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Nonprofit Talent Deficit

Twenty million people quit their jobs in the second half of 2021, according to a recent government jobs report – the highest quit rate since the government started recording that data twenty years ago.  The nonprofit sector is not immune. 

The National Council on Nonprofits conducted a nationwide survey last fall and published a report indicating that 42% of responding nonprofits had job vacancy rates above 20%.  Anecdotally, we are seeing more than 250% increase in monthly job postings at DFW501c.com. 

If you haven’t heard a board member or donor say that excessive government benefits are the cause of our current labor shortage, well count yourself lucky.  On a recent episode (The Big Quit) of CBS 60 Minutes, Karin Kimbough, Chief Economist for LinkedIn debunked that thought with data to back it up. 

“What we saw was that when these benefits were turned off, when workers were no longer getting the benefits, they did not rush back to work,” said Ms. Kimbough. 

So, in a sector with well-established employee retention issues, this is definitely not good news.  Should we have seen this coming?  A 2021 study from Nonprofit HR revealed that 45% of responding nonprofit employees indicated they would seek new or different employment in the next five years (23% of them indicated they would seek employment outside the sector). 

So essentially, the pandemic may have just accelerated and amplified some existing afflictions for our sector. Our traditional woes of both financial and nonfinancial factors (pay, promotion, burn-out, supervisor relationships, and work life balance) influencing employee retention remain and have arguably become more important. 

So what can we do? 

Never fear, I have a few thoughts…for what it’s worth!

  • ASK and ye shall receive! An employee survey/check-in is probably overdue, but my guess is you may not be asking the right questions. Ask your employees to identify and rank the financial and nonfinancial factors that are important to them, not you.  Then ask them to assess their current job with you against that ranking.  Also ask what their time frame is for leaving your organization and what factors contribute to that decision.  And if it were me, I’d ask them what are the top three things you could do as an organization to improve their job satisfaction now. 
  • ACT now to retain good employees! Probably the worst thing you can do is put out a survey and not respond. So review your survey results by employee.  Don’t delegate this to supervisors. Review these with your leadership team.  Make individual and organization-wide adjustments immediately.    
  • ADJUST your recruitment and hiring practices!  The more you can do to attract and hire the right talent is money well spent.  Your job listings say more about your culture than you think.  Sell your organization and your roles, don’t just document them. 
  • ADDRESS equity now! Equity does not require time, it requires will. Identify the dominant culture in your organization and the systems it has produced and damage it causes.  Provide opportunities for organizational and individual growth in equity, inclusion and diversity.   More ideas here.

If we take away nothing else from the sector’s pandemic response it is that we can make changes quickly when we are forced by external circumstances.  But what could we accomplish if we stopped playing defense and started playing offense; adopting a cultural of constant change instead of consistent mediocracy?

Circumstances currently warrant it and your mission demands it.   

About the author

Barbara Clark Galupi