Developing Staff

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Last month, our Nonprofit Strategy Report focused on the importance of designing transformative strategy. In this month's report we are going to look at how to develop your staffing and leadership team. 

These are the three major levers that nonprofit CEOs need to be focused on consistently to break the status quo:

  • Developing Engaged Trustees

  • Designing Transformative Strategy

  • Developing Staff

It is fascinating how many people are really unclear on their job functions, performance measures, training requirements, and manager expectations. In a survey conducted by our firm, only 26% of respondents were very clear on their job requirements and only 37% were very clear on their performance measures. This means that 74% and 63% of employees respectively were less than 100% clear about their roles within their respective organizations.

The challenge for leadership is to learn how to manage their teams in the context of the strategic plan, while better defining the role of the individual team members. During the strategic planning process there may be a shift in direction with new initiatives that will drive the need for new hires with expanded capabilities or adding to the current team's plate. If job roles (or posts) are not clearly defined the team can become confused, which will lead to challenges managing individuals and teams. (In the same survey, we also asked how satisfied the respondents were with the level of teamwork at their organizations and the answers trended in similar manner to the levels of job clarity.)

Clearly defining job roles can make the difference between high performing teams and those that are lost at sea. With poor performing teams, managers tend to "put out fires" all day and act in a disorganized manner. Assembling high performing teams starts with defining team purpose and job posts.

The team's purpose should be explicit within the strategic plan because that is the document that provides all teams in the organization with the direction. The posts are designed around the strategic plan that is the game the team will be playing. 

What is a Job Post?

The word post comes from the military, which means a position of duty and responsibility. A job post is an assigned function in a non-profit...not a person. In the book, Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. When you create the right post, you are actually creating the seats on the bus! Creating job posts not only helps build a better bus, it helps leaders understand where to seat the right people.

An example of the benefits of job posts

One national nonprofit had seven locations run by a central office and each of the seven locations had completely different organization structures. Many of the positions at each location had the same types of jobs, but the responsibilities or titles were not consistent, nor were there any performance metrics to measure the success of each job function. The fact that the seven locations were so different in how they were organized made it very difficult for the central office to manage or implement the strategic plan. The seven executive directors all had different roles, or concepts of what they should be doing, and there was  inconsistency in their job functions. There was even more inconsistency in the ranks below their positions at each branch, leading to higher levels of complexity in management.

In order to move this organization forward they needed to be a unified team operating on the same playing field. They were able to accomplish this by building job posts, so that each executive director all the way to the front desk staff had consistency in all job posts. The purpose of this strategy was to increase customer retention and build a more effective management model.

The organization succeeded in establishing job posts for several key positions at the seven locations and this benefited the organization in multiple ways. It allowed them to:

  • use positions more strategically

  • engage the community more effectively

  • build ownership 

  • drive home the importance of measuring success

Building the job posts allowed this nonprofit to create clear team understanding and expectations as well as unite them on the same playing field. A post is a simple tool that is designed to create a management model and drive conversation to build higher levels of order and organization. Part of implementing any plan relies on each team member's ability to do their job; if everyone is clear on what they must deliver the chances of success can be dramatically increased.

For management to create clarity for current and future employees they need to be specific and focused regarding the true and prioritized expectations of jobs. Too many times I have heard complaints about people not knowing what is expected of them, and too many times I have heard managers complain about their staff being confused or not performing. Here is how to create a job post and start to get employees crystal clear on how they can be successful. 

A job post consists of four things:

  1. Primary Purpose

  2. Key Activities

  3. Key Performance Indicators 

  4. Training Requirements 

Step One: Primary Purpose

Step one is to identify a primary purpose for the post. The primary purpose is a single point of focus for a given job function. It is a key factor that, if missing, can mean the difference between someone really understanding what to do with their time and energy and someone who is just busy and not very productive. A primary purpose provides high-level understanding of the position's higher purpose to the organization and how it aligns to other job functions.

Step Two: Key Activities

Step two is to identify the key activities (KA). Since each post needs a primary purpose, the next step is to identify the top activities that fulfill the primary purpose. We like to focus on assembling the top five key activities because it forces a prioritization of what actions are the most essential to fulfilling the primary purpose. It circle's back to the fact that if everything is important, then nothing is. This is the primary reason my firm likes to force organizations to think carefully about their posts and how to prioritize actions for existing or new staff. It also helps with the training element of the post and ensures training is prioritized and aligned.

Step Three: Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

How do we analyze a position to see if someone is just being busy or is actually producing? In step three in designing a Post, we identify what performance measures or statistics you will use to measure how someone is performing their job and being effective. Key Performance Indicators are quantifiable metrics that fairly and accurately track the success of a job function.

There are a few rules to follow when assigning KPIs to a post. The person that assumes the responsibility of the post must have the authority and responsibility to be able to control the KPI. Another rule is to ensure the KPI is a true representation of what is being measured. Statistics can tell many different stories and that is why it is important to constantly be assessing the units and means of measurement to accurately reflect a post's success.

The post as a whole is designed to be a management tool and is best used to manage a person's performance. The KPIs provide management with numbers that will help them assess performance, which removes emotions from the task of managing individuals or teams. Too many managers make decisions based on how they feel about a situation versus looking at what the numbers are telling. When performance measurements are in place, it helps to remove the emotional aspect and allows for better decision making for the organization. It also becomes much easier to identify when a team member is in the "wrong seat on the bus" once you are measuring their performance. Having KPIs in place gives management "real time" numbers on how a person is performing at their post.

Another advantage of tracking the numbers of a Post is that it increases the level of accountability due to the fact that it clarifies the position regarding the measured deliverables. In many organizations that do not have this level of clarity for their staff, it is hard to determine which team members are productive, versus those that just look busy. You may have a team member that appears to be busy all the time, doing all types of great, new, and cool initiatives, but are they really moving the needle and producing? Unless you have KPIs to track their real contributions you may always be left wondering, allowing the real producers to go unnoticed and unrewarded.

Step Four: Training Requirements

A growing concern in nonprofits around the world is the leadership gap that exists between levels in the organizational hierarchy. Many large nonprofits are not ready to handle the massive amount of senior leaders that will be retiring in the next 5-10 years. This issue stems from building an organization that prioritizes training, coaching, mentorship, and proper management.

The daily workload of many managers has become so overwhelming that there have been areas of neglect. One of those areas is the development of leadership teams and their direct reports. The gap in leadership capabilities, interpersonal skills, and strategic perspective is growing, not shrinking. If nonprofits are not preparing to address this major concern now, what will things look like in the next few decades?

To combat the growing gap in talent within nonprofits many organizations are using posts we've developed that outline training requirements. The posts (with the training requirements) help employees and managers be clear on the training and development that needs to take place while someone holds a particular post.

Think of the world of higher education; how does a student know when they can move from being a freshman to a sophomore? When the pre-requisites of the freshman year have been fulfilled a student may move up into a higher level of education and will have earned the title of sophomore. The same mentality needs to be applied in our nonprofit world to help build a plan to close the gap.

Post Benefits

A post is an unemotional look at the types of functions or positions needed in an organization that best aligns to the strategy and structure. A person assuming a post ideally has all the necessary qualifications, understanding, and training needed to achieve the KPIs and primary purpose of that post. Using the post format:

  • Creates clarity regarding job function and employee satisfaction

  • Defines the ability to measure the success of a position 

  • Prioritizes what actions really lead to success 

  • Removes clouded judgment when assessing job performance

  • Builds accountability through every team member knowing their positions

There are several reasons a company spends the time to build posts: pieces of the organization can be linked together logically; communication and teamwork will be dramatically improved; eliminating duplication of job roles and efforts reduces expenses; and staff performance is improved through prioritization of tasks critical to success.