PMA Consulting, LLC

Seven Keys Series: Retain Your Talent

Josh Jacobson Managing Director

Josh Jacobson
Managing Director

PMA’s 7 Keys Series focus on Talent Development continues today with a focus on retaining talent.

It’s a very different world than 50 years ago, when employees stayed at one company for decades, retired and collected a pension. Beginning with the baby boomer generation, employees have become increasingly antsy, chasing opportunities with the goal of getting ahead. PMA believes the Internet has fanned the flames, with digital job seeking made easier than ever before.

As a nonprofit, your loss of staff talent is a near constant risk, and one that too few organizations tackle as a strategic priority. According to Penelope Burk at Cygnus Applied Research, the cost of replacing an employee is typically much higher than an organization expects. These figures are important to keep in mind when negotiating salary, but PMA has found it is as often about intangible incentives. The firm suggests the following:

  • Recognize Accomplishments – We all enjoy it when we are praised for a job well done, but when was the last time you told someone you manage that you appreciate their accomplishments? Organizations miserly with praise wonder why they have a revolving door of talent. Worse is the manager who is too concerned with his or her own job security, that praise is rarely given. An organization culture that lifts up individual accomplishments creates a work environment where people want to work. It’s that simple.
  • Professional Development – Alongside typical benefits like health insurance and paid time off, consider offering a budget for professional development. For a fundraiser, that may mean a membership to the Association of Fundraising Professionals. For an Executive Director, that could mean attendance of a state or national conference. For all nonprofit employees, make ongoing education an expectation of the position, whether through inexpensive online webinars or live learning opportunities. The fact is, many employees note to PMA that boredom is what led them to look for another position.
  • Prime for Leadership Path – “What is my future with my current organization?” It is the question on the minds of many nonprofit professionals, and usually begins to show two-to-three years into a position. For small organizations, the challenge is simply that there may not be anywhere to go. But for midsize and larger organizations, consider having a frank conversation with your most talented employees about their career goals and how the organization can help achieve them.

In fact…

Here’s a radical suggestion – Hiring managers know that the individual they are bringing on to the team is unlikely to stay forever. The average turnover for a fundraising professional is just 16 months, and according to the 2013 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey, 17% of staff of nonprofits turnover annually. With such constant change, it stands to reason that organizations should take a different approach to retaining talent, particularly game-change talent. PMA suggests addressing it during the hiring stage – in exchange for four years of commitment by the new employee to stay on the job, the hiring manager (e.g. the Executive Director or Development Director) commits to elevating the brand of that individual. Intentional networking, leadership development and public recognition can provide a considerable launch to a future leader, and engender a loyalty that might mean the individual stays much longer than the original four-year term.

At a time when so many organizations are losing their talent at an increased rate, the question is: what do you have to lose?