March 4, 2021 — Nonprofits are hurting. Due to an unprecedented pandemic and a tumultuous economy, charitable giving has been impacted and in-person programs are all but nonexistent. Now, more than ever, nonprofit leaders must focus on the people of their organization and ensure they are hiring effective employees who can navigate the choppy waters of 2021. Here are five tips for hiring and managing effective nonprofit employees.
1. Hire Qualified Candidates
This advice may seem self-evident, but hiring qualified candidates is essential to running a highly efficient nonprofit. Far too often, a charming interview with a promising go-getter can obscure a deficiency in qualifications or experience. There is a deluge of unqualified candidates out there — nearly 80% of workers apply to jobs for which they don’t match all the qualifications, according to a survey conducted by global staffing firm Robert Half.
Hiring employees, especially those that will manage others, who are not qualified could have ramifications beyond missed deliverables. Researchers from the University of Georgia, Alabama State University and the University of Alabama in Huntsville found that newly hired employees who are unconfident in their ability to fulfill their job often underperform and have lower self-esteem, which bleeds into other areas of their work.
When going through the interview process, build in steps to test your candidate’s abilities — whether it is coding, writing or data analytics — and offer candidates a chance to demonstrate their abilities before you make an offer. To further validate their claims, be thorough with their references and ask previous employers about their specific abilities and skill sets.
2. Reaffirm Self-Esteem And Belonging
Study after study confirms that employees with low self-esteem underperform, meaning they fail not only to live up to their own potential but also hamper an organization’s ability to succeed as well. Social scientists measure what is called organization-based self-esteem, or OBSE, which measures an individual worker’s sense of belonging and worth within an organization. Coordinated socialization programs and events that bring new hires on board and make them part of a community are essential to long-term benefits. One longitudinal study of 162 banking employees found that individual OBSE scores rose thanks to planned socialization that provided mentors for new employees, made clear career paths available and accepted any new employee’s values and beliefs.
3. Mentor And Cultivate Talent
Mentorships within an organization can cultivate a healthy workplace culture that reduces turnover, mitigates burnout and creates a pool of qualified candidates for promotions. To support employees effectively, mentors should be within an organization but not directly in a managerial role. A meta-analysis of more than 50 studies of workplace mentoring found that mentorships led to better performance in the workplace, less chance of unexplained absences, lower rates of turnover, less stress and higher levels of satisfaction.
Mentorships create positive, motivated employees who will stick with your organization and work to achieve goals. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee measured mentor-mentee relationships within the workplace and found that workers with mentors had much higher OBSE scores than their nonmentored counterparts.
4. Delegate Authority
Knowing when to delegate authority is essential to running an effective nonprofit. Your leadership team should be crafting strategy that their teams execute. Let your leadership team know that you trust their decision-making — every little thing does not need to be run up the ladder.
Employees that received delegated authority in a Jordanian study of 160 municipal employees, for example, were more efficient in completing their work. Instead of involving every person up and down the chain of command in each decision, trust that you have hired smart people to make smart decisions.
5. Eliminate Toxicity
Letting an employee go is never an easy thing to do — and it should never be a manager’s first line of recourse. When toxicity spills over onto other employees and the organizations, however, concrete action is a must. First, offer training and support through your HR department to ensure an employee’s needs are met, but if that fails, don’t be afraid to take swift action to protect your remaining employee base. Letting an employee who is toxic go, according to a Harvard Business School study, can save a company $12,500 in lost productivity. For those in the nonprofit space, ensuring a positive working environment means more money and time goes directly into building a better world instead of dealing with workplace issues.
Nonprofits have a unique responsibility to their shareholders. We are not traded on the New York Stock Exchange, but the constituencies we help — the voiceless and those on the peripheries of society — are our stakeholders. Nonprofit leaders owe it to them to cultivate the best possible employees for building a better world.
Robin Ganzert, PhD, is president and CEO of American Humane. She is the author of “Mission Metamorphosis: Leadership for a Humane World.”