We’ve all seen the statistics: it costs several thousand dollars, and several weeks or months of lost productivity to fill vacancies. Nonprofits face additional employee retention challenges in a strong economy with low unemployment. Retaining skilled employees becomes more challenging in a strong, robust economy.
There is no one size fits all program you can put into place to improve retention. Instead, consider building a sustainable corporate culture that encourages people to feel loyal to your organization.
What Is Corporate Culture?
Corporate culture is the overall tone, mood, feeling and method of work that occurs within an organization. While difficult to define, it is easy to spot. A productive, positive corporate culture leads to loyalty, low turnover, and high productivity. A negative corporate culture leads to disgruntled employees, poor productivity, high turnover, and myriad other problems.
Improving Corporate Culture
The Harvard Business Review lists several methods to improve corporate culture.
- Clarify the organization’s vision. Nonprofits who successfully retain employees have a clearly defined vision for their organization. Pathway to Stop Diabetes, an initiative of the American Diabetes Association, has a clearly defined mission: “Our visionis simple yet revolutionary: find a new generation of brilliant scientists at the peak of their creativity, then provide them with the freedom, autonomy, and financial and professional resources to set them on the road to breakthrough discoveries.” A defined vision helps unite and clarify the work of everyone at a nonprofit, enhances company culture and is a central point around which all conversations can revolve .
- Hire the right people. We know, it’s easier said than done, but hiring people who believe wholeheartedly in the vision is an important step toward building organizational culture and reducing turnover. Look for people with a demonstrated work history aligned with your mission. People’s actions speak louder than words when it comes to demonstrating their values, and their work history is the record of how they implement those values in their careers.
- Develop guiding principles. Guiding principles are the shared statements that reflect how to implement the mission and vision of an organization. They also document how you expect employees to behave, treat one another, and do their work. Guiding principles should include the ideas and concepts you would like to inculcate throughout the organization. A corporate culture that accepts and honors diversity, for example, might have as its guiding principle tolerance for all races, creeds, religions and sexual preferences; a corporate culture that values innovation might have as a guiding principle the embracing of creativity and the time needed to generate creative ideas.
- Build a compelling narrative. Narratives are stories and every nonprofit have its own unique story. Marley’s Mutts, a nonprofit animal rescue in Bakersfield, California, builds on the narrative of the founder’s battle with end stage liver disease and the role that Marley, his dog, had in helping him overcome hopelessness. That bond between dogs and people is what inspires all of Marley’s Mutts actions and programs including their prison outreach, special needs children’s outreach, and rescuing so-called unadoptable dogs from shelters around the world.
- Promote connections. People are less inclined to leave an organization if they feel strong connections to it and to others who work there. Millennials are often cited as lacking loyalty, but in fact, they simply have a low tolerance for boredom and the lack of interest in their work. Build connections to the organization through promoting challenging projects, increasing responsibility, and improving chances for advancement.
Building a strong corporate culture to improve employee retention takes time and effort. Make it a concerted effort among your leadership team, human resources, and managers to enact positive changes that build culture and improve loyalty.
Welter Consulting is a technology firm empowering nonprofit and government organizations with effective software, consulting & training that can help you with your accounting needs. We are committed to finding the most affordable technology, the most powerful solution, and providing expert support. By leveraging technology and superior reporting, our team helps to free more of your time to devote to the important work of your mission. We bridge people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We are passionate professionals who choose to work in the nonprofit sector for the same reason you do – helping others. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.