Do your employees fully embrace the organization’s mission?
What happens to your leadership success when they don’t?

As our nonprofit leaders book club started to discuss Start with Why, by Simon Sinek, we were surprised when a participant said she did not need to know her Why to be effective at work – if her work brings her joy, that is good enough. After some discussion, most attendees agreed that in order to like our work as leaders, we should at least find the mission of the organization to be compelling enough that it brings some type of satisfaction through accomplishment, if not joy.

What about an organization’s employees? Sinek explains, “When you fill an organization with good fits, those who believe what you believe, success just happens” (page 92). Isn’t this especially important for nonprofit organizations?

We propose three basic steps for filling your organization with “good fits” who embrace your organization’s Why. In other words, 3 Steps for Attracting and Retaining Committed Employees.

Step one

Start with yourself. As a leader in your organization, evaluate if you completely understand and support the organization’s mission. If you don’t, review the organization’s strategic plan. Is the vision statement for the future clearly articulated with timely and specific goals?

Turning then to the organization itself, are the strategies for achieving mission and goals clearly communicated for all employees to implement? Can employees discuss the importance of the mission? Communication of mission and vision is foundational not only to the organization’s success, but also to each employee’s success within the organization.

Step two

Once you determine that mission, vision, goals and strategies of the organization are consistently shared in ways that all employees can easily embrace, you can begin to fill your organization with employees who are “good fits” for its culture.

A great strategy is to hire people who are more than just curious or vaguely interested in the organization’s mission. Sinek asserts “The goal is to hire those who are passionate for your WHY, your purpose, your cause or belief and who have the attitude that fits your culture” (page 93).

When you conduct interviews, do you assume applicants applied for the job because they have a personal affinity for the organization’s mission? Not all prospective employees apply for a nonprofit position because they are all about the organization’s mission. Some simply want a job and, nonprofit or otherwise, any job will do. “Starting with WHY when hiring dramatically increases your ability to attract those who are passionate for what you believe” (Start with Why, page 93).

How does one detect future employee commitment during a brief job interview? Instead of asking, “why do you want to work here,” ask the applicant to tell a story about how your organization (or one similar) provided a significant memory for him or her. This could be something that directly affected his or her life or the life of a family member or friend. If the applicant provides an enthusiastic story, you have a good foundation from which you can evaluate the skill set that meets the position requirements. “Great companies… hire already motivated people and inspire them” (Start with Why, page 94).

Step three

Fill your organization from top to bottom with employees who enthusiastically embrace its mission. Having recently conducted research on “high-maintenance employees,” I propose that the employee who isn’t in line with your organization’s WHY most likely has high potential for being an under-performing, high-maintenance employee. Some typical characteristics of an employee who is not motivated by your organization’s mission:

  • Complains. About everything. All the time.
  • Shirks ownership
  • Minimizes contributions
  • Avoids being a team player
  • Creates problems
  • Delivers inferior work
  • Consistently make mistakes you must repair

Additional characteristics to especially be aware of in a nonprofit organization:

  • Disrespect for donors and disregard for their contributions
  • Air of superiority toward volunteers
  • Comments about his or her worth as an employee is far above current pay level
  • Unable to enthusiastically or clearly articulate the mission of the organization

And if you currently have an employee who fits too many of the above descriptors? First, as a leader, acknowledge that the employee’s job performance could be a result of not fitting into the organization. Make a point of discussing what it is about the organization’s mission that resonates with him or her. Ask the employee what he or she would like to accomplish in his or her current position and what support he or she needs from you to reach the goals. Then, utilizing HR standard practices, discuss areas needed for improvement while providing clear job instructions and setting appropriate performance expectations.

Sometimes employees self-select themselves out of job when their performance is questioned. For others who fail to respond to your coaching with a renewed sense of commitment to the organization, develop a plan to help him or her find a position in an organization with a better fit. Remember that you are doing this employee the favor of helping him or her to either enjoy the current position by becoming an effective, contributing team member (who hopefully embraces the mission of the organization) or to find the next, more fulfilling position.

And what about employees who do a good job regardless of the organization’s mission? Enjoy their contributions while they are motivated to maintain high performance and, when they move on, replace them with those who are a “good fit” with your organization.

In conclusion, three basic steps you take as a nonprofit leader can help to ensure the organization’s success – and yours. If your organization does not have a compelling mission with a clearly articulated vision statement and a strategic plan aligned with mission and vision, make it a goal for 2019 to acquire these essential tools. As you move through the year, use these tools to make smart hiring decisions and to ensure each employee is on the path of high performance for the organization’s benefit.

Is your organization filled with “good fits” who embrace its vision? For help with creating a strategic plan that attracts committed employees, contact us. We partner with you to create a customized plan crafted to deliver on your organization’s vision through attracting and retaining committed employees.