Believing in Staff leads to More Services for Clients in Need

Nonprofit organizations are stretched thin serving more clients every day while their budgets remain static or shrinking. Given the need and budget constraints, how can organizations afford to invest in staff and build healthy work environments? Maybe the better question is how can they not. Consider:

Nonprofit organizations are created with a mission to serve and improve lives. Mission is not just geared to client services but how the organization treats its employees.

How does investing in staff connect with succession planning and leadership development? Satisfied employees are more likely to stay connected and efficiently carryout the organization’s mission. Leaders are more productive when they are spending less time training new employees. Trained staff provide more efficient services. Organizations cannot focus on planning, expansion, and program enhancements if there is constant staff turnover. Further, it is difficult to create happy leaders without creating happy mid-level and entry level staff. Investing in all staff creates more efficient better services and a stronger organization.

Organizations depend on line staff to carry out the mission day in and day out. These staff members leave a lasting impact on donors, clients, and volunteers. Yet they are often overlooked when mentoring opportunities become available. Budgets are tight and there is simply not enough funds to invest in all staff. Organizations depend on leaders to carry out the work. They are the most difficult to replace. Or are they? By only providing perks and recognition to the leadership team the organization sends another message: line staff are not valued or part of the team. Investing in entry level staff provides immediate and lasting impact.

After a good review organizations want and feel they must recognize the employee. When raises are not in the budget, leaders explore a title change even when the organization is not expanding and duties and responsibilities do not warrant one. This type of recognition is empty; organizations need to develop authentic recognition opportunities. What other options are there?

Most staff members particularly entry level staff value career development opportunities. These include learning or expanding skills. Taking on a “stretch” responsibility or quality mentoring opportunities. Creating opportunities for leadership staff to grow encourages them to provide it to their direct reports. In the short term, creating these moments often adds additional supervisory responsibilities on leadership staff. In the long run, as staff learn new skills they can take on new responsibilities and leaders can concentrate on higher level responsibilities.

Communication is essential in challenging times as well as good. Discuss and develop opportunities for peer recognition and building team connections. Survey staff and ask for their input in creating additional recognition opportunities.

New leadership creates new opportunity for growth. How should the organization prepare for that new leader? We will begin that discussion in the next post.

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