Connections for Success



Dedicated Employees – Your Organization’s Greatest Asset
Barbara Miller

It is understandable that during tough economic times, it may be necessary to freeze wages or award minimum pay, while asking employees to take on new responsibilities.  However, do not lose sight of the importance of your staff, from hiring and training them to rewarding them for their performance, and providing motivation to stay.

Recognize Your Greatest Wealth

What is your organization’s most valuable asset?  When asked to list their organization’s assets, not-for-profit leaders are likely to name investments, facilities, real estate, cash and other tangible assets.

But oftentimes, an organization’s staff is really its greatest asset.  Without a knowledgeable and committed team, your organization stands little chance of delivering program services or raising enough money to fund them.  And when you consider the cost of hiring, training and mentoring staff – not to mention the losses your not-for-profit incurs when an experienced employee leaves — it is easy to see why you should assign a high value to your people.

Add to Staff Wisely

Before hiring an employee, thoroughly analyze the decision for potential rewards and risks.  Experience, education, skills and employer recommendations are merely a starting place.  Good hiring requires employers and job candidates to honestly assess their respective objectives.  Do not hire someone simply because you are desperate to fill an empty position. Similarly, do not court a candidate who seems likely to jump ship when a “better” offer comes along — no matter how impressive his or her resumé.

Instill “Buy-In”

Employee loyalty is often directly related to their feelings about their organization’s mission.  When a new employee comes aboard, ensure he or she receives comprehensive training — not only related to job responsibilities, but also about your not-for-profit’s culture and ethics.  Staffers need to buy in to your mission and support the programs you have established.

Also ensure that employees understand your evaluation and compensation system — and that they feel like full participants.  Staffers must be able to voice perceived obstacles to their successful long-term employment without fear of reprisal.  If you want to keep them, listen and try to find ways to help them succeed.

Be Creative with Nonmonetary Rewards

Although financial compensation is generally the best way to reward and retain people, there are other ways you can let employees know you value them — without busting your budget.  For example, consider tangible rewards other than money.  You could write a personal “thank you” note and enclose a small gift card when a staff member achieves something special, or you could reward that person with an extra vacation or personal day.  Another idea: Offer the employee more flexible hours, such as earlier starting and leaving times or the option to telecommute.

It is also important to never underestimate the value of praise and recognition.  Acknowledge employees for a job well done at staff meetings or in your not-for-profit’s newsletter, or invite “star” employees to be introduced at a board meeting or to represent your not-for-profit at an industry conference.  All of these actions reflect your confidence in those individuals and indicate their importance to the organization.

Value Them Anyway

Your not-for-profit may be unable to compensate employees quite as well as its for-profit counterparts.  But, if your focus is on valuing and growing your assets — that is, your employees — all you need is a little creativity in order to reward them in many other ways.

If you have questions or would like to discuss creative ways to provide incentives to your employees, please contact Barbara Miller at [email protected] or call her at 312.670.7444.

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