Research shows that most non-profits are concerned about succession planning. There often is not a lack of talent in the organization, just no clear pathway to get to a leadership position. Why is this so?
Cultivation of leadership is a long-term enterprise, and often we don’t have the patience or resources to devote to the effort it takes. We’re lazy, wanting the quick fix, sometimes by sometimes hiring a known leader from another organization or looking for someone new to take a position rather than building capacity internally. This holds true for organizations whether or not it is staff or lay-led. My comments apply to both types of non-profits so for ease in reading, the term staff will be used.
In most cases, staff leave for reasons more to do with lack of job satisfaction than any other reason. This infographic from Inc.com confirms the top 5 reasons that employees leave. It is costly to replace people who leave due to dissatisfaction, and the costs of that is enormous in increased expenses due to lost time, lowered morale, efforts in training, and more.
We don’t take the time to really get to know our staff beyond the basics. The vocabulary of the conversations that need to occur will consist of words like desires, skills, talents, goals and dreams. These are not quick conversations by an unskilled manager or human resource professional.
In an earlier post, I marveled at the way one organization nurtures its volunteers, but that was just one example. What are some specific general ways that a non-profit organization can expand its leadership pipeline?
The consulting organization The Bridgespan Group found that “based on collaborative research with 30 nonprofits committed to leadership development, we identified four elements organizations should have in place to align their strategy for talent to their goals for impact.” Those elements were managers who were committed to mentoring others, identifying opportunities for skill development, creating individualized development plans focused on skills, and mechanisms for putting those efforts into action.
The tips I offer below are for smaller non-profits who frequently struggle with this issue but lack the resources of larger organizations with layers of support systems. These suggestions assume that your organization is based on a collaborative and not a competitive model.
- Require staff members to complete a basic questionnaire that contains questions about their skills, interests, goals and desires. Don’t just file it away, a top level person needs to study it and arrange a time with the staff member to discuss it.
- Institute a practice for peer coaching, sharing guidelines and boundaries with participants. Assign everyone a partner to whom they will check in periodically about their goals. This can be formalized through completion of a self-assessment.
- Provide opportunities for staff/volunteers to stretch themselves in new ways—by trying out new skills and develop new talents. Paired learning is effective for this.
- Allow staff/volunteers an opportunity to shadow someone whose position interests them for a few hours.
- Establish regular check-ins for feedback and coaching. So far, there are no costs involved here, only dedication to the practice.
If you would like to request a form to use for this purpose, please go to my site and write “Staff Form” in the subject line. You will receive it as my gift to you in order to encourage leadership development at your non-profit. This offer expires on May 31st, 2017.