jobsatisfaction 2014-Jun09
One of the major problems facing major gift program managers these days is keeping talent. You have an opening, you spend a bunch of time (and often money) finding the right person, you train them (sometimes move them), they come in and start off well, then “bam!” they are out the door.
It is so discouraging. And it hurts the organization financially because it is not an easy thing to transfer a caseload of donors over to another person. In fact, the cost of talent moving out is far greater than most financial or management folks think; which means it is worth spending the money NOW on people and training, instead of letting them slide out the door.
In a recent article in Forbes magazine Nancy Altobello, Vice Chair of Talent at Ernst and Young, shared five ways to keep talent in the organization – especially Millennials. Jeff and I think this is a very important topic, since keeping MGOs is an important management function for any non-profit. Here are Nancy’s five points with my commentary attached to each one. Nancy is addressing keeping Millennials, but these points really do apply to MGOs of all eras, with some exceptions:

  1. They’re not all running for the door – if you can keep them interested. Nancy says: “Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that Millennials only tend to stay in each job an average of 18 months.” Altobello says this doesn’t have to be the case. “We’re starting to hear from a lot of people who’ve had two jobs in three years and want to stay somewhere,” she says. “But the work has to be interesting; they don’t want to keep doing the same thing.”

The good thing about a caseload of donors is that it offers variety because of the variety of the donors themselves. If a MGO is encouraged to tailor creative approaches to the individual interests and communication preferences of the donor, and if the organization supports this creativity, it will provide a great deal of variety for the MGO. This relates to the point I made in my post on job descriptions, where I suggest you give the MGO permission to create the HOW of the job, rather than directing every single detail.

  1. When it comes to compensation, cash is still king. Nancy says: “In this way Millennials are just like professionals at every other stage of their careers; the best way to attract and keep the best and brightest is to pay them well.”

This is such an interesting topic for non-profits. Jeff and I routinely advise managers to pay well for solid performance in major gifts. Why? Because a good MGO is difficult to find. A manager can scrimp $10,000 to $20,000 on a salary, lose the employee and caseload value in excess of $100,000 to $200,000 and think they are ahead. Crazy, isn’t it? But that’s how it goes when you just have to follow “what we have always done.” Luckily, there is an emerging group of managers who get this point and are rewarding good performance with good compensation.

  1. To younger professionals, flexibility is almost as important as salary. Altobello says in this context, flexibility means Millennials want choices about how to deliver a job well done. With the understanding that deadlines and client needs must always be met, they want options about where and when they work – and they want their managers clearly on board. “People are looking for approval around flexibility.”

We’ve written about this topic as well. Why would a manager insist that the MGO be in the office when the real work happens outside of the office? If the MGO is reaching objectives and performing well, the key is to offer flexibility in HOW the job is done. Why not? One reason is that HR is not happy about it. Hmmm… Now there is a good reason! Here is where the manager should manage by objectives, not rules. I know it is scary, but try it.

  1. Millennials want to be evaluated regularly and advance quickly – but they’ll do the work to get there. Nancy says: “It’s a regular drumbeat about Millennials: They want to be constantly told how they are doing and see the payoff.” Altobello says managers need to understand that this is a population accustomed to “quick knowledge” – they grew up contacting their parents over cell phones with a single question, or consulting Google – we should view this as an opportunity. A yearly performance review is simply not the right approach. “They want the trophies,” says Altobello, “but they’re very willing to earn them.”

I am a champion of instant feedback. If you, as a manager, see something good happen, tell the employee NOW. If you see something that is a little off, tell the employee NOW. Too often, we see managers who watch an employee make mistakes or head down the wrong track and what do they do? They talk to everyone else about it and not the employee! This is not only cowardly – it is not right and not productive. MGOs of all ages and types want to know how they are doing. If it is going well, tell them. If not, re-direct and guide. It is the best thing you can do.

  1. On-the-job training is essential. Nancy says: “According to an annual survey by Accenture of soon-to-graduate college seniors and graduates of the classes of 2012 and 2013, 80% of 2014 graduates expect to be formally trained by their first employer, but 52% of professionals who graduated from college within the past two years say they received no training in their first job.” Altobello says the best way to meet your company’s demand for skilled labor is to invest in developing current employees. “So many skills are teachable and coachable. Most important is on-the-job training. Move them fast through a lot of experiences.”

You can’t do enough training. Ever. And getting a “new person” is far more expensive then equipping an existing employee, assuming the existing employee has the core skills and abilities to do the job. So keep the training and information flowing. It will help you, the MGO, the donor and the organization.

The human “asset” is the most valuable asset you have to get the job done. Often it is also the easiest to ignore! Good, enlightened and progressive managers know that you just can’t toss this asset into the work and then walk away, hoping that things will go all right. Good managers stay engaged and nurture this very precious and critical part of successful nonprofit work.