Connections for Success



Tips for Navigating a Tough Labor Market
Barbara Miller

Employers in all sectors are facing a tight job market. Open positions may remain empty for months, and some employees seem to have few qualms about jumping ship, due in part to changes in the work force’s expectations. But the situation does not have to be dire for savvy not-for-profits willing to adapt to the current circumstances.

Related Read: How Not-For-Profit Organizations Can Tackle Shortages in Staffing

The not-for-profit advantage

The so-called Great Resignation has seen millions of people voluntarily leave their jobs, presumably for greener pastures. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “quit rate” hit record highs in November and December 2021, at 3% of total employment — about 4.4 million individuals per month. The number has since fallen but not by much: The 2.7% quit rate in July 2022 translated to about 4.2 million individuals.

In other words, many talented people have been looking for new positions. The promising news for not-for-profits is that a number of these individuals, especially younger workers, left their prior jobs because they crave work that is more meaningful to them. Not-for-profits — with their mission-based focus — have a natural competitive advantage in this area.

Ways to seize the opportunity

Your not-for-profit can be proactive about leveraging this advantage. Here is how:

Emphasize Your Mission
Leading with your mission will attract job candidates who share your values. Your mission-related outcomes and impacts will likewise affect them, so do not be shy about including outcome statistics in your recruitment materials and talking them up during interviews.

Be explicit about how an applicant’s work would contribute to your mission. Explain how they may be able to make a tangible and positive difference in their community. Perhaps include testimonials from current employees and some of the constituents you serve.

Rethink How Work Gets Done
The pandemic has made clear that the old ways are not the only ways to achieve your mission. To appeal to the employees who have grown wary or tired of traditional approaches, think about how you can shake things up. Start by reviewing your long-standing procedures and practices (including meetings) to determine which are truly productive and which are simply “how it is always been.”

Moreover, it is time to value employees for their contributions. Focus more on the value they add, rather than when, where or how they do their work. This allows you to offer the flexibility that so many employees — especially women, who have long accounted for the majority of the not-for-profit workforce — are prioritizing.

Walk the Walk on Culture
The importance of workplace culture is nothing new, but it has seemed to increase recently. Actions speak louder than words, as employees will tell you.

Demonstrate your commitment to your employees and their well-being by, for example, advocating employee self-care and work-life balance. Encourage them to take the time off they are entitled to. Create channels for transparent two-way communication, giving employees the opportunity to voice concerns and ideas without fear of negative consequences. Asking employees about what they value is the first step to keeping them satisfied and onboard.

Related Read: Navigating an Understaffed Workforce

Be the greener pasture

The changing labor landscape has many employers scrambling, but it could work out to your advantage. Recognizing the signals employees are sending and responding appropriately could help you attract high-quality employees whose values align with those of your organization.

For more information, contact Barb Miller at [email protected] or 312.670.7444. Visit to learn more about our Not-For-Profit Group.  

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