Archive for December, 2014

Show Me the Money: What Every Non-Profit Leader Should Know Before Asking

Posted on December 15, 2014. Filed under: Data, SWOT | Tags: , , , |

It’s time for fundraising and you’ve perfected your elevator speech. Once-upon-a-time this may have meant that you’d do most of the talking, and you would have all the answers to the same set of highly anticipated questions. But as funding sources have dried up, and dollars flow less freely, those who have typically given to your organization along with first-timers may be asking more (and tougher) questions before investing in your non-profit. Here are some suggested things to include as you make your pitch and as donors critically evaluate the causes they will support this year:

  • Be clear on your mission, goals and objectives. Know what progress you’ve made toward achieving them.
  • Know your numbers. Donors will want to quantify your worthiness. How much, how many, how long, how far, averages, medians, percent increases, percentile ranks, ROI, etc. You get the point.
  • Be prepared to talk about threats, challenges, and even failures. More importantly, provide clarity on how you have (or are) addressing them.
  • Distinguish how you are different from other organizations doing similar work. Be knowledgeable about how you compare to them.
  • Mention any synergy, collaboration, or partnership with other organizations that is favorable, for example, talk about your public/private initiative with a local area school.
  • Mention what is new. If you have new initiatives, new employees that bring a special skill, or new board members, this may be of interest.
  • Talk about how your organization is managed. Focus on how you have utilized funding, improved effectiveness, expanded outreach, formed a sub-committee to address a particular concern, etc.

No leader will be able to accurately predict every question, but the guidelines above will better ensure that you are prepared to compete for dollars in a tougher economy. Good Luck!

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Free-agency in the Workplace: Using Employee Data to Assess Flight Risk

Posted on December 8, 2014. Filed under: Assessment, Data, employee retention | Tags: , , |

We all know them – the colleague who’s slowly circling the drain, but won’t budge despite repeated signs that s(he) might need to move on, and the highly-valued top performer who blindsides us with a resignation when “we thought they were happy.” Truth be known, there are many reasons why employees choose to stay, and perhaps even more reasons for switching jobs. With respect to the latter, understanding the cost of free-agency (the impact on an organization of losing an employee) is imperative. While everyone who exits won’t represent a huge loss, the departure of a key “player” should raise some important questions:

  • How much will it cost to replace them?
  • How long will it take to replace them?
  • How much training will be involved in finding a replacement?
  • Will other employees be expected to take on additional responsibilities?
  • Will morale decrease among remaining staff?
  • Will other employees begin to look for work too?

To avoid surprises, a whole science of algorithmic or predictive modeling, complete with software to assess an employee’s flight risk has emerged. Aside from using an array of variables and weights, and some fairly complex computations, there are many readily available sources of data that can help determine if you’ll be receiving more resignation letters.

One of the best ways to find out if employees will leave is to analyze why others have left.  You can begin this process at the end, ironically, with a well-designed exit interview or survey. While employees are sometimes fearful that they can’t speak candidly while still on the job, when they leave a company it presents one of the best opportunities to solicit unfiltered feedback. It’s important to put comments into context, but there is likely to be value in what is disclosed. A simple checklist can point out some major “pain points” such as non-competitive pay, benefits, commute time, or lack of opportunity for advancement and promotion. By developing a short list of the most frequent reasons why employees leave, an organization can then develop a plan of action to address concerns. Digging a little deeper may also disclose some interesting trends and patterns. For example:

  • Are there differences across departments, divisions, etc. in the organization?
  • Are there positions with exceptionally high turnover?
  • Do employees leave at about the same point in their time with the company?

There is also value in analyzing some internal employee demographics. For instance, identifying long-time employees who have consistently received high performance appraisals, but who have not been promoted, received bonuses, or received recognition for their accomplishments should signal a red flag.  If similar employees have cited a failure to acknowledge their contributions on the way out, this may be an opportunity to be more proactive. And, although there may be limited monetary resources, an opportunity to work-from-home on Mondays, for example, could be a tangible and inexpensive reward for work well-done.

A company should also be proactive in its approach with under-achievers. Why not focus on improving the ROI for those who received poor performance appraisals by offering training, placing them with a mentor, or by reassigning workload? In the long-run, savvy use of consistently collected measures can help to quantify issues. This, combined with other employee data, can better ensure talent managers develop their workforce and keep stars out of free-agency.


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The Tale of the Tape: What Gets Measured, Gets Done

Posted on December 1, 2014. Filed under: Assessment, Data, Evaluation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Imagine for a moment that you set a goal to lose some weight. Assuming that you even needed to shed a few pounds (more on this in a moment), you’d probably weigh yourself to determine a starting point, and choose a weight-loss goal for yourself to reach within a certain period of time. For the sake of example, let’s say that you plan to loose 20 pounds in 12 months. Now suppose that you had no plan in place for achieving your weight-loss target (such as a change in diet or more exercise). Then imagine that after the initial weigh-in, you went the entire year without getting on the scale to gage your progress.  Sounds impractical, right? But that’s exactly what takes place in many organizations from year to year, with no real movement toward achieving goals.

You’ll remember that in our scenario, we set out to loose 20 pounds over the course of a year. At face value, this seems very reasonable. As a personal goal, it may have resulted from a physician’s recommendation, or we may be looking to improve our health, lifestyle, or appearance. It would be very unlikely, however, that our doctor would recommend that every patient lose 20 pounds. And, it would be equally unlikely for every patient to want (or need) to lose that amount. This is true in business as well, where annual goals should emerge from clearly defined directives or organizational-specific needs, rather than from perceived trends or guess-work. Not every workplace will need to set yearly goals for diversity, engagement, or client satisfaction. However, a few key questions prior to goal-setting should include:

  • Is the goal consistent with an organizational vision or mission?
  • Has a Board directive identified the goal as a priority?
  • Is there data to support the scope and nature of the goal?
  • How will success be defined?

Assuming the goal is a step in the right direction, a plan should then include periodic checkpoints to measure progress. This is an opportunity to conduct a formative assessment in order to determine if adjustments to the strategies for achieving a goal need to be made. At this point, it may be time to refine the plan, but not the goal.

At the end of the time allotted to achieve the goal, a summative assessment is conducted. This will measure the extent to which the goal was achieved. Returning to the weight-loss plan, we can claim success if 20 or more pounds were lost, and we can set a new goal to lose more next year, or to maintain last year’s target weight. However, we can still find value in the process if we fell short of the goal. This value exists in knowing where we want to be, how we plan to get there (following some adjustments), and how we’ll eventually know when we’re “done.”

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