How to hire great managers for your not-for-profit

Audience: HR/recruitment staff, CEOs of small orgs

Great managers are critical to an organisation’s ability to make an impact. They drive staff engagement, set the tone for the organisation’s culture, have a significant impact on staff retention and much more.

But what does a great manager or team leader look like on paper – or in an interview? And how can you ensure you’re hiring the right person – and not someone who’ll end up becoming a liability for a team or a whole department?

At the end of 2017 we asked our NFP People community that question, and received some excellent and useful advice from NFPs across the country – advice you can apply to your recruitment processes today.

So once you’re on top of the basics like:

. . . . here are four tips on how to recruit a great manager:

  1. Clearly identify the leadership and management qualities or style you’re looking for

Before you begin any recruiting, it’s important to start by clarifying what your ideal candidate looks like. That’s not just the ability to do the basics of the job, it’s also the level of experience, desired skills, behaviours, cultural fit and more.

After all, how can you expect to hire the perfect manager if you haven’t established the qualities that make the manager ‘perfect’?

Juhi McInerney from Mercy Health told us:

“Clearly identify what you’re looking for both in skills, behaviours and team/cultural fit. Getting the right person is more important than a deadline to fill the position – it will cost you less in the future. Recruiting the right person is the most valuable investment of time you will make,” Juhi said.

Nicole Rasmussen from yourtown also suggested having a clear understanding of what is expected of leaders and managers in your organisation – “your organisation’s ‘way of doing things’ and making judgement calls as a manager/leader”.

“Understand and be clear on critical competencies for the particular role – which ones are must-haves immediately, and which ones do you have the time and resources to develop?” she said.

Susan Solakovic from the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association also emphasised understanding your organisation’s culture, and what role this person will have in continuing or changing the culture:

“Are you trying to change the culture of the department or the organisation and is the manager or team leader going to be a change agent, or are they someone you want that will fit into the team environment and simply guide the ship on its course?” she said.

  1. Look for past success in – or potential to – manage others

Managing people is the most important thing a manager or team leader will do – and probably the most complex thing too!

When it comes to leading a team, a strong indicator of future success is past performance. So it’s critical to establish a candidate’s track record in managing people well.

Former national recruitment manager at Lifestyle Solutions Karen Gallacher noted that people-management skills and capabilities are “often overlooked or undervalued” when appointing managers, resulting in less-than-optimal outcomes.

“Appointing inexperienced, untrained managers in key operational roles often creates workplace conflict resulting in disharmony, poor morale, and an increase in performance management cases – and ultimately employees and/or managers leaving their role or company,” she said.

Having said that, Karen Shearer from UnitingCare Wesley Country SA emphasises that it’s still valuable to consider candidates that are new to management/leadership – especially internal candidates. But when doing so,

“It’s really important that they demonstrate their understanding of the difference between what they are currently doing and how that will change when they move into a more senior role”.

That means assessing how they would handle people-management challenges that they haven’t had to face before – as well as “also the higher expectation of reporting, strategy and overall responsibility.”

Spinal Life Australia’s for CHRO James Stone also suggests interview questions that show how the candidate has approached managing staff in the past. “Do they lead by example or do they micromanage? . . . Look for people who find solutions to problems rather then identifying issues and expecting others to fix them.”

  1. Consider using a candidate assessment tool to assess strengths and weaknesses

A candidate’s CV, selection criteria responses and responses to interview questions form a critical part of your assessment of them. But the information presented in these doesn’t always give a full indication of the candidate’s commitment, values, attitude and general work style.

Enter online candidate assessment tools. There are many of these, each testing different things for different roles. (We recently published a short guide to using them here.)

Karen Gallacher strongly favours using a test like this to measure candidates’ strengths and weaknesses:

“It is critical for successful matching of a candidate to a managerial role that the organisation completes an OPQ [Occupational Personality Questionnaire] or similar assessments to verify the attributes and traits of the candidate. I would also recommend thorough and in-depth reference and background checks be completed.”

While Uniting Prahran’s Jeremy Bonken also advocates for the use of these tests, with the caveat that “the use of psychometric testing can be helpful but only to inform initially – not as a deciding factor in itself.”

  1. Invite candidates to meet their manager – and also team members they’ll be managing

A candidate might be perfect on paper, but if they don’t gel with the team they’re tasked to lead, it’s going to be an uphill battle.

As such, a number of respondents suggested introducing the candidate to the team members who they’ll be managing during the interview process.

Anchor Inc’s Rebecca Mulvogue said:

“We provide a second informal interview for candidates to meet two other team members to ensure we find the best fit.”

“This allows employees to feel involved in the decision and able to share their thoughts with peers as to why the successful candidate will be an asset to the team before they walk in the door. It creates a feeling of trust in the new staff member as their peers have had a say in who would be the best fit.”

Uniting Prahran’s Jeremy Bonken suggests the selection panel should be comprised of both those the role reports to, and those who’ll be reporting to the role:

“The selection panel must include the manager or team leader the role reports to. It can also be greatly enhanced with a ‘client’ on the panel – the client being the recipient of the services provided by a leadership role – so this can include a team member or an actual customer,” he said.

A huge THANKS to everyone who contributed their perspectives on this topic!

We hope this post will be useful in hiring managers in your organisation. Got any more tips on how to hire an amazing manager? Let us know in the comments below!

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