Employee churn is expensive. American businesses lose a combined $11 billion in profit due to employee turnover every year. In the nonprofit world, high staff turnover impacts more than the bottom line.
Pervasive staff burnout. Siloed teams. Strained budgets. The tendency to overburden enthusiastic new hires. The result is reduced quality of service and decreased impact for the communities those organizations serve. These challenges are all too common at nonprofits, but your organization doesn’t have to experience this turmoil.
How do you retain your MVPs on a nonprofit budget?
As a nonprofit executive, I was in leadership at an organization that served children with disabilities and communities affected by homelessness and hunger. Creating one-size-fits-one community programs was challenging and fulfilling. My dedicated team was resilient and worked tirelessly to serve our clients.
Leading that organization gave me the opportunity to recruit and hire top talent. I had to learn how to leverage limited resources and inspire a thriving culture to retain those MVPs. Over time, I successfully kept my top people by following the principle of the three Rs:
Principle 1: Reconnect your team to a greater purpose
The first step towards retaining your MVPs is to reconnect them to the mission. Remember that your staff likely traded higher compensation elsewhere for the opportunity to do meaningful work. As a leader, consistently return to that mission at meetings, in conversation, through performance feedback, during challenging deadlines, and when celebrating success.
Articulate each individual’s roles, responsibilities, goals and growth in the context of your mission and the overall team effort. By giving your team the why behind their tasks on an ongoing basis, you connect them to each other and to a greater purpose. Seeing the value of their daily efforts feeds your MVP’s internal motivation to do great work.
Principle 2: Repurpose existing resources
Nonprofits often have an inspired vision for their clients, but operate out of a sense of scarcity when it comes to their own staff. Siloed teams often compete for funds and see other departments as rivals rather than partners. In this context, individuals hoard their knowledge and resources, stifling cross-team learning and professional growth.
By repurposing existing resources and leveraging your MVPs strengths, you create a learning culture that will both retain current staff and help you recruit future leaders.
Within my own team, I accomplished this by incorporating our mission into an MVP development charter. We clarified the values and incorporated mutual trust and open communication into our business operations and management practices. We then created an internal training and staff development model that connected teams, fostered knowledge sharing and rewarded learning and collaboration. In that environment, my MVPs felt recognized and valued, and offered their excellence and loyalty in return.
Principle 3: Re-engage leadership and ownership at every level
Positively engaged leaders can inspire engagement across an organization. To keep your MVPs invested, it is important to have a shared vision for how they can grow and develop over time.
Be curious about your employee’s unique strengths, particularly those that may not manifest within their daily responsibilities. As you identify those strengths, re-organize teams to ensure the right people are in the right roles and connect MVPs with mentors.
Establishing a mentorship program creates connection and communication between different teams. Mentor young MVPs for future roles as a senior leader and take the time to equip senior MVPs with the skills they need to stay at the top of their game. Purposefully building teams that leverage unique strengths and support each other lead to higher levels of engagement, happiness and productivity.
Remember, money is not the only motivator for your top talent. MVPs stay where they feel valued and have opportunities to learn and grow. Your organization’s compelling mission and innovative projects may have attracted great people. By reconnecting, repurposing and re-engaging your team, you can create an environment that makes them want to stay.