Monday, July 28, 2014

Retaining top performers

By Laura Kragness, Synergy HR Field Representative

“HR best practices” to foster employee satisfaction and engagement

• Provide job descriptions, an employee handbook, and organizational policies and procedures that create standards for performance and fair and equitable opportunities for all employees to succeed.
• Lead and develop employees to their fullest potential utilizing job standards, individual goal setting, ongoing coaching and counseling, and a merit-based compensation program to reward top performers.
• Conduct internal trainings and support external training opportunities for employees to develop their skills.
• Utilize organizational development tools such as workplace satisfaction/engagement surveys, 360 Leadership Development, and executive coaching.
• Create reward and recognition programs that reinforce performance and behaviors that affect the success of every department, the organization and top performers.

In the difficult times of 2008’s Great Recession, few workers changed jobs. Instead, fears about the economy, corporate downsizing and limited employment opportunities kept many people trapped in positions they were not satisfied with. 
With the economy improving, workers in both the nonprofit and for-profit world see more options and many are beginning to explore them.
Data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reflects this. In 2013, the voluntary job turnover rate rose to 13 percent compared with 8 percent in 2010. 
While it is true that some turnover can be beneficial to a nonprofit organization, it can also be detrimental if a valuable employee or top performer decides to leave. Various studies have found that engaged workers are more committed to their organizations and provide crucial competitive advantages including being more productive, loyal, customer/client-focused, concerned about safety and fiscal stewardship. There is no doubt that engaged top performing employees possessing these qualities are beneficial to a nonprofit’s mission, development efforts and a limited budget.
The question for nonprofit leaders now becomes: How do nonprofits keep workers, or more specifically, how do they retain their top performers?
To answer, we first have to understand the definitions of job satisfaction and employee engagement:

Job Satisfaction: A measurement of an employee’s “happiness” with current job and conditions; it does not measure how much effort the employee is willing to expend.

Employee Engagement: A measurement of an employee’s emotional commitment to an organization; it takes into account the amount of discretionary effort an employee expends on behalf of the organization.

Next, it is important to understand what employees want from their employers to be satisfied and engaged in their job.
The top three job satisfaction aspects rated as “very important” by employees
1.     Compensation/pay, overall (60%)
2.     Tied - Job security (59%) and Opportunities to use your skills/abilities (59%)
3.     Relationship with immediate supervisor (54%)

The top three engagement conditions rated as “very important” by employees
1.     Relationship with co-workers (73%)
2.     Tied - Opportunities to use skills/abilities (70%) & Relationship with immediate supervisor (70%)
3.     The work itself (68%)

A  2013 SHRM Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey1 shared three recommendations to keep employees:

1. Make engagement a top priority
. With limited hiring activity at some organizations, managers may consider refocusing their energy towards existing employees.  Given employees spend much of their waking hours on the job, employees may have more interest in their work and their organizations than employers think. Incorporate learning opportunities into employees’ personal development plans, allow them to work on topics that inspire and energize them, and provide them the freedom to decide what, how and/or when their projects are completed.
2. Pay competitively, but focus on ALL aspects of compensation. According to the SHRM study, employees are once again placing high value on compensation/pay.  However, knowing that many nonprofit organizations do not have the ability to make significant increases to salary budgets, a different approach to compensation may be necessary.  Many experts continue to recommend a “total rewards” strategy, placing an emphasis on an organization’s benefits package (i.e., insurance options, paid time off policies, flexible work schedule, etc.) in addition to the base salary. 
3. Strengthen relationships at all levels of the organization.  Although many employees emphasize compensation/pay as it relates to job satisfaction, a significant proportion also place importance on relationships with co-workers and supervisors.  Fostering an environment that treats all employees equally, as well as one that encourages communication between all levels of workers, can be an effective means of earning trust from employees and increasing their satisfaction with their jobs. 
There is no doubt that as the economy continues to improve, employees will again gain the confidence to explore other job opportunities.  However, nonprofit managers can do a lot to prevent valuable or top performing employees from having the desire to look around in the first place.  Key is listening to what is important to employees and utilizing HR practices that foster employee satisfaction and engagement in an organization. Both can go a long way towards motivating employees to stay happy and committed in their current job.

Questions?  Contact Laura Kragness, SPHR, at 317.366.7587 or Synergy PEO at 800.432.1026.

1 Society for Human Resource Management. (2014), Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: The Road to Economic Recovery

Laura Kragness, SPHR, is a human resources field representative for Synergy PEO Services.  With over 20 years of experience, she provides generalist and strategic HR support to local nonprofit organization leaders and their staffs.  

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