Published by The Bridgespan Group, March 28th, 2017, written by Kirk Kramer and Barbara Christiansen:
On average, one in four senior nonprofit executives will leave their organizations in the next two years. Their departures will leave a gaping hole that will result in months of lost productivity and will create a burden on organizational resources: recruiting and time spent looking for a replacement can nearly equal an individual’s salary depending on the position. Unfortunately, the retention rates at other managerial levels are no better.
What Is a Competency?
What it means: Most competency definitions refer to skills, capabilities (or abilities), and experiences (that create usable knowledge) that are required for individuals to do their jobs successfully.
How to use them: Defining what it takes to do a job successfully through competencies helps ensure organizations hire and develop the talent needed to succeed. For example, knowing what it takes to succeed enables organizations to write job descriptions that are very specific and helps in finding the right talent—internal or external—to fill the position. Similarly, knowing what it takes to succeed helps organizations assess individuals against relevant competencies and identify areas for development that will help them get more out of each individual.
Why are they leaving? Our research1shows that among the primary reasons is lack of development. Nonprofit leaders and managers believe that going elsewhere will help them grow faster than staying where they are.
To reduce these exits, nonprofits can create a talent management process that includes defining and using competencies that will help individuals grow in their roles and organizations. Competencies, when well-defined, identify those skills, capabilities, and experiences needed for staff members to perform their work today and to grow in the future. (Our article, “A Framework for Great Nonprofit Leadership,” shares more on how to approach defining leadership competencies.)
However, when ill-defined and wrongly applied, competencies can undermine key parts of the talent process. In our work with 50 nonprofits, we have witnessed four common mistakes organizations make when defining and using competencies.