Category Archives: Human Resources

Executive Coaching, An Essential Leadership Development Tool for Today’s Business Landscape

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Guest Contributor: Sonja Mustiful, Essence of Coaching LLC, Alliance Consultant

Executive Coaching is the active and collaborative participation of both the coach and the client. Coaching helps the client leverage their strengths, with a deliberate focus on first identifying and assessing their professional development needs and then helping clients make specific behavioral changes resulting in a more effective leader.

In my work as an executive coach, I meet at least twice a month with each of my coaching clients.  I often talk to them in person, on the phone and exchange emails with them as we work on their real-time business challenges. It is completely confidential giving the client an opportunity to share personal concerns while gaining an external perspective.

Executive Coaching focuses on what it is that you need to do to facilitate the change you desire. This is why organizations are increasingly enlisting the services of certified executive coaches. It is about identifying and clarifying your concerns, enhancing effective action, building capabilities and practicing new behaviors. It is about eliminating things that are not working and establishing boundaries. Coaching helps clarify personal and professional goals and identify ineffective attitudes or blind spots that may be detracting from otherwise exceptional performance.

The client process of Executive Coaching addresses where you are today and where you would like to be in the future. It is forward-looking and action-oriented.  Coaching is more than a quick fix. It may be necessary to look at a number of variables including how you are perceived by your peers; how you prefer to interact with others; how you make decisions; your strengths and weaknesses; your management, conflict resolution style and your communications patterns.

Executive Coaching focuses on five key areas: 1) understanding your Leadership Style; 2) assisting in assessing your core values and life mission (if desired); 3) focusing in on what you want to achieve; 4) taking responsibility for your actions and implementing change; 5) increasing your skill levels.

An executive coach is able to objectively provide a supportive mechanism for making realistic progress by giving feedback, helping clients increase their confidence in new situations and holding clients accountable to their development plans.

The Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence invites you to read an interview with author Bill Ryan about his study, “Coaching Practices and Prospects: The Flexible Leadership Awards Program in Context”.  The interview was originally published by The Nonprofit Quarterly on May 14, 2013.

The art of the job description

Ever seen those job descriptions with 200 job duties and 300 qualifications and nothing about the people or the purpose? Gee, you probably said, sounds fun. I’d love to work there.

You don’t want the perfect jobseeker to pass your job posting by. And you don’t want robo-resumes from underqualified job candidates. How can you craft a job description that helps, not hinders, the hiring process?

Writing a job description is marketing. It’s  selling your organization–mission, culture, and brand—to the candidate you want.

Last week we talked about where to post your opening. Today, some dos and don’ts of the standout job description.

1. Headline the mission of your organization. Jobseekers should understand your purpose and values right away.

2. Briefly explain your structure and operating model. Include budget, staff size, where your money comes from and your key programs.

3. Describe the vibe. Give jobseekers a sense of your organizational culture. Everyone wants a job that’s fun and interesting. (But don’t lie. You might need to actually make the job fun and interesting first. And don’t use the word “dynamic.”) Market what matters, like “we brainstorm over Thursday night tacos and Friday is Bring your Dog to Work Day.”

4. Who is your ideal candidate? Craft one good sentence about the skills, personality, and background you’re hoping to find.

5. Thoughtfully frame the job. State the key responsibilities, framing them as opportunities rather than drudgery.

6. It’s a description of the job, not the person leaving it. A new hire is an opportunity to thoroughly analyze and articulate what your organization needs. Your mental starting point shouldn’t be “everything the last guy did.”

7. Don’t be vague. “Support the program directors in accomplishing their goals”? Waste of space.

8. You’re not a sweatshop. Don’t list three pages of responsibilities and qualifications. Superwoman doesn’t need a job, so be realistic. (While we’re at it, you’re also not a circus, so let’s not mention juggling, m’kay?)

9. Explain the relationships. Describe how the position works with others, not just through reporting or supervising, but also through collaboration and coordination.

10. A degree is just a degree. Consider honestly whether you need someone with a certain degree. Liberal arts education has a long history of training people to think and write well. Does it really matter whether the candidate got her master’s in Cuban poetry? Probably not, but it does matter that she can analyze questions, articulate ideas, understand people, and solve problems.

11. Technology is transferable. Don’t include a long list of  software applicants must know. If you chose your technology well, it can be taught. If you choose your candidate well, she can be taught.

12. List a salary range. Most useless expression in a job description? “Salary commensurate with experience.” Why waste a candidate’s time, or your own?

13. Brag on your benefits. List the key employee benefits your organization offers, like health insurance, retirement, and professional development.

14. Who you gonna call? Out of respect for candidates and their former employers, don’t ask for references with the resume. Jobseekers shouldn’t have to ask for references for every job they apply to, only those for which they’re being considered. But prepare them: “References will be required from candidates selected for interviews.”

15. Shakespeare would write an awkward cover letter.  If you don’t want to readI believe my skills will be an asset to your blah, blah…,” then say what do you want to read. The cover letter should be a writing sample and an introduction to the candidate as a person. Ensure you don’t get formulaic cover letters by giving guidelines. Organizer: “Describe your vision for racial justice.” Artistic director: “What is your favorite opera and why?” Health counselor: “In your experience, what are the best pathways to promote smoking cessation and dietary change?”

Agree? Disagree? Got any tips to share for nonprofit job descriptions?

Where to post (and find) nonprofit jobs

Last spring Blue Avocado published a detailed report on nonprofit job sites—services that provide online job postings in the nonprofit sector. The reviewer, Tom Battin, studied, reviewed, and rated national and regional sites that exclusively provide nonprofit job listings and those that include a substantial number of nonprofit jobs.

Battin rated 31 sites from both the employer’s and the jobseeker’s perspective, naming Idealist the best all-around site, OpportunityKnocks the best nonprofit site, and Simply Hired the best commercial site.

If you’re searching for a nonprofit job, about to start recruiting, or haven’t found the candidates you want, Blue Avocado’s list is a good place to start. Each site is described in terms of ease of navigation, free vs. paid services, numbers of job listings, and whether it posts jobs directly from employers or aggregates jobs posted elsewhere. The list also cites additional jobseeker tools to create cover letters, set up alerts for new listings, and track applications. Some sites allow employers to search resumes and purchase recruitment services as well.

Should you even post your job opening on a national site? Some nonprofit leaders hesitate to post jobs on  Idealist and OpportunityKnocks because they don’t think the job is “big enough” to attract candidates to move from another location. But keep in mind that jobseekers move for all kinds of reasons besides a paycheck—for a spouse’s job, to be near aging parents or new grandkids, or for the love of barbecue. Also, local talent may be looking for the right opportunity in a wider market because they haven’t found it in yours…yet.

In addition to dedicated job websites, you’ll want to increase effective exposure by publicizing your job opening through more targeted channels. We recommend:

1. Nonprofit associations, like ours. Alliance members get free job listings on our site, and non-members pay $65. Our website gets thousands of hits each month by visitors from all over the Mid-South.

2. Field-specific listservs and newsletters. If your organization is part of a national coalition, membership association, or trade organization, send your posting to its listserv or member newsletter. If job candidates are likely to belong to a professional society (like the Association of Fundraising Professionals or the American Dietetic Association,) look for their job listing services as well. Don’t forget issue-area listservs and Facebook groups through which you’d find candidates who are passionate about your cause.

3. Consultants and consulting networks. Just because someone is working as a consultant doesn’t mean they’re not open to the right staff opportunity. If you’ve worked with a really good grant writer or HR consultant, or hear of someone who has, let them know you’re looking. Circulate the job posting to consulting firms as well (but be clear in the description you are hiring for a staff member, not a contractor.)

4. Academic departments at local colleges and universities. Sure, you can send your posting to Career Services. But don’t forget about faculty, staff, graduate students, research assistants, alumni, and others. Most academic departments have their own internal listservs that reach a wide group of current and former associates. Need a communications director? Let English and journalism departments know. A policy analyst? Get in touch with the political science folks. A health educator? Send the posting directly to the School of Public Health.

5. Your own website. Don’t hide job announcements deep in About > People > Opportunities. Put a button on your front page that says “We’re hiring a development director” and links to a detailed description. Also post the information on emails, blogs, your Facebook page, and Twitter.

Next week, tips for effective job descriptions and some great examples.

How’s your employees’ financial wellness?

Is financial stress a problem for your employees?

Can you do something about it?

According to a large survey by the American Psychological Association, 75 percent of Americans say that money is a great sources of personal stress. A widespread lack of financial security, say Gallup scientists, is one of the most critical factors influencing peoples’ quality of life and sense of wellbeing.

For most nonprofit leaders, the idea that financial stress is not just a personal problem but also an organizational problem—-an expensive one—might not be so obvious. But financially stressed workers are less productive on the job, and they’re on the job less.

People who have financial stress have higher levels of insomnia, ulcers, migraines, back pain, anxiety, depression, and heart attacks. Although it’s hard to monetize the links between money and stress, MetLife research estimates the incremental medical costs of a financially distressed employee at $300 a year.

According to the Gallup studies, the annual per-person cost of lost productivity is $28,800 for workers with the lowest wellbeing scores. For workers who are at the midpoint of what they call the “struggling” zone, the cost is $6,168. For employees with the highest levels of wellbeing, the cost of lost productivity is only $840 a year.

Another study, by the Personal Financial Employee Education Foundation (PFEEF), found that 30 to 80 percent of employees in financial distress spend time at work dealing with their personal financial problems, depending on the workplace. For this group, the average number of hours spent on dealing with financial problems at work is between 12 and 20 hours a month.

You might think the problem is simply pay—not enough of it. According to the research, however, wellbeing isn’t directly correlated with salaries or pay raises, but with overall financial security. Although salary is part of the equation, it’s this sense of security that is linked to fewer sick days and lower health expenses. Workers who feel secure also have less “presentee-ism,” the problem of being unwell, unfocused, and unproductive while on the job.

With mounting evidence that financial stress takes an enormous toll on workplace productivity, more employers are seeking ways to help their workers.

Employee wellness programs began as a way for employers to try and lower health care costs. Many organizations found that subsidizing gym memberships and smoking cessation programs and offering other preventive incentives improved workers’ health and decreased their medical expenses.

But as the definition of wellness expands to include financial security, wellness programs now include those that help employees budget wisely, build savings, and avoid crushing debt.

So what can employers do if financial stress is affecting employees and the bottom line?

1. Identify the problem. Survey employees about financial stress. PFEEF offers a free tool to measure financial stress.

2. Bring in information. Hold seminars to help employees learn the basics of financial literacy or learn more about specific topics such as managing debt and preparing for retirement. (Be careful whom you choose–presenters should not be from companies that want to sell you something!)

3. Introduce a financial wellness program. Once you understand how financial issues are impacting your organization, you may want to take a strategic, long-term approach to the problem. A financial wellness program provides multiple resources to help employees resolve and avoid financial stress. These programs include web-based education, live workshops, and one-on-one credit counseling and financial coaching. The following resources can help:

The National Endowment For Financial Education website features information about financial education programs and publications.

The Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation site includes extensive research articles, tools for assessing financial health, and resources for workplace financial wellness programs and services.

The National Foundation For Credit Counseling is a nonprofit providing credit management information, including a directory of nonprofit credit counseling agencies across the country.

America Saves is a national nonprofit that provides information about savings topics such as finding money to save, building wealth through homeownership, and compound interest.

The American Savings Education Council, a program of the Employee Benefit Research Institute Education and Research Fund, offers publications and interactive online tools such as a retirement savings calculation worksheet and the Retirement Personality Profiler.

 The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards provides consumer information about financial planning topics and information about how to find a certified financial planner.

 Financial Security in Later Life is a site developed by the Federal government and many universities that includes a variety of online financial education resources, with a focus on planning for retirement and long-term care.

Investing For Your Future is a detailed online home study course in basic investing developed by a consortium of ten land-grant universities.

Jobs bill killed in Senate, employment initiatives to be considered piecemeal

Several weeks ago we reported on how President Obama’s jobs bill could help some nonprofits by giving them payroll tax credits for hiring veterans and people who have been unemployed for a long time. As predicted, Senate Republicans filibustered the President’s bill this week, defeating the plan to quickly create at least 1.3 million jobs and raise economic growth by 1.25 to two percent.

With 14 million people unemployed, sinking wages, and “another” recession on the way, the failure of the Senate to try and work out an effective compromise is being called a major blow to the country’s economic revival. The bill was expected to create 200,000 to 300,000 jobs per month, adding revenues to the tax base, lowering the deficit, and increasing funding for important domestic spending.

The proposed bill was criticized by some in the nonprofit world for overlooking the important role and particular needs of nonprofits in the economic recovery, although most representatives of the sector backed the overall plan and approach. Under the plan, nonprofits wouldn’t get the same benefits as for-profits and the plan would be funded by limiting writeoffs for charitable deductions.

Like ARRA, the last sweeping recovery initiative, additional funding aimed at stimulating the economy would largely come from changes in tax law. More than half of ARRA’s 787 billion dollars were generated through taxes.  The tax incentives in the new jobs bill include halving the business share of the payroll tax on the first $5 million of payroll, deductions for businesses that add workers or raise wages, credits to encourage hiring veterans and long-term unemployed workers, and an extension of 100-percent expensing on capital equipment purchases.

It remains to be seen what will become of the jobs legislation, although the process is expected to be long and painstaking. Both parties are now reconvening to break the bill up into individual pieces in the hopes of moving them toward bipartisan passage.

One component of the bill that has generated controversy and is likely to hold up compromise is President Obama’s Bridge To Work program, which would let employers train unemployed workers without pay, allowing the trainees to remain on unemployment insurance for up to eight weeks.

Many employers and labor advocates say that training workers without pay creates inequity in the workplace and holds neither employers nor employees accountable. Under the program, employers would not be obligated to hire the trainees.

Bridge to Work would only be open to jobless workers receiving Federal unemployment benefits that kick in after six months of state benefits have run out. The  bill would reauthorize the Federal benefits, which are set to expire in January. Some opponents have said that states should be encouraged to implement Bridge to Work without reauthorization of the Federal benefits.

The program is based on existing models such as the state of Georgia’s Georgia Work$ initiative. Despite Obama’s enthusiasm for Georgia Work$, the state’s Labor Commissioner said the program is only marginally successful. Only 92 people have signed up for it in the eight months since it began.

Just as with ARRA, it’s unclear whether any of the proposed programs will actually put Americans back in jobs. As Rick Cohen has pointed out, much of the corporate sector has bounced back from the crash but companies are too risk-averse to invest in hiring. According to Cohen, many big corporations have turned healthy profits the past few years and are now “sitting on” them rather than expanding their operations and workforce. “The jury is out,” he writes, “as to whether these proposed tax cuts will actually stimulate demand and lower the cost of business expansion enough to get corporations to put their money into creating jobs.”

Jobs still growing in nonprofit sector

Nonprofit jobs grew nearly one percent between 2009 and 2010 and  five percent in the last three years. A new report says the sector’s job growth looks favorable compared to for-profit jobs, which fell more than eight percent in the last three years.

Nonprofits employ nearly ten percent of all private workers in the country, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics analyzed by the authors of the study, part of the Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Economic Data Project.

From 2000 to 2007, nonprofits added jobs at an overall annual average rate of 2.3 percent. This rate has steadily declined each of the last three years to 0.8 percent in 2010. The pattern was reflected in nearly all 45 states for which data were available, and for-profit employment declined in every state but North Dakota and Arkansas. However, states varied significantly in their nonprofit job growth, ranging from 0.9 percent in Hawaii to 10.7 percent in Idaho.

The study says that nonprofit employment during the last three years fell 0.5 percent among civic organizations but grew at rates ranging from 1.9 to 2.5 percent in the arts, education, professional services, and health and social assistance.

The health field accounts for 50 percent of all nonprofit jobs, with education representing 13 percent and social services 11 percent. The health care workforce is the fastest growing job sector in the U.S.

The report doesn’t specify how much of the sector’s job growth is attributable to the stimulus package. Neither does it correlate job growth with salaries, or track the economic impact of job growth in the sector. This last point is an important area for future research: how much of the sector’s job growth translates to increased revenues for organizations and higher economic impacts on communities? Models for analyzing nonprofits’ direct and indirect contribution to local economies (e.g., employee spending, client/beneficiary income and spending, multiplier effect, etc.) could make these employment statistics more useful, and make a case for investment to funders and policy makers.

Check out the report here.

Love at work: dictating office dating?

What should you do about employees dating each other?

Sample employee handbooks almost always have conflict of interest policies that restrict inter-office romance. Lawyers frequently advise their clients to include no-fraternization policies. Sexual harassment lawsuits can destroy an organization. And most of use could tell a story or two about workplace love gone very wrong.

On the other hand, it feels overbearing and unrealistic to dictate employees’ dating lives, especially in a society where almost a third of us marry a co-worker and about twice as many of us date one. What can you do to protect your organization without playing the Love Police?

First, why have a policy at all? One reason is conflict of interest—romantic relationships may affect decisions or be perceived as doing so, especially if one of the parties is responsible for the other’s assignments, performance reviews, or compensation. Second, sexual harassment—-strict laws hold employers responsible for sexual harassment, and protracted and expensive lawsuits can be the result if an employee sues.

All nonprofits should have policies to prevent against these risks. Conflict of interest policies should restrict nepotism and can also require disclosure of intimate or familial relationships so that employers can determine if there is conflict of interest. Sexual harassment policies define and prohibit harassment and explain how the employer will investigate and respond to harassment complaints.

If you develop careful, clear conflict of interest and harassment policies, you probably don’t need a strict non-fraternization policy. Your conflict of interest policy should include the prohibition of supervisor/subordinate relationships. Remember,  there doesn’t have to be demonstrated favoritism or lack of objectivity, only the potential due to conflict of interest. Some HR specialists advise that policies also specifically address on-the-job behavior, such as limiting physical contact or personal exchanges that could make others uncomfortable. (An example is here.)

It has become increasingly common to require employees to report intimate relationships so that potential conflict of interest can be ruled out and/or employees can be re-assigned. The standard legal advice is for employers to protect themselves by reserving the right to terminate one of the employees if conflict of interest is identified and re-assignment is not possible. (Of course, it is difficult to say what constitutes an intimate relationship and at what stage disclosure should be expected. Most policies aren’t explicit about this.)

As for sexual harassment, policies should spell out detailed complaint procedures and clarify exactly how the employer will respond to complaints. The burden is on employers to demonstrate that immediate action is taken, that there are serious consequences for the perpetrator, and that retaliation is prohibitied. Sexual harassment policies also cover third parties, such as other employees who believe they are being affected by one person’s treatment of another.

In addition to harassment policies, many large corporations have “love contract” requirements that require employees to sign a document acknowledging that a workplace romance is consensual and waiving the right to claim sexual harassment for any event prior to signing the contract.  (You can view a few more samples here (PDF) and here.

Outright bans on office dating are largely on the wane. Prohibiting dating doesn’t prevent relationships from happening and can lead to problems by pushing them underground. From an employer liability standpoint, it may be harder to produce evidence that a relationship is consensual if there is ever a harassment claim than if it was out in the open.

Bottom line?  Policies should protect employers and employees, help maintain  morale and productivity, and be appropriate for the organizational culture.

Do you have a written policy on dating? Drop us a line—we’d love to know how your organization handles the risks and realities of on-the-job romance.