You have heard it a thousand times: your people are your most important asset. As head of an organization, what is your reaction to the statement? Do you know what the impact of that statement represents to your mission? Have you thought about it?
If you have, you’re one step ahead of the crowd. If you have thought about it, believe it, and have done something about investing and protecting, your most important assets, your people, then your mission is likely experiencing a higher degree of impact for those you serve.
The people in your organization are your “mission in action.” When they trust leaders (members of management and executive staff), are informed, feel appreciated and listened to, and are held accountable for results, they will respond by being more engaged, productive, and mission-centered.
Throughout our experience helping nonprofits analyze staff engagement and satisfaction here are three themes staff members report on a recurring basis:
1) They want to be lead!
The best way for a leader to build trust is to act with integrity – do what they say they’re going to do – be vulnerable and admit their own mistakes, communicate effectively, and be willing to make tough decisions in the best interest of the organization. Those decisions could entail letting go of non-performers or those whose actions and behavior are counter to the organization’s mission. Our firm is frequently called upon to help build the trust that has been eroded because an organization’s leader didn’t act swiftly enough with the non-performer. Not dealing with the problem won’t make it go away, and many times the problem festers because clear expectations and frequent communication have not taken place.
There is a very high cost to nonprofits that do not deal with non-performers effectively. (We’ll cover this topic in future newsletters!)
2) Staff wants leadership to communicate with them.
Communication is a two-way street. First, people want to understand where the organization is, where it’s going and what progress is being made. When you inform them, you’re treating them like the important stakeholders they are. People crave transparently about the issues facing the organization – good and bad. In the absence of that knowledge, people may create their own reality, and their erroneous perceptions can create serious culture and mission erosion.
Second, people want to be heard. Invested staff members have ideas and opinions and they want an opportunity to share these thoughts with leadership; they want to contribute. When you provide a vehicle for them to do so, and seriously consider their ideas and solutions, the organization will be on its way to increased engagement and productivity.
3) They want to be held accountable and be treated fairly.
People want to understand what is expected of them and want to know how they are doing. This is especially true of your organization’s top performers. Having a process in place to clearly communicate expectations and meet on a regular basis to discuss performance is essential. It is through this process that leaders will come to understand each of their staff member‘s strengths, to see opportunities for improvement, and to coach and support top performers to become more effective professionals. This process also helps usher your non-performers out of the organization.
A systematic process for clarifying expectations and appraising performance for all staff, including executive leadership, will imbue the process with fairness and equity, and create a culture of accountability.
Achieving a culture of trust and results is attainable – we have seen it happen. Highly satisfied staff translates to high standards of service and, ultimately, stronger missions.
We help nonprofits evaluate their staff’s satisfaction and engagement and, along with an organization’s leadership, can jointly develop unique Human Capital Management strategies to help organizations reach healthier work environments, strengthen cultures, and build high-performing teams.