By: Helios on May 20th, 2016

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A Review of the Top Nonprofit Career Development Trends Today

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Globally, the workforce is getting older while also getting younger, creating the perfect conditions for leadership challenges. And that means, no matter where an employee works around the globe today, they probably work for an organization struggling to retain its talent. 

According to Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends 2016 report, 28% of companies reported weak or very weak leadership pipelines, only 7% believe they are “excellent” at building Millennial leaders and only 13% report they are “excellent” at building global leaders. From the workforce perspective, 63% of Millennials say their leadership skills are not being developed, and in the next year, 66% of employees from this same generation expect to leave their jobs.

Regardless of the talent challenge, nonprofits are especially vulnerable. Typically, only one-third of top senior nonprofit spots are filled by internal candidates, which is about half the rate of the business world reported by Bridgespan. It’s no wonder then why succession was the number one organizational concern among nonprofit boards and CEOs. Combine that challenge with resource constraints, and nonprofits have many obstacles to overcome in developing leader pipelines.

A Review of the Top Nonprofit Career Development Trends Today

On May 19, members of the Helios HR team facilitated a rich discussion about career development during the HR Leadership Forum’s Nonprofit Consortium with HR executives and senior leaders.  Here are highlights about what we learned during this engaging forum about their challenges, ideas, and what they’re currently doing in the career development space:

  • It’s all about the conversation! To effectively retain talent, organizations should be able to tell a career story to employees what their growth potential is, the path to get there, and how they can grow. If they do not have their own organizational career story to tell, then they are at risk for losing talent.
  • An organization may not be able to meet the expectations of all its employees in terms of how often they’d like to be promoted or receive raises, but career development options will help level-set the expectations and provide a “reality check” about what’s possible.
  • It’s important to offer project opportunities as a way to grow Millennials’ skills in addition to upward career opportunities, which help employees expand their skills and gain exposure to new experiences.
  • Instead of defining the next job an employee may be hired into, define a scope of work they can perform in their current roles that stretch them, which gives the organization more flexibility and fluidity to change based on business needs.
  • Some nonprofit leaders found that using the 70/20/10 model for professional development not only saves investment dollars, it is a more effective way to create highly relevant learning experiences for staff. In this professional development model, 70 percent of development consists of on-the-job learning, supported by 20 percent coaching and mentoring, and 10 percent formal training.
  • Several organizations employ the use of a “9 box” best practice tool to assess how an employee is contributing to the organization based on his or her current performance as well as his or her potential level of contribution.
  • When it comes to selecting and assessing for high-potential, it’s important to define the standards upon which that potential is based and to ensure leadership can effectively have conversations with employees about their own potential to prevent the perception of “favorites”.
  • It’s important to remember potential is fluid and so should be the program.

As a way to retain and develop leaders earlier in their careers and build talent pipelines more effectively, many organizations are implementing strategic career development programs that focus on elements like career paths, succession planning, and high potential development. For more information about what other organizations are doing to develop, grow and engage their team, check out our white paper, Operating with Intention, that highlights award-winning best practices from organizations around the Greater Washington metropolitan region.