“Nonprofits have an advantage, right?”

25 Jan

In no less than three separate occassions I’ve heard this comment when it comes to employee engagement. In each case the author was assuming that because a nonprofit had an “important mission” of service to one cause or another that employees would be more engaged because they felt so passionately about the mission. Makes sense, right?

Our research concludes otherwise. To be sure, there are some nonprofits that do an outstanding job of engaging their employees, and one asset they can tap into is the cause to which they aspire. But we see many for-profits that do an outstanding job engaging employees, and when you hear their employee comments it’s clear they too feel they are “on a mission”, often of serving customers or creating a great place to work.

I can also tell you we have studied many nonprofits who, in spite of their cause and mission, have employees who are anything but engaged. The culprit for the absense of engagement is the same as it is anywhere– poor leadership.

Lesson learned? Engagement is a function of the quality of leadership, or lack thereof, within an organization. Nonprofit or for-profit, public or private, global giant or local business– none of these monikers necessarily brings with it an engaged workforce. Today let’s commit ourselves to considering this question– what can we do to create a better place of work for ourselves our our team?

2 Responses to ““Nonprofits have an advantage, right?””

  1. Bill Morrison January 30, 2009 at 6:00 am #

    This one hits hard for us right now. There is a void in several key areas of leadership that, in my opinion, unless leadership changes are made, the voids may not be able to be filled. I don’t necessarily believe in hiring good employees who will simply follow for no other reason then they want to be led, versus hiring great employees who will lead when necessary and follow when the situation dictates. As Jim Collins states, “First Who . . . then What” Right?

  2. markhirschfeld January 30, 2009 at 12:49 pm #

    Thanks for your remarks Bill. In these difficult times we will need to create a leadership that will fully engage our employees AND have employees who will respond to that leadership. There are really two kinds of engagement: engagement that is led by management and self-engagement of an employee– we need big doses of both right now.

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