PMA Consulting, LLC

Seven Keys Series: Develop Your Talent

pma7keys-talentThe fast-paced nature of nonprofits is often a symptom of the business model. Being held to a 15% overhead measure often means nonprofits are understaffed, with a never-ending “to-do” list and few opportunities to raise up out of the chaos to reflect thoughtfully. The issue is compounded in organizations with a high degree of turnover – as soon as individuals are trained and performing effectively, they move on and the cycle continues. PMA finds that nonprofits spend an inordinate amount of time orienting and training staff, but rarely focus on ways to keep the talent they have.

In November, PMA tackles the topic of developing staff talent – assessing the talent you have, retaining top performers, and recruiting new talent to your team. Staffing is a critical component of every organization. The best board in the world, with a mission that is timely and relevant, is unlikely to perform without the staff to execute programming, ensure financial sustainability and engage with the public on a daily basis.

Making talent development a pillar of your organizational culture means regularly assessing the capabilities of your staff and implementing a cross-organizational performance development program. To begin, PMA suggests three types of staff assessments:

  • Organizational Assessment – How well does your organization develop its staff? Staff perceptions are as important as reality, impacting morale and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. An anonymous survey conducted across the entire organization can assist the chief administrator in understanding satisfaction levels, gaps in capability and capacity, and opportunities to expand what is working.
  • Department Assessment – Are your departments structured appropriately, with the talent needed to be effective? Too often, department assessments hold that department’s director accountable, but do not consider the make-up of the department itself. A quantitative assessment is important, but should be coupled with a qualitative assessment to better understand strengths, challenges, opportunities and threats.
  • Individualized Assessment – Do individual staff members feel they have clear expectations, and are encouraged to see themselves as a long-term answer? The most common staff complaint PMA hears is that the organization has created unclear expectation for the individual staff member, and has not taken a vested interest in that individual’s ongoing professional development. Each staff member should have an individual assessment toward the development of an annual plan, with tactics oriented to a 90-day schedule, blending job duties with opportunities to grow professionally.

While this may seem like a lot of work, the reality is that most organizations will spend at least as much time (and usually much more) training new members of the team after losing a staff member who never felt particularly important or informed. These assessments are the first step toward developing a cross-organizational performance development program that results in the retention of quality staff and the successful recruitment of individuals who stick.

In future installments in November, PMA will tackle staff retention and recruitment. Check back on Wednesdays all month long!