When working in the non-profit world, we talk a lot about our organizational values. Our mission. Our core beliefs. Our purpose. Even in the for-profit world, many organizations proudly and prominently hang their values on their walls. There are sections on websites devoted to the organizational mission. They are showcased in strategic plans and annual reports.
With all this talk about who an organization is, what they stand for, and why they do what they do, you would think that employees working in values-based organizations would report great employee engagement, high employee retention.
And yet…. and yet. That’s often not how it goes.
Here is what I have found:
When vision, values, mission, purpose statements are developed, they often have the end user, the customer, the consumer in mind. They are developed thinking about how the work will be done and how it will be received. And this is really important.
But too often, values-based organizations forget to employ people from that same values base. These same values need to extend to how the non-profit works with one of its most important asset- its people.
Sometimes I see organizations favoring the values which describe the technical skills of their operation, whilst minimizing the values that govern how employees interact with each other. They care very much that the accountant does good accounting work, because that aligns with their value of excellence & accountability for example. But they don’t seem to mind that the accountant isn’t particularly kind to the people on the reception desk, despite teamwork being a core value.
As a leader, developing a clear mission, and values is important for your organization. This is widely accepted in both the for-profit world and of course is critical in the non-profit sector. But the real magic happens when those values, that purpose, is lived in every part of the organization. Especially in the ways in which the organization relates to its people.
So, what are some practical ways that non-profits can live their values, not just for their donors and clients, but for their employees too? Here are some jumping off points:
Job descriptions – how are the values of the non-profit expressed in each job role? Are there KPIs linked to each value? How will this be measured? Is there anything in the position description that runs contrary to the organization values? For example, requiring an undergraduate or masters degree without considering equivalent experience may limit the applicant pool, which in turn may be out of alignment with a core value of diversity.
Job ads – your job ads serve two purposes. One is to let the market know that you have a position open, but they also serve as an opportunity to declare to the world who you are as an organization and what you stand for.
Interview questions – during an interview, you might share you vision and values with candidates, and ask behavioral based questions that link back to each of your values.
Rewarding good performance – too often organizations recognize excellent technical achievements (think a development officer meeting their funding target) but don’t reward employees living out their values.
Professional development plans – when planning out employees’ growth and development, making sure that training links back to organizational values, as well as technical skill development.
Vision, values and mission statements are great on walls, in annual reports and strategic plans, but they are even better when they come to life, lived in the day to day of the workplace, especially in how your people relate to each other. And that’s where the magic happens.
Helen Slucki is a people management consultant but prefers the title people whisperer. She is based in Charleston, SC and is on a mission to transform work life. Her people practice, RARE, helps organizations build workplaces where people want to work and grow, workplaces that recruit, attract, retain and engage top talent. She also supports people through transitions in their work life in her coaching practice.
Want to know more about Helen? Say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out raremgmt.net
Disclaimer: this blog post is for general informational and educational purposes only. It is not and cannot be considered professional advice. You should always seek professional advice based on your specific circumstances.