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4 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement at Your Nonprofit

In a recent poll, we asked our nonprofit community on LinkedIn what one word they would use to describe nonprofit work. The majority (62%) said “fulfilling.” But many elaborated in the comments that at the same time, it can be difficult, exhausting, and often heart-wrenching. 

This creates a challenging balance for nonprofit leaders and HR professionals to manage in their teams. While employees may be inspired by their organization’s mission, if they feel overwhelmed and burned out by their work, their engagement is likely to slip—making them more likely to leave. 

Now more than ever, it’s vital to prioritize employee wellbeing and engagement. Studies show that many employees plan to look for a new job after the pandemic, with disengagement and burnout being cited as common reasons for wanting to leave. To help you support and retain your team, here are a few steps you can take to improve employee engagement. 

1. Be vulnerable to encourage discussion

No matter how supportive a manager is, it’s not always easy for employees to ask for help when they need it. They may be concerned that it will affect how their manager looks at them, or they might not want to let the team down. 

To combat this, nonprofit leaders and managers can practice vulnerability. By sharing a little about the challenges you’re facing, you can make employees feel more comfortable coming to you and discussing issues. That way, you can work collaboratively to find a solution, rather than only learning about the problem when an employee decides to leave.

2. Demonstrate trust by empowering decision-making

Part of being a supportive manager is knowing when to step back and let employees take the reins. When employees know they’re trusted to make decisions autonomously, their engagement can skyrocket and they can feel more in control of their workload.

To enable this, managers can focus on removing barriers and providing all the tools and resources employees need to do their best work—without being overbearing. As long as employees know they can turn to you if their workload become unmanageable, they’ll appreciate the opportunity to make decisions for themselves, and it may even drive greater innovation at your nonprofit over time.

3. Recognize achievements both big and small

Nonprofit work is rewarding in itself, but when employees feel like their efforts are going unnoticed, their engagement is likely to slip. Waiting for the annual performance review is not enough—managers need to actively champion employee contributions throughout the year. 

Tailor recognition to the achievement at hand. A small but meaningful act warrants a small but meaningful acknowledgment, like a heartfelt thank-you during a one-to-one. When employees achieve bigger goals or go above and beyond what’s expected of them, you might decide to publicly thank them in a teamwide email or ask a leader to give a shout out in an all-hands meeting. A simple thank-you can go a long way—and it can truly make an employee’s day.

4. Provide learning resources they can use at their own pace

Glint research shows that employees who see good opportunities to learn and grow at their organization are 3.6 times more likely to report being happy and 2.9 times more likely to say they expect to still be with their organization in two years. But to ensure that learning initiatives don’t feel like a burden, it’s important to provide employees with resources they can use to learn at their own pace, at a time that’s convenient for them. 

LinkedIn Learning can help with this. Employees can access thousands of expert-led courses whenever they want—and with classes being broken up into short, manageable sections, they can engage in microlearning, rather than feeling like they have to set aside hours every day. LinkedIn Learning also offers courses covering a range of wellness-related topics, such as mindfulness and stress reduction, making it a useful resource to support your employees’ overall wellbeing. 

Engage, support, retain

The past year has put extra strain on nonprofit employees. Showing your team that you’re grateful for their efforts and are here to support both their immediate needs and their long-term career goals can help you empower great work—and encourage them to stick around.

To learn more about how our Nonprofit Learning Solutions can help you drive employee engagement, reach out to our team today.