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Jan 5Doug Smith

Job Dissatisfaction at Non-Profits

Jan 5Doug Smith

We have a lot of associations and other not-for-profit organizations in the DC Metro area. You might think that the people that work at those non-profits are happy with their lot, but an interesting research study from the non-profit staffing firm Professionals for NonProfits tells a different story.

Seven in ten non-profit employees in DC and New York categorize their jobs as either disappointing or only mildly. The research find differences in the what non-profit staff find most essential and what their organizations actually deliver.

Professionals for NonProfits CEO Gayle Brandel surveyed 1,600 employees of 501(c)(3)s in DC and 2,000 in NY for two reports with very similar findings. Respondents were asked to share the requirements they found “essential” in deciding whether to take or stay in a job. But in many cases, those essentials are not provided by their current employers. For example, the highest number of DC respondents (two-thirds) said respect, trust, and support by management was essential, but 43% said they did not feel they had that. About half said it was essential that office politics not get in the way of work, yet 75% said that they did interfere. Also in the top five for employees in DC was a compelling mission, a fiscally sound organization, a clear vision and direction from management, and benefits and salaries comparable to similar organizations.

At the bottom of the list of essentials for DC employees were things like casual dress, childcare and parental leave offerings, an attractive workplace, and flexible work schedule. Organizations had fairly high rates at delivering most of these things, but Brandel points out that it’s much easier for an organization to provide casual dress (which 69% of non-profits in DC do) than to create a culture of respect and trust. She tells us she was most surprised that staff diversity was not higher on the list of essentials, especially given all of the efforts in the sector to increase and bring attention to diversity. Nearly 80% of respondents said their organizations recruit staff with diverse backgrounds, but only 29% named staff diversity as essential. (However, 63% said it was highly or somewhat desirable.)

Brandel sees employee performance and engagement as a bottom line issue. In recent years, non-profit resources have become more limited and competition for talent more fierce, making it critical that organizations have the right employees performing at a high level. Brandel hopes the findings will reinforce the idea that management teams need to create cultures that are respectful and clear on direction and vision. At the heart of the issue, is good old fashioned communication. Over and over again, the study found people want open communication about where the organization is going and managers’ expectations for the job.

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