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How to Attract and Retain Next-Gen Talent

December 22, 2016

Talent-magnet-600x400With an entire generation of senior nonprofit leaders about to retire, nonprofit managers have one thing on their minds: hiring and retaining next-generation talent. But according to Nonprofit HR's 2015 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey, nonprofits are having hiring and retention issues due to a variety of factors, including uncompetitive salaries, an inability to provide sufficient career opportunities, and excessive workloads.

These hiring and retention challenges are why nonprofits need to focus their efforts on employee engagement. My company, Quantum Workplace, surveyed more than 440,000 employees from nearly 5,500 organizations through our 2016 Best Places to Work program and have published the findings in our Engaging Nonprofit Employees: Industry Report. Among other things, the report found that only 58 percent of nonprofit organizations are engaged — putting the nonprofit sector third from the bottom out of eighteen industries.

Is your nonprofit suffering from rotating-door syndrome when it comes to top talent? Does your organization have a strategy to attract talented newcomers and entice them to stay and grow their skills within your organization. Below are three proven ways to attract and retain millennial and Gen Z employees:

1. Emphasize diversity and inclusion. Young people are looking to make a positive impact on the lives of others, so it's no surprise they want to work for organizations that are seen to be fair, inclusive, and diverse. But even though nonprofit employees, in general, are a diverse group, many nonprofits still fall short when it comes to diversity policies, initiatives, and outreach.

With millennials and Gen Zs entering the workforce in huge numbers, this issue has more resonance than ever. Young people want to see organizations actually walk the talk that's embedded in their mission and value statements.

Besides, inclusion isn't just good for employees. McKinsey's 2015 report Why Diversity Matters found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to outperform the national industry median across multiple benchmarks and indicators. In other words, integrating diversity and inclusion into your organizational culture will enhance both employee satisfaction and your bottom line.

One way to demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion is to encourage frequent one-on-one meetings between team leaders and team members and adopt an open-door policy that encourages employees to express their concerns about diversity-related issues when they arise. You can promote inclusion by giving the entire staff an opportunity to brainstorm together about ways to bring diversity into the organization. And you can give prospective employees a sense of your team's diversity initiatives by posting pictures on your website of group bonding and brainstorming activities and featuring quotes from current employees that capture their positive experiences with your organization's diversity and inclusion policies.

2. Be a trustworthy leader. Younger employees today are looking to leaders to model their values. Sadly, this is a bit of a problem in the nonprofit sector. Our Engaging Nonprofit Employees survey found that only 58 percent of nonprofit employees said they worked for an organization with a strong or somewhat strong ethical culture. At the same time, the survey data ranks trust in nonprofit leadership as the second most important driver of employment engagement.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the disconnect between nonprofit employees' expectations and what they actually see in the workplace is undermining the attraction of nonprofit work for many millennials and Gen Zs.

A relatively easy thing you can do to fight this trend and instill more employee confidence in your organization's leaders and managers is to implement a 360 feedback system. Start by surveying members of the organization to understand what they need from their managers in order to perform at a high level. As managers process that feedback and modify aspects of their own behavior, you'll be surprised how quickly younger employees begin to accept that the people leading the organization have their best interests at heart.

Another common misconception about millennials and Gen Zs is that they are devoted to screens. However, the Gen Y and Gen Z Global Workplace Expectations Study found that 53 percent of Gen Zs prefer face-to-face communication for most workplace activities. Keep that in mind the next time you're getting ready to send an email or Slack message to a younger employee.

3. Accentuate the positive. Nonprofit employees want to be assured the future is bright — for themselves as well as the organization they've committed to. And as boomers start to retire in significant numbers, millennials and Gen Zs will be expected to use their skills to make an impact and lead the organization into that bright future.

You can enhance the attractiveness of your nonprofit as a great place for millennials and Gen Zs to wok by tapping into their optimism in your job descriptions. Provide specific examples of how your organization is living up to its mission and values and how the open position is all about making life better for others. Also be sure to list any continuing education opportunities your organization makes available to younger employees.

Remember, too, that many young employees aren't yet confident in their skills and so are unclear about what their future with an organization could be. Recognition software makes it easy to reward younger employees and let them know their work is respected and appreciated by their peers, which in turn builds their confidence and deepens their engagement with the organization and its mission.

So there you have it — three things any nonprofit can do to increase its attractiveness to millennial and Gen Z employees. We're the future, what are you waiting for?

Natalie_hackbarthIs your nonprofit doing something creative to attract and retain millennials and Gen Zs? Let us know in the comments section below!

Natalie Hackbarth is the inbound marketing manager at Quantum Workplace, a company dedicated to providing every organization with quality engagement tools.

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