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Your new relationship with talent

The past decade has been a wild ride for any of us who rely on human resources to drive the mission. During the recession, nonprofit employers were flush with ready talent, from sector-switchers laid off at corporate operations to young graduates hungry for any job. Today, we face a talent war: As we lose people to retirement, for-profit competition, and entrepreneurial or free-agent alternatives, attracting and retaining top talent has never been such a challenge.

That’s why we need to rethink talent management—the ways we recruit, onboard, engage, evaluate, and support the people we depend upon.

One element of talent management I’d like to challenge: the way we define talent. Most nonprofits use a single definition, like “leadership potential,” then invest in a narrow set of employees and skills. This approach neglects any other kind of talent, which might be just as valuable—like entrepreneurship, customer sales skills, and technical expertise, to name just three. If we continue to treat talent in terms of haves and have-nots, we ignore two vital facts: First, that we drive people away when we fail to invest in them, and second, that the whole point of hiring someone is to help fulfill their potential, whatever that may be, for the benefit of the mission.

One element of talent management I’d like to challenge: the way we define talent

Another crucial but often-overlooked factor is motivation: finding out what our employees value in the workplace. Though you may not be able to get to know each staffer individually, there are some simple questions to ask in your annual review that provide insight into staffers’ driving values. You’ll find that some are brand enthusiasts, who care deeply about culture and community. Others are career ladderists, motivated by recognition and the opportunity to shine. Planners value clear processes and communication. Nurturers appreciate guidance and thrive on opportunities to support others. A work experience that resonates with each of your people makes a powerful retention strategy, as it speaks to each employee’s deepest motivation.

GCN Membership supports your talent development strategy with learning events, held year-round, that challenge, inform, and build peer networks for professionals at any level. In the coming year, we hope you’ll use GCN’s tools—including two new initiatives, our new member CEO Forum series and Nonprofit University’s Development Institute—to hone the skills of your team. As always, we’ll give them plenty of ways to grow, connect with others, and share pride in our sector’s impact.

In this environment of talent scarcity, we need to be hyper-focused on understanding the talent we need, and what that talent wants, specifically, from us. Look to GCN as your talent development resource, and you’ll have a unique competitive advantage in your efforts to recruit and retain the best people. 

Karen Beavor is president and CEO of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.

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