5 Budget-Friendly Ideas to Guarantee Happy Employees - Charity Savant

5 Budget-Friendly Ideas to Guarantee Happy Employees

Let’s face it. Our sector could use some help when it comes to employee retention.

A 2013 (US) survey found that charities experienced a 17% turnover rate, and 90% of charities lacked a formal retention strategy for their employees.

Aside from retirement, turnover rates also include termination and resignation. There are lots of reasons for termination and resignation, but the reality is our sector faces some unique challenges. Burnout, vicarious trauma, unmet expectations, worrying your position will lose its funding, and the need to earn a higher income are just a few.

With limited funds, the cost of replacing employees can make a significant dent in a charity’s wallet. It can cost anywhere from 30-50% of an entry level person’s salary to replace them, not to mention how much we spend when an Executive Director moves on.

You might be thinking that you don’t have the budget to implement an effective strategy. It’s true that some of the bigger ticket items, like a benefits package or a matched retirement fund, are quite effective. But they’re also out of reach for most charities.

Employee retention plans don’t have to be hard, and they don’t need to cost a lot of money. A little creativity and appreciation can go a long way. Here are some budget friendly ideas you can swipe for your retention plan:

1. Find ways to recognize employees for their contributions, especially if they’ve gone above and beyond.

This doesn’t necessarily mean financial bonuses (though if you can afford it, why not?). You could thank them at your next staff meeting, highlight them in your newsletter, give them a day off to recognize their hard work, or take them out to lunch. Recognition doesn’t always need to be a grand gesture – it’s really the little things that add up.

2. Celebrate milestones.

Have you ever worked at an organization that didn’t throw a baby shower for a mom-to-be, or regularly forgot about birthdays and work anniversaries? You really can feel the disconnect between the Executive Director and the frontline staff. Celebrating these milestones with your senior leadership present shows that your organization cares. And give people their birthdays off. Who really wants to celebrate another year older with grocery store cake in the lunchroom anyway?

3. Make your organization’s values felt every day.

Most people are drawn to work in charity because of their values, and look for organizations whose values line up with their own. But sometimes a charity’s values and actions are in conflict. Are you a feminist organization that doesn’t cover birth control in your benefits plan? Is collaboration one of your values, but your departments are highly siloed? Make sure your organization practices what it preaches. Your employees will notice.

4. Most of us use exit interviews to gauge job satisfaction.

But stay interviews can go a long way in employee retention. Once a year, ask your staff what makes them get out of bed and what they would change about their job or the organization if they could. Makes sure staff feel safe enough to express themselves, and you’ll get some great insight. And do something with the information you gather – you may be able to address challenges before your best staff resign.

5. Foster employee development by setting clear expectations.

Even though we all wear multiple hats in our sector, everyone should have clear job description, regular supervision, and performance evaluations. With these in place, supervisors can support staff through their goal setting and work with them on their development plan.


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