Leading and Caring

One of the biggest issues facing education and philanthropic organizations today is one of talent.  Attracting and retaining talented individuals, especially on the development team, is becoming more and more difficult.

It is estimated that development officers are staying in their positions an average of 1.5 – 2.5 years.  Understanding that quality development work is a relationship-based enterprise and that the total cost to replace an employee rests somewhere around 1.5 times the annual salary, it should be a priority for development leaders to increase the average tenure of team members.

So why do people leave jobs?  Conventional workplace wisdom suggests that money remains the chief reason driving employees to leave one institution for another.

However, workplace satisfaction surveys abound which suggest that money typically doesn’t register as a top job-leaving motivator.  Here is what the HR consulting firm Right Management found after surveying 1,308 people on why they left their last positions:

  • Sought new challenges or opportunities (30%);
  • Ineffective leadership (25%);
  • Poor relationship with manager (22%);
  • To improve work/life balance (21%);
  • Contributions to the company were not valued (21%);
  • Better compensation and benefits (18%)

So, only 18% identified better money as the impetus to leave.  Hmmm.

In Leigh Branham’s book, “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave,” he argues that the vast majority of people want to feel “trust, hope, worth, and competent.”  His 7 “hidden” reasons why employees leave?

  1. Unmet expectations
  2. Mismatch skills
  3. Lack of coaching and feedback
  4. Limited growth opportunities
  5. Feeling unrecognized or devalued
  6. Overworked
  7. Loss of confidence in senior leaders

The lists crafted by Right Management and Branham suggest there are far more effective methods to keep star employees engaged, excited, and productive.

One of the most effective methods is for leaders to regularly and proactively plan for each employee’s growth.  Put another way, the best development leaders systematically have conversations with staff members that explore their likes, interests, goals, dreams, and plans to grow professionally.

What’s the next challenge or position for them?  What do they want to achieve ultimately?  And how can their supervisor help them get there?  It’s a simple but powerful attitude:  Care for each person by accessing their dreams and goals.  Make yourself available as a coach and mentor.  Proactively look for new challenges and create new opportunities.  And do these things regularly.

We do our best development work with donors when we evidence a care about them as people.  The same holds true for each of our staff members.


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