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By May 28, 2015September 23rd, 2015Blog

In what continues to appear to be a growing economy, most sectors are preparing for hiring increases in 2015 and beyond. This includes the nonprofit sector.

According to a recent survey conducted by Nonprofit HR, 50 percent of nonprofits believe they will create new positions in 2015. If this forecast becomes reality then the nonprofit sector would follow only the health care sector in growth nationally. (According the HireRight survey HireRight Health Care Spotlight, 58 percent of health care organizations anticipate growing their workforces in the coming year. It is estimated that over the next decade as much as one-third of all new jobs created in the U.S. will be health care jobs.)

In the same Nonprofit HR survey – 2015 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey – organizations reported that finding qualified job candidates and retaining good employees were some of their most significant talent management challenges. This is not unique to nonprofits. Many sectors are reporting similar challenges.

All of this growth would be stressful enough by itself, but the nation is also in the middle of a talent shortage.

According to ManpowerGroup, 43 percent of U.S. employers say talent shortages are having a negative impact on their ability to meet the needs of their missions. The consequences for failing to address these impacts include:

  • Reduced competitiveness and productivity
  • Increased employee turnover
  • Higher compensation costs
  • Reduced employee engagement/morale

Despite impacts to competitiveness and productivity, research such as the above continues to show that fewer employers are trying to solve the problem of finding the talent they need through better talent strategies. This is unfortunate because as the struggle to find the right talent continues, and candidates with in-demand skills get the upper hand and employers will be under pressure to position themselves as a “best place to work” in order to attract the best workers that will drive their organizations forward.

There is no quick and easy answer for nonprofit employers that will allow them to compete in this very unique talent market. Entire human resources systems may need to be tuned up and audited. Everything from employer branding and candidate experience to benefits and compensation should be reviewed to insure nonprofits can obtain not just the staffing levels they need but also the most talented candidates available.

But there are a few things to keep in mind when competing in an ultracompetitive talent market.

Know who you are.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to sell your organization to a candidate if your organization does not know who it is. Are you the best kept secret in the market? Maybe your organization is the new kid on the block or the hundred-year-old brand that everyone has an opinion about. Maybe you are the finest organization in four counties with superior outcomes and low turnover.

If you are not something, don’t claim to be. If you are something positive, find ways to demonstrate that to your candidates. Culture and fit are great weapons in a talent war. Figure out quickly what your candidates want and then match aspects of your culture to their personality in order to earn their proper consideration – but do so honestly or you decrease the chances of making a proper hire.

Don’t sleep on the candidate experience.

Nonprofits in the same subsector often find themselves exchanging staff during individuals’ long careers. Local nonprofit professionals may work for – or apply to work for – several organizations in a geographic location. These interactions, even if they are only phone screens, allow candidates to create opinions of your organization. They then share these opinions, qualified or not, with each other.

If candidates get a bad taste in their mouth from your recruitment process then they may not consider your organization down the road after they’ve worked hard to make themselves top recruits. In addition, they may share their experience with associates that you do want to hire. You want their interaction with your hiring process to augment not poison other possible relationships.

Therefore, make sure your application and hiring process are transparent, efficient and polite. Stay in constant contact with all candidates at every step of the process, but try to avoid automated processes such as form letters. (Remember: many candidates customized their applications to fit your process and job description. You owe them the same.) And don’t forget to train your hiring mangers on the importance and seriousness of the candidate experience.

Don’t hold out for the perfect candidate.

Ten years ago organizations would put a job advertisement in the local paper and received a fist-full of applications by mail. Today organizations can post an opening in a few places on the Internet and get dozens of applications in 24 hours. This has created a false belief that the perfect candidate can be uncovered.

Today many employers want to hire an exact fit that checks off every box in the job description. Employers, especially those in hyper-competitive talent markets, need to stop seeing candidates at face value. Organizations should try to do a better job at looking into the context of a candidate and ask themselves, “Is there something we can work on or get excited about with this candidate?”

In the end there is no magic spell that will insure your nonprofit gets its fair share of talent. However knowing what the talent market looks like and who your organization is can help you compete. While having a strong candidate experience and a hiring process that does not dismiss less than perfect candidates should give you access to a larger pool of talent than your competitors.  Doing a few of these things better than the rest of the sector may make your hirings more effective and successful.

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