Strategy, development & support for coalitions, associations, organizations and initiatives

It’s quite possible that the secret to employee retention is cute animal photos (they have been proven to make us more productive, after all). In case you are looking for other ideas, here is a joint post from Associates Carol Johnson and Andrea Torres.


We hear from our clients that one of the biggest issues facing nonprofit organizations right now is turnover. Although employees believe in the mission of their nonprofits, better salaries offered in the public and for-profit sectors are tantalizing and often necessary to manage the increasing cost of living in Austin.

Many nonprofits are paying attention and beginning to offer alternatives to increased compensation such as flexible work schedules and the ability to take pets to work. But we believe there is another more critical (if less obvious) benefit that keeps employees on the job – a good manager. This benefit, in particular is one that nonprofits must include if they are to remain competitive with other organizations and sectors in Austin.

Often individuals are promoted to management positions because they know how to do the work; they have mastered “hard” skills by attending a grant writing training or a conference in their issue area, for instance. At the same time, they are expected to know how to manage people, projects, and systems.  But often, they do not have a background or experience in management. These skills have to be learned. We have observed that when an organization invests in its managers, the organization thrives.

To be clear, this kind of investment in management skills is not simply a one-day training session on how to properly complete timesheets and employee evaluations. Rather, it is an in-depth investment in professional development that encompasses “soft skills” such as teambuilding, communication, and conflict management. It involves setting priorities for the work group and moving projects forward.  It includes utilizing and developing the talents and strengths of individual employees.

WNA has worked with a variety of executive teams and seen firsthand the importance of a strong management team to the overall success of an organization. Our firm is well-equipped to help guide your organization through the steps necessary to promote targeted professional development options for your staff. What can we do?

First, we can help you discover the individual talents of your employees and use them!  One reason that employees leave jobs is the belief that their manager doesn’t know, respect and utilize their talents. Psychologist Donald Clifton says: “People are not made with a cookie cutter. We are different. And when you begin to recognize that, then your whole world is different because you have to think about how do you engineer things to the talents of a person.”  WNA can also help managers assess the talents of their team through the validated tool, StrengthsFinder, to help a team better understand their strongest skills and how to use them.

In addition, we are available to help you develop the skills of your managers. Regular work sessions to plan and problem-solve are necessary to help managers grow. We coach managers in developing and presenting expectations and modeling behaviors. We also allow time for debriefing after group sessions – time that is critical to a manager’s self-knowledge and growth.

For many nonprofits, dedicating that amount of time is difficult. WNA is available to meet one-on-one with managers to provide coaching on how to better utilize the talents of their team members as well as help develop other skills, such as communication and project management that will help them be more effective in their capacity as managers.

In the end, promoting an investment in management skills and professional development isn’t just about offering a benefit to one person, it is about offering a benefit to the entire workforce.  A good manager has happy employees and happy employees will stay much longer than unhappy ones.

And here’s another cute animal photo as a reward for reading all the way to the end!

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About Us

Woollard Nichols & Associates is a consulting firm committed to nurturing social impact through strategy, development & support for coalitions, associations, organizations and initiatives.

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