Forty percent of the global workforce is considering leaving their current employers this year, according to the 2021 Work Trend Index Survey conducted by Edelman Data & Intelligence. The Great Resignation is a phenomenon characterized by pervasive talent shortages, and a persistent and changed mindset in workers. This development presents a unique opportunity for not-for-profit organizations, inclusive of higher education institutions, to secure highly skilled talent — people who are searching for a career that aligns with their personal interests and leads to greater fulfillment.
While attracting and retaining talent is difficult for all industries, not-for-profits and higher education institutions have a competitive advantage because they offer employees an opportunity to advance the greater good. These organizations and institutions should consider redirecting their recruiting efforts by creating a workplace that will attract candidates who are more focused on the following attributes when seeking out a new employer:
- Culture is what people in an organization experience. Look at your values and what your organization stands for to determine if they need to be refreshed. One opportunity, according to McKinsey & Company, is to do away with bureaucracy, such as meetings or protocols that don’t add value to the goods or services delivered to the customer. Value the contribution and not the hours punched on the clock.
- Mission has never been more important in the war for talent. Not-for-profits and higher education institutions provide an opportunity for employees to connect to both a mission and to gratifying work each day. The Harvard Business Review, partnered with The Energy Project, a training and consulting company, to conduct a survey that found that employees who derive meaning and significance from their work are more than three times as likely to stay with their employers. With millennials representing the largest generation in the workforce, this goal has become even more strategic. In a survey conducted by Olivet Nazarene University, 90% of millennials said it is somewhat or very important for their work to have a positive impact on the world.
- Flexibility is now essential, in addition to the opportunity for autonomy and creativity. A study by Robert Half found that one-third of professionals currently working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic would quit if they were required to be in the office full time. The question is no longer whether you will offer flexibility but rather how you will leverage it to attract and retain talent, and be more competitive. Focus on the quality of work to be performed and value provided, not the number of full-time positions or where they are located.
- Rewards that matter, or nontraditional benefits, are front and center. Consider conducting “stay interviews” with your employees across all levels to better understand what is important to them, such as days off; recognition programs; flexibility; mental well-being; diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) programs; or access to expanded learning opportunities. Providing employees with a concrete total rewards statement will provide a holistic view of benefits and compensation, and visually magnify the commitment to a happy, healthy workforce. For more information, read “Strategies for hiring and retaining talent” in The State of Not-for-Profit and Higher Education in 2022 report.
- Remote and hybrid workforce models are paramount in attracting and retaining talent, and remaining competitive in business. Colleges and universities have delivered in-person instruction for decades with rigid paths for students to earn degrees. The higher education industry reimagined itself during the pandemic and created new paths to deliver education and learning for both faculty and students, validating that remote and hybrid solutions can be successful and yield positive results.
- Professional development is no longer about sitting through hours of in-person training. Microlearning and learning management systems have made classes more accessible, as well as less costly, for employees as they balance work, family and professional development. Virtual presentations also offer more potential interaction with subject matter experts. Learning should still be tied to performance and development, while allowing time for exploration and personal enrichment.
- DE&I continues to be a key recruiting driver, especially as the workforce is churning retirements of many baby boomers and Gen Xers. Not-for-profits exemplify this competitive advantage as Gen Zers and millennials find a deeper connection with social, racial and economic justice, often linked to the organization’s mission.
- Metrics exemplify that what gets measured gets done. Tying retention to a strategic, metrics-backed goal can provide accountability. In creating a sense of accountability, not-for-profit employers can demonstrate how well they have lived up to their core focus of delivering programs, instruction and community engagement, particularly in relation to environmental, social and governance (ESG) and DE&I goals. While not-for-profits have no universal ESG disclosure, reporting or accountability requirements, organizations can stay accountable by using metrics and reporting. The not-for-profit industry is often under a higher powered microscope of public expectations. Donors, regulators, lenders, students and constituents have come to expect that ESG and DE&I will be woven into their fabric. The way not-for-profits behave in this arena can provide a competitive advantage.
Attracting and retaining talent can certainly present a challenge for many not-for-profits. But meeting that challenge is also a great opportunity to lead by example in establishing practices that are both people-oriented and mission-driven.
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