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Creating a talent pipeline for your organisation

By Kate Maunder, TPP Consultant

TPP have just produced an infographic on employment in the voluntary sector (click here to see the full infographic).
One of the most interesting areas we looked at was at skills shortages in the third sector, particularly in fundraising, marketing and communications, IT, finance and HR.

Charityworks, the UK’s non-profit graduate programme, has also recently released research showing a concerning lack of talent development within the sector. While one in three of the charity leaders surveyed thought talent was the most important ingredient for success, over 80% said their organisation didn’t prioritise it highly enough. Two thirds expected their recruitment budgets to remain static or decrease in 2014.

As we’ve mentioned before, these talent shortages are likely to get worse in the future as competition for the best employees increases. So how can not for profit organisations ensure that new blood is coming in to the sector and ensure there are clear career paths for existing employees to stop people moving out of the sector? Below are some ideas to consider for your organisation.

Employ young people

The budget squeeze of recent years has made non-profits reluctant to hire for entry-level roles, which could potentially be done by volunteers. In fact, only 51% of voluntary sector employers recruited a young person aged under 25 in 2012, compared to 65% of private sector employers. However, this has helped contribute to the talent shortage as it decreases the pool of people to promote and means new blood is not coming in to the sector.

As well as helping create a pool of future charity leaders, there are other key benefits to employing young people. They can bring enthusiasm to an organisation and contribute new and fresh ideas. Entry level employees can also be more easily moulded into the ideas and working practices of their employer, making them valuable advocates and potential future leaders.

To find out more about bringing new people into your organisation, visit Charityworks or

Identify potential leaders

Promoting from within your organisation is one of the best sources of new managers, as it gives you a new employee already familiar with your working practices and committed to your cause, with a proven track record, but also keeps your best employees interested and motivate with the potential for promotion.

However, creating career paths for employees is not something the third sector does particularly well, and recent cuts in spending on training and development has only made this worse. Four out of five charity Chief Executives come from the private or public sector, showing an obvious lack of leadership potential from within non-profits.

To increase the potential for career advancement for your employees is a three-step process. You need to identify those people within your organisation who have the potential to become future leaders, look at the potential career paths for those individuals and then give them the opportunity to develop the skills required for leadership. Typical leadership capabilities include agility, judgement, cognitive diversity, anticipation and courage.

Embrace flexible working

More than two-thirds (68%) of the voluntary sector workforce are women but there are fewer women in senior management and there is still a substantial gender pay gap. It’s very important that charities do their best to stop these valuable and experienced employees leaving the sector, eg post maternity leave, and help them achieve the work-life balance they require.

One of the most attractive retention incentives to all employees is the ability to work flexibly, and this just becomes more attractive but also harder to achieve higher up the career ladder. 40% of charity employees already work part-time, and the third sector does already offer excellent flexible working opportunities compared to private sector, but there is always room for improvement – our 2012 flexible working survey found 15% of organisations still don’t offer any flexible working options at all.

​Look outside the sector

The biggest skill shortages in not for profits occur in those roles, such as fundraising, that do not have a direct equivalent outside the sector. However open they are to commercial candidates, charities are still reluctant to invest in employees who do not have a proven track record, which really narrows the pool of potential new staff in this area.

However, it is easy to concentrate too much on hard skills and experience, that can be learned on the job, at the expense of softer skills and personality traits, that are much harder to acquire. For example, Fundraisers do not necessarily have to have direct experience in fundraising, grant writing, etc, if they are skilled in relationship building, identifying prospects, producing collateral, giving presentations, or "making an ask”.

Commitment to the third sector and the organisation’s particular cause is also something that commercial candidates may find harder to demonstrate. Volunteer or trustee experience, or even a strong network of contacts in the sector, can be used as concrete evidence of commitment. Candidates from outside the sector also often bring in new skills and ideas and increase the diversity of your workforce. However, there are still challenges to overcome when attracting commercial candidates, eg around salaries.

Find out more about what tempts employees to transfer to the third sector.

Work more closely with your recruiter

Recent research has shown that jobseekers believe recruitment companies are the most effective way of finding out about job opportunities, so it’s important to work closely with your recruiter to make sure you don’t miss out on the perfect candidate.

Reputable recruitment consultants like TPP will be able to give you advice on benchmarking salaries and packages, identifying future talent and creating career paths, as well as supplying you with high quality staff to bring in the new skills you require. We work in long-term partnership with our clients and we like to make sure we have a thorough understanding of their working culture and practices. This helps us find candidates who will be able to grow and contribute to the organisation both immediately and in the long term.

As the demand for the best candidates continues to increase, they have more opportunity to pick and choose and longwinded or complicated recruitment processes can really put them off an organisation. At TPP we try to visit all of our clients so that we can assess their working environment in person and really get a feel for the organisation’s culture – this allows us to make really good matches that work on more levels than just the job description or person specification. We also like to keep in regular contact with our clients, so that we can offer candidates feedback on CVs or interviews and ensure they have a positive impression of your organisation.