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Keeping Your Best: 5 Things to Give Nonprofit Employees to Get Them to Stay

Employee retention is an issue for any business but when you are trying to keep costs to a minimum, it can be even more of a challenge. Many non-profits count on their mission to bind employees to the cause but employees report that this seldom affects their decisions about pursuing new employment. The good news is that remuneration isn’t what keeps them either. Here is what your employees and volunteers are really looking for.

1. Flexible Work Options

Long commutes and the daily grind can make employees restless. Flexible work schedules or even telecommuting make for less stressed, happier employees who want to stay. In fact, a study by Global Workplace Analytics [] found that over 35% of employees would choose flexible work hours over a pay raise and almost 10% were willing take a pay cut to get that flexibility! But there’s more. Telecommuting can also provide a significant financial benefit for the employer in fewer sick days, lower overhead, and more productivity.

2. Communication

When it comes to communicating with your employees and your volunteers there is no such thing as too much information. Communication builds trust and employees who trust are loyal. They’re also more likely to be satisfied in their jobs giving them yet another reason to stay. If there is bad news they need to hear it first from you before they read it somewhere else. The same with good news. The back-office people want to know what the front-line people are doing and vice versa. Communication should go both ways though. Your people want to know what their place is in your organization and more importantly, they want to know that what they are doing is making a difference. Create an open channel for staff feedback and suggestions and encourage both formal meetings and informal debriefs between staff and supervisors.

3. Offer More Training and Development

A study by the Training Firm EdAssist [] revealed that almost 60% of employees say that they expect their employer to provide them with professional development opportunities and that these opportunities are directly linked to their job satisfaction. That number is even higher for millennials and Gen-Xers. Conferences and external training are useful but what these employees want most are formal opportunities for career growth that include coaching, mentoring and training. Technology has made the delivery of formal training much easier and more cost effective as eLearning, massive open online courses (moocs) and social media are allowing access to a much wider range of learning opportunities. But opportunities exist even within your own organization and at little or no cost. Consider implementing a cross-training program that provides employees with exposure to other positions within the organization or develop a formal mentoring and leadership development system.

4. Develop an Organizational Culture

Your organization’s culture is its shared beliefs, customs, and values. It’s what guides your employees and volunteers in their interactions with one another and with others outside of your organization, even when supervisors aren’t around. Great organizational cultures develop over time but they begin with expectations from the top. Start with a strong vision or mission statement, which is something that comes easy to most non-profits who already have mission statements in place for their fundraising efforts. Values are a critical part of culture too. What does your organization value or better yet, what should it value? Whatever those values are, they must be reflected in practice. If, for example, you value openness, your leadership should foster an open-door policy. Finally, encourage customs to support your culture. Develop a few company traditions: an annual off-beat social event, awards, even something as simple as a staff potluck. A positive culture is what binds your team together and provides strong ties that make it that much more difficult for employees to choose to walk away.

5. Hire the Best Leaders

Of course, employee retention starts with great supervisors. Investing in strong leaders is a key part of any retention strategy. A survey by Modern Survey [], indicated that belief in senior leadership was the top engagement factor for employees. The best supervisors are those who feel that they are working as a part of a team and actively value the contributions of all members of the team. Employees value recognition of good work, and an understanding that their supervisors actually know them and are fully aware of their strengths and weaknesses and what they bring to the team.

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