to achieve their organization's mission. However, this level of commitment can leave employees feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and burnt out. This kind of environment ultimately leads to mental fatigue, which can negatively impact their well-being, productivity and efficiency—especially for remote employees. As nonprofit employers, it's vital to recognize and address this issue to ensure the health and happiness of your workforce.

Below are some ways to help your employees overcome mental fatigue in the workplace.

1. Practice healthy routines: Nonprofit employees often feel like they need to constantly work to make a difference, even if it means sacrificing their own well-being. However, taking breaks and making downtime a priority is crucial to avoid burnout and mental fatigue. Encourage employees to structure their day and to take breaks, whether it's a quick walk outside or a few minutes to meditate. It's essential to recognize the importance of separating work and personal time. Encourage employees to set clear boundaries, such as strict working hours, and avoid being available 24/7. It will ultimately lead to a healthier work-life balance and reduce the risk of burnout. Additionally, consider implementing a more flexible work schedule that allows for rest and recovery.

2. Prioritize open communication: Communication is an essential factor in maintaining a healthy work environment. Mental fatigue can stem from feelings of being overwhelmed or isolated in the workplace. As a nonprofit employer, it's essential to prioritize open communication and make employees feel heard and supported. Encourage employees to communicate their concerns and issues effectively. Regular check-ins, team meetings, and one-on-one sessions can help employees feel connected and motivated. They should feel comfortable approaching their manager and addressing their worries. Managers should also be available to provide guidance and support to their team. Additionally, consider providing mental health resources and encouraging employees to seek out help when they need it.

3. Foster a positive work environment: A positive work environment can go a long way in combating mental fatigue. As a nonprofit employer, it's important to create a workplace culture that values positivity and gratitude. This can include celebrating wins, recognizing accomplishments, and providing opportunities for team bonding—especially for remote and hybrid teams. Additionally, consider incorporating fun and creative activities into the workday to alleviate stress and foster a sense of community.

4. Encourage self-care practices: Self-care practices are crucial for maintaining mental health and combatting mental fatigue. As a nonprofit employer, make sure to encourage and support self-care practices among your employees. This can include providing resources for meditation, mindfulness, and exercise. Additionally, consider offering paid time off for mental health days or providing opportunities for employees to attend wellness events.

5. Provide opportunities for professional development: Investing in training and development opportunities is a great way to invest in your employees' mental well-being. It can help employees feel motivated and engaged in their work, which can combat feelings of burnout. It's also the perfect opportunity for employees to learn new skills and techniques that can be beneficial to their overall performance. Offering training programs, mentorship opportunities, and opportunities for cross-departmental collaboration can alleviate boredom at work and can renew employees' enthusiasm for their job.

Mental fatigue is a common issue in the nonprofit workplace and can significantly impact remote employees, leading to burnout and a decrease in productivity. By implementing these strategies, you can help your employees overcome mental fatigue and feel supported and valued in their work while staying motivated and engaged. Remember, a healthy and happy workforce is key to achieving your organization's mission and making a difference in the world.

April 21, 2023

How to Retain a Virtual Workforce

You might think that hybrid and remote employee retention is simple when you offer such a flexible and generous workplace model. However, there will always be challenges associated with retaining staff, whether in-office or virtual.

It is challenging to maintain a consistent workplace culture when half or more of your employees are working remotely. When it comes down to it, there is more to employee satisfaction than working in their selected location. Other issues might arise for them that you can’t predict or control.

Here are seven ideas for managing a virtual workforce to help ensure you retain valued employees.

7 Ways to Retain a Virtual Workforce

Let's explore some ways we believe you can improve employee retention remote work outcomes:

  • Establish Your Workplace Culture Early and Clearly
  • Ensure Remote and Hybrid Employees Feel Included
  • Set Up a Reimbursement Plan and Fund for Remote Workers
  • Send an Agenda for Each Meeting
  • Offer Career Development and Training Courses
  • Request That On-Site Employees Participate in Meetings From Their Desks
  • Monitor and Measure Employee Engagement

1. Establish Your Workplace Culture Early and Clearly

Just because you allow for a scattered, remote and hybrid workforce doesn’t mean you relinquish control of your nonprofit workplace culture, rules and mission. It is vital to maintain a standard for all employees, whether working from home, in the office or on the other side of the country.

The best ways to establish and maintain your company culture in a blended workplace model include:

  • Schedule regular meetings for everyone to catch up with your leadership and their peers.
  • Create in-office signage and intranet banners featuring slogans, mottoes, and images that reinforce your company culture.
  • Remind remote and hybrid employees that they are always welcome to come into the office to work, regardless of their regular designation. They are a part of your team, and you want them to join you any time they want to.
  • Design comfortable common areas for everyone to gather during in-office events.
  • Update your virtual workforce best practices and policies regularly, especially if events occur that help refine your strategies for employee retention.

2. Ensure Remote and Hybrid Employees Feel Included

As mentioned in our first tip, create a space or spaces where remote and hybrid and employees can sit and work or meet with management and coworkers during visits. If you can afford it in a nonprofit environment, try to maintain a desk space for every employee, so they know they are welcome and are a part of the team.

Also, avoid calling a staff meeting that only includes on-site employees — even if it is a purely on-site issue related to the facility or other topic — to prevent accidentally leaving a remote staff member off the meeting list.

As irrelevant as it might seem to you and your remote employee, your inclusion of them helps reinforce that you keep them in mind and want them involved in office matters.

Similarly, if you go out to lunch with team members to celebrate an accomplishment, work to find a date that works for in-office and remote and hybrid employees.

3. Set Up a Reimbursement Plan and Fund for Remote Workers

If your remote employees were working in the office, you would provide all the office supplies, hardware equipment, internet access and anything else they need. You might not want to buy and ship things to your remote employee, knowing they can do it themselves, selecting things that work best for them per their tastes or ergonomically.

Let them know that your nonprofit will reimburse payment for office supplies and equipment that they purchase. You don’t want to be like the one-third of employers who ask employees to pay for their work-related internet service and buy their supplies and equipment.

When you establish a fair reimbursement policy, you will not only stay compliant with local labor laws, but also your remote employee will appreciate not bearing the financial burden of doing their work.

4. Send an Agenda for Each Meeting

It’s important that all your nonprofit employees and managers are on the same page during each meeting. The best way to ensure everyone stays on track is to prepare and send an agenda for each meeting to everyone, certainly including remote employees. This step is standard best practice if everyone works in the office, but it’s doubly important for remote employees.

Sketch an outline of the meeting’s objectives, adding what you want to discuss, what you want to hear from employees and, finally, what the desired outcome is. Make sure to lay all this out on your agenda to let everyone know your expectations of them. Employees can think about the meeting and how they might respond when it’s time, whether verbally or via chat.

5. Offer Career Development and Training Courses

Employees feel valued when you let them know you believe they have a strong future with the company and you want to help them fulfill their vision of them. Investing in valued employees leads to powerful remote employee retention.

Work with leadership and funding providers to design professional development programs for talented employees who can do more with the right virtual or easily accessible training. Allow employees to take on special projects or participate in training seminars, networking opportunities and coaching processes.

6. Request That On-Site Employees Participate in Meetings From Their Desks

Another way to ensure that your nonprofit employees and managers are bonding is to create situations of solidarity. Ask your on-site employees to access the Zoom call from their desk instead of having the on-site employees huddle in the conference room.

7. Monitor and Measure Employee Engagement

As a leader of a disparate workforce, you need to monitor and measure everyone's involvement. Think of it as “reading the room” or “taking the temperature,” but you need to stay aware of who is fully present during each meeting or conversation and who seems to fade away or behave as if they are distracted or bored.

Conduct regular employee surveys for everyone to fill out, remote or not, to see how everyone is doing.

If you are worried about managing a virtual workforce and how to retain your valued employees, UST offers a full suite of solutions. Our resources are easy to access, understand and deploy for your HR and management teams for employee retention remote work.

Visit us to explore our resources, which include multiple downloads and a live HR hotline.



April 10, 2023

Igniting Cultural Transformation

Nonprofit organizations, by nature, are dedicated to serving others. From advocating for social justice to providing assistance to marginalized communities, nonprofits have a critical role to play in creating a better world. However, to achieve their goals, nonprofit organizations must also cultivate a positive and healthy workplace culture. When done correctly, this process can help improve your workforce's overall performance, creating a more productive, motivated, and engaged team. Below are some ways cultural transformation can benefit your workforce.

1. Improved Communication - Communication is the key to any successful organization. Without it, the employees will not be able to work together efficiently, resulting in reduced productivity and missed opportunities. An effective cultural transformation within a nonprofit organization can ensure that everyone is on the same page, working towards the same goals, and communicating in the most transparent and open way possible. When employees feel their voices are heard and valued, they will be more likely to share their thoughts and ideas, leading to better decision-making and increased innovation.

2. A Greater Sense of Purpose - Nonprofit organizations have a unique advantage when it comes to inspiring their employees. Most individuals who work in the nonprofit sector are driven by a sense of purpose, making their work extremely fulfilling. However, this motivation can wane over time if not cultivated and nurtured properly. Cultural transformation within nonprofit organizations can provide employees with a renewed sense of purpose and direction, reminding them of the critical work they do, the value it brings, and the greater impact it has on the community as a whole.

3. Builds Trust and Respect - Building trust and respect among employees is an essential aspect of any positive work culture. A cultural transformation can help create a more harmonious workplace, where employees trust and respect one another. This type of environment fosters an atmosphere where employees feel more comfortable taking risks, collaborating better, and working seamlessly together to achieve the organization's goals.

4. Reduces Employee Turnover - Employee retention is a significant challenge for many nonprofit organizations. Without a healthy workplace culture, high employee turnover is likely to happen, which can have devastating effects on the organization's overall performance. A cultural transformation can address this issue by creating a more attractive workplace, which can reduce employee turnover. By nurturing an environment in which employees feel respected, engaged, and challenged, nonprofit organizations can retain their best employees and create long-term value.

5. Increases Innovation - Nonprofit organizations must stay innovative to remain competitive and maintain their relevance in the community. Without innovation, these organizations can become stagnant, lose relevance, and eventually fail. A cultural transformation can help fuel innovation by encouraging creativity, experimentation, and risk-taking. When employees feel liberated to challenge the status quo, they become more open to trying new things, leading to new discoveries, new methods, and ultimately better outcomes.

In conclusion, cultural transformation is essential for nonprofit organizations to thrive in today's competitive world. By investing in positive workplace culture, these organizations can create a more fulfilling work environment, where employees feel valued, engaged, and motivated. By building trust, improving communication, creating a shared sense of purpose, reducing employee turnover, and encouraging innovation, nonprofit organizations can leverage their full potential and deliver on their missions in the most efficient and impactful way possible.

March 22, 2023

How to Budget for Nonprofit HR and Recruiting


During the best of times, it is challenging for nonprofit HR teams and their organizations to pay employees what they would like to. As you probably know, those who work in the nonprofit sector understand that earning a high salary is highly improbable, but you still need to offer fair wages.

But how do you create a recruiting budget for your HR needs? If you struggle with nonprofit recruiting, you are not alone. Many nonprofits indicate that the hiring process presents the greatest obstacle for their companies.

Some challenges nonprofit hiring teams face include tight budgets that translate to insufficient salaries for professionals; high rates of burnout for staff members living on a small budget; and the time-consuming recruiting process that takes HR professionals away from regular duties.

While these challenges are all too real for top nonprofits, there are ways to overcome them and build the team you need to help your community or cause without compromise.

4 Tips to Develop and Maintain a Better Recruiting Budget

We are already barreling through 2023, but it isn't too late to focus on developing a budget you can maintain to recruit nonprofit professionals when you need them.

Here are four tips to help you develop and maintain your nonprofit's recruiting budget:

1. Evaluate Your Goals for the Year

Gather your accounting and HR teams, and make sure everyone brings their calendars. Explore or launch your goals and strategies for the coming year, touching on goals and metrics and how to achieve them. Then compare this year's goals to last year's to see what your metrics tell you. If you came in under budget with new-hires the previous year, try using the same strategy for the coming year.

Look at how many new professionals you will need to accomplish your goals, and work to determine how you can manage the budget to hire the right talent without overextending your HR staff.

2. Explore Historical Recruitment Budgeting Strategies

If you didn't hire anyone new last year, you might need to go back further. Examine historical hiring practices from the past five years, considering the following:

  • The technology used in the process, whether an Excel spreadsheet or an applicant tracking system (ATS)
  • Your company's attendance at job fairs, inviting talented candidates to apply
  • The use of social media strategies to attract candidates who have a similar education, background and interests to your nonprofit's mission
  • Hiring background screening and legal professionals to streamline tasks
  • Your nonprofit's previous ability and willingness to assist non-local new-hires to move to your location

Several of these expenditures can become expensive if you do them for each position. You might need to evaluate the urgency of each one if your budget is tight this year.

3. Take the Temperature of Your Current Staff Atmosphere

Do you think someone on your team might resign this year, or is there someone you know you need to let go for some reason? These considerations can help you realistically plan for a possible recruiting session, which allows you to find a way to work the process into your budget.

4. Outsource Some HR Tasks

Support from HR outsourcing solutions providers can be invaluable to give your current employees more bandwidth. The recruiting process is time-consuming and complex, so you don't want to leave your current employees struggling while your HR team and anyone else available focus on one new position for an unpredictable duration.

Work with a company that offers valuable resources, such as downloadable and easy-to-understand documents, a live hotline to answer important questions on the spot, and on-demand training courses that bring your employees up to speed on the latest nonprofit recruiting best practices.

UST offers resources to help your hiring team find top talent while helping you stay well within your budget and fulfill your nonprofit's vision and mission.




February 10, 2023

Implement Processes that Help Combat Preventable Terminations

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

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

Know Your Stuff with Workforce Analytics

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

Make the Most of Personalities

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

Find the Right People

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

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

The Nonprofit Equation

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

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

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

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

Support Their Talents, Capabilities, and Dreams

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

Counting the Cost of Turnover

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

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

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

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

Take the Turnover Tour

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

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

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

Why They Leave

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

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

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

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

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

Why They Stay

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

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

The Pandemic’s Influence

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

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

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

February 02, 2023

HR Question: Handling Rumors of Harassment

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

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

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

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

January 19, 2023

Addressing Cost of Living Raises

It is nearly impossible to talk about compensation increases without inflation figuring in every discussion. In 2022, amidst the first global pandemic in over a century, the average price of gas skyrocketed to $5.75 per gallon (up from a low of $2.68 in May of 2020). The inflation rate for 2022 finished at 6.5%, and today (for the moment), gas prices sit as low as $3.49 in some areas.  The federal minimum wage will increase to $9.50 per hour this year, varying significantly from state to state.  You can visit The Horton Group page on minimum wages for the state-specific wage rates. defines inflation as “a rise in prices, which can be translated as the decline of purchasing power over time.” Among today’s inflationary pressures we can count damage to crops, livestock, lives, and property from recent climate change events, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spiking the costs of natural gas and grain, and a new strain of avian flu resulting in eggs at $6.00 per dozen.  The pandemic itself was a force majeure expense for everyone, with shortages ranging from microchips to baby formula.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This blog post was written by Amélie Frank, consulting copywriter to UST. To learn more about Amélie’s professional portfolio you can find her online at

January 09, 2023

HR Question: Hours Worked and Exempt Employees

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

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

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

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

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

December 28, 2022

HR Question: Terminating Employees Looking for Work

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

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

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

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

December 09, 2022

Handling Internal Complaints

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

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

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

What is Conflict?

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

Common causes of conflicts among individuals include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does Conflict Cost Us?

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

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

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

How Do We Handle and Resolve Conflict?

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

HR Investigations

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Peer Workers Can Help

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

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

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

This blog post was written by Amélie Frank, consulting copywriter to UST. To learn more about Amélie’s professional portfolio you can find her online at

November 10, 2022

The Value of an Employee Handbook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This blog post was written by Amélie Frank, consulting copywriter to UST. To learn more about Amélie’s professional portfolio you can find her online at

November 04, 2022

HR Question: Anxiety and Depression as Disabilities

Question: Are depression and anxiety considered disabilities?

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

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

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

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

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

October 27, 2022

Unemployment Fraud and the Risks to Nonprofit

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

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

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

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

October 21, 2022

Recruiting With Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

It All Starts with Purpose

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

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

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

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

Tips for Recruiting with Purpose

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

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

Avoid Poor Employer Branding

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

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

About Remote Workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This blog post was written by Amélie Frank, consulting copywriter to UST. To learn more about Amélie’s professional portfolio you can find her online at

October 07, 2022

HR Question: Keeping a Remote Workforce Engaged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 23, 2022

The Do’s and Don’ts of Difficult Conversations

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

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

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

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

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

September 08, 2022

HR Question: Banning Personal Electronics

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 26, 2022

Offer Development to Groom Current (and Future) Leaders

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

How Know-How Helps

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

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

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

Leadership Realities

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

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

Development 101: Begin Simply

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

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

A Sensible Approach

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

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

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

Make Mentoring Happen

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

Affording Formal Training

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

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

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

Logic Dictates

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

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

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

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

August 12, 2022

HR Question: Managing Remote Employees

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

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

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

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

July 15, 2022

Hire and Develop Managers People Want to Work For

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

Recognize Your Challenges

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

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

Manage Your Talent

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

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

Your Managers

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

Make sure your managers:

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

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

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

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

Acing the Interview

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

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

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

Lose Your Implicit Bias

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

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

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

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

Ultimate Interview Tips

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

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

Beyond the Interview

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

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

July 08, 2022

HR Question: Ensuring Your Online Training Strategies Are Effective

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

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

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

To avoid these training pitfalls, consider these three tips:

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

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

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

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

June 30, 2022

Celebrate Success in the Workplace to Increase Engagement

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

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

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

June 24, 2022

How to Help Employees with Career Development

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

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

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

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

June 17, 2022

Solicit Involvement for Employee Engagement Initiatives

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

Common Keys to Engagement

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

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


According to, "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 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


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 to view Beth’s online portfolio and learn more about her editorial services.

June 03, 2022

HR Question: Stress on the Job

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 to view Beth’s online portfolio and learn more about her editorial services.