4 Ways Nonprofits Can Improve Employee Engagement
On Nonprofit PRO’s blog back in 2017, Promo Marketing’s Sean Norris explained to us that nonprofit employee engagement is, to use his words, kind of a mess.
Case in point, more than 40% of employees report at least some level of disengagement with their work on a regular basis. While the majority of such issues were more passive in nature, a small percentage of employees report being actively hostile toward the nonprofit they work for.
In any case, employee disengagement is bad for business. For one thing, a disengaged employee is a less-productive employee. Moreover, a disengaged employee’s attitude and approach to their work can easily rub off on their colleagues — leading to an almost viral effect that could negatively impact your entire team.
On the other hand, engaged employees are:
- More present: Organizations with engaged employees see a 41% decrease in absenteeism.
- More reliable: Engaged employees experience less burn-out and are, thus, more likely to stay onboard over time.
- More productive: Across the board, engaged employees are more productive, meaning your organization will be operating at its highest capacity.
In Sean’s article, he provided three high-level pieces of advice for nonprofits aiming to enhance employee engagement:
- Create a strong, healthy work environment for your teams.
- Build a sense of trust throughout your organization.
- Keep your employees’ eyes on the future.
Today, we’re going to discuss four “on-the-ground” ways you can make this happen in your own organization. Let’s get started.
1. Assign Meaningful Work to the Right Employees
All nonprofits have a clear mission — that is, a reason for being in operation.
Incidentally, the majority of nonprofit employees actively look to work for nonprofits with goals that align with their own — and become highly engaged when they find one. According to a report by Opportunity Knocks (OK), 84% of survey respondents say their organization’s mission is important to them, with 89% saying the work they do contributes to the company’s overall mission.
The point here is twofold: For one, you need to ensure your employees are all working toward a common goal — both in terms of the organization and on a personal level. Secondly, you need to place your team members in positions that best match their specific knowledge, skills and abilities.
In keeping your employees aligned with your organization’s mission and creating a work plan that allows them to leverage their specific abilities, you’ll inherently keep them engaged in their duties as time goes on.
2. Enable and Empower Your Employees
Piggybacking off that last point, it’s not enough to merely assign the right team members to the right tasks for them.
You also need to ensure they have everything they need to perform to the best of their ability at all times.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. As OK’s report finds, 57% of nonprofit employees say they aren’t able to get their job done due to a “lack of authority.”
This lack of authority can manifest in a number of ways:
- Insufficient access to necessary tools, technology and documentation
- A lack of open communication between team members
- Policies (read: “red tape”) prohibiting employees from making autonomous decisions
So, in addition to assigning your employees tasks that best fit their abilities, you also need to:
- Provide whatever they need to get their job done well.
- Remove any blockers that may inhibit their ability to do so.
(Note: This is all part of creating standard operating procedures (SOP) throughout your organization. The goal of developing an SOP is to optimize and systematize your company’s various processes, allowing your employees to always put their best foot forward.)
Another topic to bring up here is professional development.
Yes, enabling your employees “on the spot” is essential — but so is empowering them over the long run. In fact, 70% of employees surveyed by OK said they chose to work with an organization because of the professional development opportunities it offered; moreover, 56% cited potential career advancement as their reason for staying with a given nonprofit.
The underlying message is that offering opportunities for growth allows your employees to improve their skills and abilities — which allows them to do more to further their mission, and that of your organization.
The more opportunities you provide your employees to do good work — both in the short- and long-term — the more engaged and productive they’ll be.
3. Facilitate Deeper Involvement
So far, we’ve established that nonprofit employees:
- Care about the overall mission at hand
- Actively want to put maximum effort into their duties on the job
- Seek autonomy and enablement in their work
Putting all this together, it’s clear that engaging nonprofit employees often comes down to involving them in any and all efforts aimed at improving your organization as a whole. OK’s report found that those who were able to take a more active role in their organization’s high-level operations were likely to be more engaged in their overall work than those who weren’t active in certain decision-making processes.
That said, it’s vital that you facilitate involvement from your employees on a deeper level than their immediate duties.
- Involve them in decision-making processes at all levels, even if just to keep them informed.
- Make use of surveys and questionnaires to solicit input regarding their job satisfaction, workload, alignment and more. Allow your employees to proactively provide feedback whenever necessary.
- Point out and celebrate any suggestions, efforts or initiatives that lead to breakthroughs of any kind.
The deeper your employees get in the goings-on within your organization, the more invested they’ll become in achieving your overall mission — leading to continuous engagement throughout your team.
4. Provide Sufficient Compensation and Benefits
As dedicated and driven as your nonprofit employees may be, they also need — and expect — to be compensated fairly for their efforts.
Now, when discussing compensation of nonprofit employees, salary isn’t the main focus — but it still is important. Though nonprofit employees are, in general, willing to work for lower-than-commercial wages, this doesn’t mean they’ll work for free (or even for cheap). In fact, 47% of respondents say they are unsatisfied with their pay when compared to their skill level and the amount of effort they put into their job.
That said, the benefits you offer your employees are the more important factor here.
Reason being: They ensure your employees are always able to put their best effort into their duties whenever they get down to work.
- Proper health insurance provides your employees with affordable health care, guaranteeing their physical well-being.
- Providing PTO, sick days and vacation time ensures they don’t come into work when under the weather or otherwise not at their best.
- Flexible work hours and choice of environment allow them to work when they know they’re most productive.
These and other employee benefits not only help maximize employee productivity, but also aim to minimize disengagement and burnout. Without proper compensation and benefits, your employees are liable to neglect their well-being and push themselves way too far — leading to major disaster both for themselves and your company. This, again, can have a ripple effect that causes employee engagement to suffer throughout your organization.
Needless to say, this outcome should be avoided at all costs.
By providing your employees with sufficient compensation and additional benefits from the get-go, you’ll help them stay as healthy as possible — and allow them the time to recover whenever need be. In turn, when they are on duty, they’ll always be able to stay laser-focused on the task at hand.
Most nonprofit employees enter the workforce looking to be engaged and productive in their work, in the hopes that they’ll be able to make a difference in the world.
But, they can only do so if their work environment is conducive to such engagement and productivity.
It’s simple: Give your employees whatever they need to succeed and thrive, and they’ll have every reason to stay engaged in their work moving forward.