As the baby boomers begin to retire, the charity sector is facing a substantial turnover in leadership. Complicating matters for the sector is that there can be a gap between what people expect from charities as employers and what charities are delivering. Three industry leaders, Ted Garrard, Marina Glogovac, and Maryann Kerr recently offered their views on how to make the charity sector a place where people want to work.
Maryann noted that many charities present well on their website but when employees join, they find that rosy picture is not the culture. Small and medium sized charities have a particularly tough time because they don't tend to have the resources to invest in retention strategies.
Ted noted that retention is seldom about compensation. Instead, he finds that professionals are interested in career development, challenging work projects that include support to succeed, a culture where management knows staff and where staff are thanked. Ted cited the example of Gordon Cressy who believes in getting to know staff when things are going well so that when the boss is coming to see you, it is not necessarily bad news.
Ted further remarked that employers need to actively mentor the next generation to move into senior roles. At SickKids, much of his Senior Leadership team is in their 30s. A big part of this is to bring new thinking to the table.
Marina agreed that diversity of opinion needs to be more valued in the sector. She notes that Boards will say that they want fresh thinking but they tend to prefer to hire the "status quo" people. Diversity of opinion creates tension but, when well handled, that tension can help build creativity. When people come to an organization and realize there is no mechanism to be heard, that creates employee apathy.
Finally, the panel addressed the issue of respect in the workplace, including harassment. Maryann noted that many employers require employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement which muzzles the conversation on harassment, including sexual harassment. Ted noted that key to promoting a healthy culture is a whistle-blower policy including the right to report an issue directly to the Board.
There is no single, simple solution to the complex issue of retention and culture in the nonprofit sector. However, through awareness of its importance, concrete infrastructure to provide mentorship as well as solid processes in place to prevent and weed out abuse, each charity can do better with their employees. And when the charity sector keeps good people, we all win.
Note - This is part two of a summary of ideas on culture in the workplace. Any errors are the result of Editor Ann Rosenfield taking a sip of tea at the wrong moment and missing a key point. See Part 1 here.
The Panel included:
Ted Garrard is Chief Executive Officer of SickKids Foundation which supports one of the world’s leading centres for pediatric care, research and learning – the Hospital for Sick Children. The Foundation raises more than $150 million in cash annually, has endowments valued at $1.1 billion, and is the largest non- governmental funder of children’s health in Canada. On October 27, 2017, the Foundation launched the largest fundraising campaign in Canadian healthcare history with a goal of raising $1.3 billion by 2022.
Marina Glogovac is the President & CEO of CanadaHelps, the largest destination for giving and fundraising in North America and a fast-growing, social technology enterprise.
Maryann Kerr is Chief Happiness Officer/CEO and principal consultant with the Medalist Group, a boutique organizational development and philanthropic firm she founded in 2016 with the mission to create well led, kinder, collaborative, inclusive workplaces. She is a true believer that the health and well-being of our workplace is directly correlated with the health and well-being of our employees.