Conference Roundup: Hire Smart
Any nonprofit organization’s success hinges in part on recruiting and retaining the best and the brightest people — and firing those who fall short.
That according to Stacey Girdner, the chief people development officer at Russ Reid Company, a Pasadena, Calif.-based marketing and communications firm that serves nonprofit organizations.
“[Fewer and fewer] people are available for your positions,” Girdner said at the session “Grooming the Next Generation of Fundraisers: How Do I Find, Train and Retain Good People?” at the DMA Nonprofit Federation’s 2008 Leadership Summit held last month in Palm Beach, Fla. “You have to be more strategic.”
Girdner, who has worked in human resources in the nonprofit world for 10 years, gave a number of tips on where to find candidates, how to interview them and how to get rid of those who are no longer making it.
First, if you want to find good people, you have to know where they are.
Nonprofits need to identify the type of background, skills, education and character they want their hires to possess. Then they should find what publications those people read, what Web sites they visit, who they know, what schools they attend, what associations they belong to and where they currently work.
To enlarge candidate pools, Girdner suggests asking current employees how they found out about their jobs. She recommends keeping a “hot file” that includes resumes from people who have the right backgrounds but might not have been the right candidates for previous positions.
“You may already have someone in your file [who is perfect for a current job opening],” she said.
Another good way to expand the pool of potential employees is follow what Girdner calls the “six degrees of separation” model.
“Build a network of people who know people, who know people,” she said, recommending swapping resumes with similarly missioned organizations, paying employees for referrals and keeping in touch with good employees who leave.
After a nonprofit has a pool of candidates, it should narrow it down by conducting phone interviews, which allow for more objectivity and take less time than a face-to-face interview and can be done by someone other than the hiring manager.
“You will realize in 10 minutes whether the person is qualified for the position,” Girdner said.
Once you narrow down a list of people for face-to-face interviews, Girdner suggests forming a team to interview the candidates using behavioral-based questions.
For example, ask a potential candidate what her annual goals were last year, whether she reached them and how.
If the experience fits, Girdner said, it’s time to do reference checks.
Once a new employee comes on board, she said, coaching is essential. A good coach provides a new hire with a snapshot of “what success looks like” and can include strategy, a timetable and goals, Coaches also should meet monthly with employees to evaluate their progress.
“(Ask yourself), ‘Have I done everything to help them succeed?’” Girdner said. “Spend enough time with them.”
But sometimes hires just don’t work out or long-term employees become stuck in a nonproductive rut.
Employees whose work isn’t up to snuff should receive a verbal warning. If the employee continues to fail, he or she should be put on probation. This should be put in writing and outline a period of time for the person to change his or her performance.
“Some employees just don’t get it until you get this serious,” Girdner said.
And then there are the star employees who just up and leave. But it’s usually not for no good reason. Girdner outlined these seven hidden reasons people leave.
1. It’s not what they expected.
2. Bad person-job fit.
3. No feedback and coaching.
4. No career growth.
5. They feel devalued.
6. They feel overworked/stressed.
7. They don’t trust senior leaders.
There are several things nonprofits can do to retain good employees.
Girdner said nonprofits should “hire intentionally and intelligently.”
“Create a culture of real-time coaching with performance feedback so employees know how to succeed,” she said.