The top three areas of HR that Australian NFP organisations need to improve

Do you know what your staff are thinking?

Unless you do regular staff surveys, it’s likely that you don’t know exactly what concerns your staff have about how your organisation works, and what changes you need to make to improve your organisation’s culture, processes, and productivity.

So would you like to know?

As part of our annual survey of the community, we asked jobseekers who are currently working in the NFP sector to tell us what advice they’d give their current employer to “help improve the workplace, processes and practices in your organisation?”

Almost 1,000 people responded to the question – anonymously of course – and the results provide a fascinating insight into the state of NFP organisations through the eyes of their staff.

So here are the top three areas that NFP staff say that their employers – that’s you – need to improve:

1. Communication

Overwhelmingly, respondents named communication as the top area needing improvement in their organisations.

“Communication” covers a range of issues, from improving the top-down flow of information, to soliciting and listening to staff ideas and concerns, as well as fostering better communication between staff members.

For instance, one respondent said their organisation should “communicate with staff and actively seek the input of staff regarding decision making. [And] commit to responding to and embedding staff suggestions wherever possible/appropriate.”

Others said there needs to be more communication from leaders and managers “throughout the chain of command”, both about the organisation’s “strategic direction and information pertaining to people’s roles”.

More consistent feedback on staff performance was also raised as an area in which many not-for-profits are lacking.

Said one respondent: “Regardless of funding or position held, everyone deserves annual feedback on their performance, and a development plan should be in place to promote a sense of growth and therefore leading to a healthy, productive workplace.”

Other responses on this topic included respondents’ desire for organisations to “develop a culture of feedback”, provide “more personalised and specific feedback to workers”, and “bring any concerns management may have regarding staff and/or their practices to those concerned in a respectful way”.

Finally, one word which appeared in many responses was: listen. Listening is valuable to find out what matters to staff, and to find our what’s going right, and what’s going wrong. To let quote one succinct respondent: “Listen to the people on the floor doing the work. They know things.”

Listening is also the flipside to feedback, since research shows that the more you listen, the better people think you are at giving feedback.

2. Management styles and processes

A large proportion of respondents flagged the development of stronger leadership that’s more decisive, inclusive and transparent as a key piece of advice they’d like to give their employer.

The general sentiment can be summed up in one respondent’s answer: “Think and model leadership over management”.

Numerous respondents said their managers needed to learn to delegate better.

Frustration with micro-management was also mentioned a number of times, with many staff unable to find empowerment and autonomy in their work.

One respondent reasoned: “If you’ve hired competent staff and trained them appropriately, there is no need to micro-manage or put ridiculously rigorous checks in place. It is a huge capacity drain!”

Sadly, another said their organisation’s tendency towards micro-management made the workplace “a bureaucratic hell hole” where there’s “no autonomy, [staff] are treated like children and the general environment is nasty and unpleasant”.

Another respondent said they’d advise their organisation to “resolve the issue of executive staff undermining the employees they manage”. A surprising number flagged a desire to replace their organisation’s underperforming CEO.

A number of respondents also identified concerns with their managers’ lack of appropriate skills and qualifications, suggesting managers need training urgently – particularly when it comes to knowing how to do performance management.

3. Investment in HR

Finally, when asked to give advice to their employer to “help improve the workplace, processes and practices in your organisation”, many staff admitted they felt undervalued, unacknowledged and under-supported.

Some of the most challenging responses suggested some staff have completely lost faith in their organisations’ ability or willingness to change – though thankfully there were only a handful of these.

For instance, one respondent said: “There would be no point in ever imagining that such input would ever be invited, heard or taken into account”.

Another respondent said something similar: “I would not give them any advice as they have previously shown they are incapable of any change that benefits their employees”.

Others expressed frustration with their organisation’s inconsistent treatment of staff. One respondent said their organisation needs to start “treating permanent and casual staff equally and providing them with similar training”, while a number of others mentioned addressing the presence of favouritism, nepotism and double standards.

A number of respondents identified that the problem was a lack of investment by their employer in HR staff and practices.

Wrote one: “Get some good HR in and give them the ability to work on the Human Resources and develop employees rather than just carry out payroll tasks. Good [HR] policy design and implementation would also assist the processes and practices.”

Another suggested: “Get an HR department. Workplace bullying needs to be addressed.” And another: “Employ proper HR people. Give managers better training.”

So there it is – a relatively simple formula (in theory at least!):

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Tell staff as much as possible what’s going on in the organisation; give them regular feedback about their performance; and listen to what they have to say in return.
  2. Manage better. Train managers to be empathetic, delegate more, stop micromanaging, and think about the bigger picture (ie: leadership) more.
  3. Invest in HR. More HR staff and clear policies and processes will help to address bullying, unequal treatment of staff, and make staff feel like their perspectives are heard.

So do you reckon these staff have it right? Please let us know if you agree – or disagree – in the comments below.

Image: Flickr/UKODI

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Name *
  • Website