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Nonprofits have an advantage in securing future talent

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With the recent down-turn in the economy, many organizations may be operating under the mistaken view that there will continue to be an endless supply of talent to fill staff roles as they become available. After all, recent recruitment drives have yielded hundreds of interested applicants.

Think again!

Labour or talent has always been a supply and demand game. According to Statistics Canada, Canada's population is slated to age rapidly until 2031, when the last of the baby boomers turn age 65. A few years later, in 2036, the working-age population, defined as those between the ages of 15-64, is forecasted by Statistics Canada to decline from about 70% to 60%. Further, interested job applicants may not have the knowledge, skills and competencies to match an organization's needs.

All these factors contribute to a potential declining labour pool. As the economy fully recovers, and more baby boomers reduce their hours of work or leave the workforce, nonprofit organizations (NPOs) will be competing with other sectors that have deeper pockets to attract and pay for talent.

NPOs do, however, have an advantage.

An attractive brand

Many NPOs are charities or organizations of service, with altruistic concern for the development and advancement of society, including the lives of individuals. The sector often transforms people's lives positively and this helps to build a good employer brand as a by-product. A positive brand attracts talent. People want to work in organizations they are connected with personally, view positively, that have a noble cause and offer learning and development opportunities.

Nonprofits also interact frequently with clients at a very humanistic level: perhaps more-so than in corporations where the ultimate goal of interactions is to make a profit. Nonprofits have a major advantage, as the nature of these relationships allows them to build strong and meaningful networks within their communities and the larger society. These people have a multitude of existing and potential talents that are directly accessible to the nonprofit. Your organizational leaders can make a conscious decision to attract, utilize or develop the talents of your constituents to meet existing and future need for staff.

Why not build on the sector's strong suit? Begin working with the knowledge, skills and competencies of both your existing staff and people in or connected to your client base. An ongoing relationship with your clients will help you to identify individuals that have an interest in pursuing careers in the sector.

Build relationships with youth

Also, within your client base there are undoubtedly young people who are unclear about their career path. Young people can be positively influenced by leaders and staff to pursue careers in the sector.

This can take place at several levels.

First, youths are able to experience the positive transformation the nonprofit sector provides for them and can see the impact organizations have in carrying out their mandates. Professionals have this opportunity to show youths how they can make a difference in their communities and encourage them to pursue careers in this area.

A second way leaders can influence young people is to act as career role models/mentors to individuals. Experienced professionals can transfer their technical knowledge to young people, who are increasingly involved with NPOs. Agencies can then gain and build an advantage over other sectors by developing the talent of their sector's client base to meet their recruitment needs.

Develop a succession plan

Finally, to further build on these strategies, your organization could develop or expand a succession plan. The plan should include the identification of potential talent within both the existing staff and your client/community base. Ideally this will have a long term view: considering the potential talent pool for the next six months to two years, certainly, but also thinking about their talent requirements for the next five or even ten years if you want your organization to continue to be viable in the future.

An "audit" of an organization's current succession plan is a good start in determining how it will attract and manage future staff. Be sure to consider the following questions:

  • Is your organization offering meaningful volunteer opportunities for high school students, especially in those provinces where volunteering is a requirement for graduation?
  • Is the executive director/CEO or senior management staff of your organization mentoring a college/university student?
  • Do you know who the potential talents are within your existing workforce and client base?
  • Have you begun the process of identifying the critical knowledge, skills and competencies needed for the future of your organization?
  • Do you know the training and development needs of your potential talent pool?
  • Do you offer meaningful summer employment?
  • Have you identified the critical roles in your organization?
  • Are you training your summer/part-time staff on some of the roles identified as critical to the organization's success?
  • Are you hiring some of your staff from the community that you serve?
  • Have you established a process for knowledge transfer from veteran to newer employees joining the organization?
  • Do you know the career interests of your existing staff?

If you answered yes, then you have begun to build on your advantage. If not, your organization should consider establishing and incorporating these strategies. They will help ensure you have the talent required to keep your organization alive and viable in the future.

Carla Moore MIRHR, CHRP, is a Human Resources Consultant, The MoreDen Group & Founder of Teens with Senior Deans. Write to Carla at

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