Katie Bouton is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub and the founder and president of Koya Leadership Partners, a nationally recognized executive search firm committed to collaborating with nonprofit organizations to recruit and retain exceptionally talented and diverse professionals who can make a lasting impact. With over 18 years of experience as an organizational development professional, Katie has worked collaboratively with founders, boards, and donors to deepen the impact of today’s most pioneering mission-driven organizations.
Resignations often happen when we least expect it, and when they come from senior leaders, it’s perceived as a significant loss for the organization. The announcement that a senior leader has decided to move on often results in a mix of negative emotions for many of the employees left behind: Stress, worry, and even panic, especially for those who are responsible for finding a replacement. Many questions arise: How much of my time will go into finding a replacement? Who will be responsible for the work when this person leaves? How long will it take to find a replacement? How will the loss of this individual affect our nonprofit organization?
If all of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. According to a 2013 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey by Nonprofit HR Solutions, the more senior the position, the longer it takes to find a replacement—with the majority taking more than 91 days. Nonprofits also experience difficulties in finding qualified staff who fit the organization’s particular requirements and salary level, the study said.
Here are six steps your nonprofit can take to limit anxiety and prepare for a successful and efficient senior hire:
1. Don’t Panic
The most important thing to remember after receiving news of a resignation is to take a deep breath. A senior-level vacancy can be stressful, and it often seems like the best course is to immediately fill it. But acting hastily to fill the open position may not be in your best interest. Instead, consider this an opportunity to step back and evaluate goals, responsibilities, qualifications and team structure while also being thoughtful and deliberate about what you really need in the role. Taking the time to truly scope out the role rather than just assuming you need to simply copy what you previously had, will set you up for a successful, or even transformational, hire.
2. Look Within
Review the depth of your bench to ensure you have an accurate picture of your internal talent landscape. Begin with an audit of the talent within your organization, making note of any missing competencies and characteristics on the leadership team so you can take advantage of this opportunity to round out your team. Do you have a people motivator on your team? Do you have an effective communicator? Is there someone who instills optimism? Who carries and strengthens your culture? An internal audit can also help determine if there is a high performer within your organization who may be ready to step up.
3. Speak to Key People that Interacted with the Departing Team Member
Find out what worked and what didn’t work. Give employees an opportunity to voice their thoughts on what qualifications and attributes they’d like this new hire to possess. This goes a long way toward building support for an inclusive process and may also give you some additional insight into the best profile for the role.
4. Benchmark the Salary of the New Position
Don’t assume you can just pay the same level of compensation you’ve been paying up until now. Salary ranges change over time. Make sure you’re presenting a compelling role with a compensation package that reflects market realities.
5. Compare the Language in Your Job Announcement
Compare your organization’s announcement to other job announcements seeking a similar candidate. Make sure yours is similar and competitive. Position your organization as the employer of choice by stating clearly why it’s a role candidates should want and why your nonprofit is a great place to work.
6. Be Thoughtful About the Interview Process
Map out your entire interview process long before you actually start interviews. Make sure that you’re including all of the necessary stakeholders without overwhelming candidates, determine how many rounds of interviews you want to conduct (3-4 is a good target), and who will be involved in each round. Decide if there will be an assessment exercise and prepare it well ahead of when you need it so you can get input from others on the team. Then review the entire process with everyone on your interview team to ensure that there is consistent understanding.
Follow these steps to ensure the new hire is in line with your organization’s mission and strengthens your nonprofit for years to come.