A New Year – A New Chance to Make Staff Happy

 Make Staff HappyLooking back at the past year of articles, we have focused on many of the human resources that nonprofits rely on to thrive.  We have suggested ways that boards can improve themselves, offered ideas for staff self-improvement and encouraged volunteer acknowledgement and growth opportunities.  In the New Year, it is time to focus on making your staff happy.   Yes, happy staff people will outperform unhappy ones, but almost as important is that happy staff members remain at their positions.  And, employee turnover is the single highest cost any organization experiences. Here are 5 things you can do to improve staff retention.

  1. Get the staff, board and essential volunteer leadership together on a regular basis.  Why?  Because pizza and beer at the office or an informal cocktail party at a board member’s home will increase morale and improve group dynamics.  If there is only a work connection among the staff – it is easy to leave without looking back.
  2. Consider the major issues for each employee and see what you can do to improve their individual situation.   Does the Executive Director have a long commute?  Could you give him/her a Bluetooth car system as a bonus?  Is there a staff person whose spouse is caring for a sick parent? Consider offering an extra vacation week for this year with an explanation that you understand they are in a unique situation.
  3. Why wait for an employee to ask for professional development?  Create a funded that employees may uses to enhance their skills and knowledge.  I have heard many times that an employee was staying with an organization  for the graduate degree they were able to earn at night.  Consider what is more expensive – paying for a few classes a year or paying for an executive search firm, a new employee’s higher salary and the loss of momentum and continuity if you have to hire a new director of development every year and a half.
  4. Provide flexibility whenever possible.  Not all employees can work from home, but would an executive director’s life improve dramatically if she shifted her schedule to 1am-8pm or 8am-4pm?  What about suggesting that he takes the weekly West Coast conference calls from home?  Or institute comp time for employees who are taking on a lot of off-hour meetings.  They may not be able to take all of the time off, but here and there they will be able to indulge in a guilt-free mental health day.
  5. Use a review as a way to encourage improvement in areas that are lacking.  If you feel he/she could be more successful with certain skills find a way for them to learn in a class, seminar, workshop, etc.  Offer to pay for the fees, but also offer the time necessary to attain real improvement.

Don’t forget that little efforts go a long way.  And each month and year you can retain an employee is beneficial for everyone involved.