Why It’s Important to Invest in Talent Acquisition

While many nonprofits are planning to hire new staff in 2014, the sector is largely lacking when it comes to implementing formal recruitment strategies, according to a new study. Find out why greater investment in talent management could help nonprofits better achieve their missions.

Talent is a key ingredient to any organization’s well-being.

Just ask management consultant John Spence. Talent is the first part of his business success equation: (T + C + ECF) x DE = Success (followed by culture, extreme customer focus, and disciplined execution).

The broader theme here is that the sector doesn’t generally invest too deeply in human resources infrastructure or resources.

“The quality of the people that you get, grow, and keep on your team directly determines the success of your organization,” Spence said last week at ASAE’s 2014 Great Ideas Conference. “If you’ve got top talent that’s highly engaged, well satisfied, constantly getting better, and they get closer and closer to your customer, your members, that can create an economic motor on an organization that can’t be beat. You have to look at talent as a strategic objective.”

But many nonprofits are struggling to adopt innovative human resources practices, including recruitment strategies, according to the 2014 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey.

Conducted by Nonprofit HR, the survey found that only 15 percent of the 400 groups surveyed reported having a formal recruitment budget, and those that did reported a median budget of $8,500.

“When you think about that number in relation to the cost of marketing for talent, it’s a relatively small number,” said Nonprofit HR President and CEO Lisa Brown Morton. “The broader theme here is that the sector doesn’t generally invest too deeply in human resources infrastructure or resources.”

This includes social media recruiting. Despite its growing popularity among respondents, 89 percent reported not having a strategy for this type of recruitment.

Nonprofits that fail to leverage social recruiting may be missing out on an opportunity to attract more candidates. Respondents to a 2013 Jobvite study on social recruiting, for example, reported that while this type of recruiting is relatively low cost, its real advantage lies in its ability to find more qualified job seekers and attract candidates who might not be actively looking for a new position.

Nonprofit groups’ diversity and retention strategies are also largely stagnant, Morton said: “Those areas are not seeing as much growth as we had hoped.”

About a third of respondents reported having a formal workforce diversity strategy, and one out of five reported that turnover was their biggest employment challenge last year.  Some of the greatest retention issues included an inability to pay competitive salaries, an inability to promote top-performing staff, and excessive workloads.

Employees in entry- and mid-level positions were the hardest to retain. Some of that stems from a lack of advancement opportunities within organizations, but part of the problem is an absence of targeted retention efforts, Morton said.  Mid-level professionals today value career mobility and change jobs regularly, rather than staying in one position for 10, 15, or 20 years.

The lack of retention, recruitment, and diversity strategies is not surprising given that HR is not a “fully matured” function in the nonprofit sector, Morton told Associations Now last week. .

“You have to keep in mind that the majority of nonprofits do not have dedicated HR talent or systems,” she said.

To help ensure these organizations attract high-quality talent and are subsequently better positioned to achieve their missions, it’s important to educate leadership, donors, and members of the importance of investing in HR, Morton added.

Does your association have a formal talent recruitment strategy? If not, could it benefit from one?  Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to correct the name of Nonprofit HR.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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