Want a high-performing staff? Build a high-performance environment

publication date: Sep 19, 2013
author/source: Sharron Batsch

You’ve just hired a new fund development manager. On paper, it looks like a good decision. Once the person is in place, it’s important to assess performance – but that can be difficult when the elements of the job are not clearly defined. Determining if a new staff member fits into a high-performance mould can only occur when those at top levels in management have designed the specifications required to build and maintain a high performance working environment.

Details overlooked in job descriptions

It is all too common to find employees with job descriptions defined at a very macro level, leaving the actual day-to-day work to be redefined and changed with every new staff member. This scenario allows for lost information, very poor data management, undocumented procedures (or no procedures at all) and an overall disaster.

Without the right level of leadership, staff may be left entirely out on a limb, without the resources they need to efficiently manage their time and succeed in their job. How, then, can you truly assess their performance when their time might be eaten up with busy work and productive actions take a back seat?

Information management tends to be a major issue that is overlooked and under-addressed in many charitable organizations. Dollars in, relationships with donors and advocates, research and more are directly impacted when there are no specific guidelines on how to record and retain information to ensure compliance and support accountability, attributes of a high performance environment.

Information gathering is vital

Take a look at your organization and consider your information gathering functions. We are focusing on information and fund development because charitable dollars are a charity’s lifeline, and processes concerning their management are often overlooked. In our experience the expectations of a particular staff role, are often far too open-ended. These expectations are the basis on which consistency, compliance and accountability can be determined and where there is a lack of framework, staff are forced to make decisions they may not be qualified to make. At that point, assessing their performance becomes more difficult because omissions that arise may be tied to organizational problems and not the employee's capabilities.

It takes time and effort to assess and document the tasks that are important to the success of both your staff and your organization. In a system with no specific requirements and methods, individual staff will each come up with their own processes, which may add to confusion, inefficiency, poor outcomes and less than satisfactory results. Put one, two or three people through the same job over the course of several years and you wind up with a chaotic environment where information is both everywhere and nowhere.

One fact remains consistent; you cannot assess a staff member's overall performance if some of their most basic tasks have not been defined. We place the onus on senior management to design systems that address all departments, allowing the charity to create a high-performance work environment to support high-performance hires!

Sharron Batsch is a partner at Batsch Group Inc, the developer of the @EASE Fund Development Software specializing in donor management for nonprofits, and the author of From Chaos to Control, which addresses building a high-performance team through knowledge management.

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