What’s Getting in the Way of Your Talent Strategy?

A new survey of nonprofits forecasts employment growth within the sector in 2015, but many nonprofits report they’re struggling with recruiting and retaining employees. Find out some of the challenges posing this HR conundrum.

The nonprofit sector could grow more than  its corporate counterpart this year, according to Nonprofit HR’s 2015 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey [PDF].

The report offers a positive employment prognosis for the industry. In fact, 50 percent of nonprofits expect to create new positions this year, compared to 36 percent of private companies. Thirty-seven percent of membership societies and associations are expected to create positions this year, while just 3 percent are expected to eliminate jobs, according to the survey.

Predicted growth rates are strongest in direct services positions, where 46 percent of survey respondents expecting growth in 2015. Other functional areas where many nonprofits expect growth include program management and support roles (38 percent), fundraising and development (33 percent), and education and community outreach (30 percent). Meanwhile, government relations and advocacy positions came in with the lowest projected growth, at about 11 percent.

Responses from the more than 360 surveyed nonprofits also illustrated that voluntary employee turnover rates increased last year compared to 2013 and 2012, which indicates greater confidence in the job market. “This aligns with the economic recovery seen in recent years and is reflected in employees being more willing and able to leave their positions to retire or pursue new employment,” the report noted.

While the news may be good for nonprofits in terms of overall employment health, many of these organizations continue to face challenges with finding and keeping employees, as they did in 2014 and 2013.

“The majority of nonprofits do not have dedicated HR talent or systems,” Nonprofit HR President and CEO Lisa Brown Morton told Associations Now last year. “The broader theme here is that the sector doesn’t generally invest too deeply in human resources infrastructure or resources. Some of that is driven by the funder community and foundations and their lack of willingness to invest in infrastructure and capacity building. The other part of it is just that human resources is still an emerging function in the sector—it’s not fully matured.”

At the heart of many recruitment and retention challenges is a lack of formal strategies around these practices. More than half of nonprofits reported not having a recruitment strategy. This, of course, varies depending on the size of the organization—a larger percentage (65 percent) of large nonprofits reported having a strategy, compared to 35 percent of small nonprofits.

More than two-thirds of nonprofits also reported that they do not have a recruitment budget, and 60 percent do not plan to make any changes to their recruitment strategy in 2015.

In terms of keeping employees, nonprofits reported a number of retention challenges, including inabilities to offer competitive wages and promote from within.

The report attributes the inability to promote largely to a lack of effective leadership development and succession planning within organizations. Nearly 70 percent of nonprofits reported that they do not have any kind of formal succession planning in place, “which suggests that they are not developing talent within their own organizations in preparation for changes at higher-level positions,” the report noted. “As a result, when an employee is seeking an opportunity for advancement, he/she may be more likely to look for that opportunity at another organization.”

One potential area where retention can be solidified is the orientation process. For some advice on new employee onboarding, check out these tips from two nonprofit and association HR pros.

What staffing challenges do you face at your association? Let us know in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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