The People Problem

Current funding models restrict investment in talent and technology for staff enablement, retention

Funders and executives will go to great lengths to ensure the strength of their fundraising and programming efforts, so why would they pass over the fundamental solution of building up their talent and workforce management solutions?


Sue, director of finance at a regional community agency, rubs her burning eyes and locks up behind her. She's the last out from the long budget committee meeting that went way past supper time. Everyone's wiped  - it's the same every year - but at least they seem to have shored up enough dollars to keep their programs intact. Not add more, mind you, or expand the programs they have. No money for that.

But what's really wearing Sue down is the nagging feeling she's forgotten something. She senses that, once again, her team has sidestepped an area of growing urgency. Ah, yes - the people problem.

Once again, there’s not enough money in the budget to recruit top talent. Heck, they can't even hang on long-term to many of their best employees with the kind of compensation they offer! Not to mention the antiquated systems and processes that make employees’ work inefficient and frustration. Especially the younger hires joining the nonprofit sector without the knowledge of how perennially underfunded this sector is.

Sue thinks of Ashley, their fresh-out-of-college employee who started last month, so hard working, enthusiastic and skilled! But the 24-year-old was complaining about their ancient technology and inefficient processes in her first week. Not that Ashley wasn't right - there's been no money to invest in workforce management or any other systems for a decade. Embarrassing, but true.

Personally, Sue has gotten used to the under-investment in technology, as have other long-time staff who are also within a few years of retiring. Nonprofit is the only work they've known, and their foundational years predate everything digital.

So, yeah, they'll be a lot more Ashleys needed soon, Sue reflects. It's already started; look how long the latest program manager role took to fill! The low salary and high level of responsibilities didn't attract many takers.

Sue sighs, her worry lines deepening. Why, oh why, do their funding proposals lack line items for investment in people and technology that helps people work better, that help Sue recruit from a wider better pool?! Improved efficiencies for their valuable programs don’t just happen magically on their own; manual processes can only take them so far. Human error, duplication of efforts, program siloes - all of them avoidable with today’s automated systems!

Fortunately, decision-makers and thought leaders within the nonprofit and public sectors are increasingly outspoken about this fundamental need for a systematic change in what is valued, and forward-thinking funders are starting to take notice. Funders are beginning to see the value in earmarking money for great people and technologies that will shore up service organizations and ensure they can grow their programs.

Funders also need to see the gaps within their organizations, and the risk that under-funding operational efficiencies can have on their solvency. Funders and executives will go to great lengths to ensure the strength of their fundraising and programming efforts, so why would they pass over the fundamental solution of building up their talent and workforce management solutions?

Not only will organizations see the benefits of attracting the best talent, but with the right workforce management solution, organizations can streamline their approach to staffing and redeploying resources where they will be able to make the most impact. This shift in the HR strategy will ensure alignment with the overall organizational strategy, and maximize their impact on the people they serve.

As nonprofit and public sector organizations take these steps and begin to improve their ability to attract and maintain a talented workforce, they will greatly improve their resiliency to uncertainties within their funding and political landscape. What workforce strategy and management tools are you looking to implement that will make these changes happen? Does the technology solution at your organization include:

  • Comprehensive, intelligent online shift scheduling and bidding.
  • Effective applicant and employee management, uniting data from multiple locations in one common tool.
  • Robust time, attendance and payroll tools that are sustainable into the future as the organization evolves.
  • A convenient, secure employee self-service portal that's accessible from anywhere and on any type of mobile device.
  • Seamless integration between Finance, HR & Payroll - ensuring staff are always paid correctly and on time.
What other workforce trends have you seen or experienced that you think will affect the nonprofit and public sectors in 2018 and beyond? Let us know in the comment box below.