How senior leaders can support junior staff in the charity sector

9 minutes
Diane Duberry

By Diane Duberry

In the world of charitable organisations, the energy and commitment of junior staff members can be key drivers of progress and innovation. These passionate individuals bring fresh perspectives and enthusiasm, serving as the backbone of impactful causes. Yet, their potential can be further enhanced through the guidance and support of experienced senior leaders.

Implementing practical strategies that foster the growth of the next generation of changemakers is vital for the charity sector, not least due to ongoing staffing challenges like a scarcity of talent and an ageing workforce. By prioritising the development of your junior talent, your charity’s senior leadership team can expect a range of advantages, from higher staff retention to building a pipeline of future leaders. 

In this guide, we’ll explore why it’s so important for senior executives to support junior team members, the challenges early-career professionals may face in the charity sector, and 5 cutting-edge strategies your organisation can implement to develop your junior talent. 

The Importance of Senior Executive Support 

The importance of nurturing junior talent in the charity industry cannot be understated, not least due to ongoing issues like high staff turnover rates and an ageing workforce. According to the NCVO, the voluntary sector has an older workforce than the public sector, with one in four staff aged 50 or above. As the older cohorts of charity workers leave the profession, it is imperative for organisations to recruit and develop junior professionals with the skills to drive long-term success. 

By hiring high-quality and ambitious junior candidates, you’ll be well-positioned to future-proof your organisation against the charity sector’s recruitment challenges. Junior team members can also offer diverse perspectives, significant intellectual capital, and an in-depth knowledge of how to leverage modern technology to further a charity’s cause. Bringing in the passionate and drivenbest and brightest junior staff is vital, and that’s why your senior leaders should go the extra mile to provide them with the support they need to thrive. 

Joining a new organisation can be a somewhat daunting experience, particularly for early-career professionals with little background in the charity sector. Supportive leadership positively impacts new recruits, boosting staff morale, productivity, and professional development. In fact, a poll by Gallup, which included almost 4,000 of junior and mid-level professionals, found that 68% of people with positive leadership role models claimed to have fulfilling careers. 

What Issues Do Junior Staff Members Face in the Charity Sector? 

The first step in developing an effective support plan for junior staff is to thoroughly understand the issues that early-career professionals face in the charity sector. Working for charities and non-profit organisations is certainly a rewarding experience, but there are various challenges that may prevent junior talent from fulfilling their potential in the sector.

The Ultimate List of Charitable Giving Statistics for 2023 found that a large proportion of those involved in charitable giving are millennials - a finding that reveals that there’s a significant number of younger professionals who are willing to engage with the voluntary sector. To tap into this pool of talent, it is crucial for senior leaders at charities to acknowledge and address the pain points they may encounter when entering the charity sector. 

Let’s explore the key challenges junior staff members in charity jobs typically have to contend with: 

High Workloads

A key problem that many junior charity workers experience is being given too much responsibility involving high workloads and extensive hours. This common problem can be caused by various factors, such as limited staffing levels and an increased demand for services. 

Limited Training and Development

Another common problem is the general lack of training and development programs. While there is some research that indicates more organisations in the third sector are prioritising staff development, limited opportunity for nurturing skills is an ongoing issue that charities must do more to overcome. According to our salary survey, 61% of charity workers stated that their role doesn’t offer adequate progression and development opportunities. 

Emotional Stress 

By its very nature, charity work can be emotionally taxing. Staff often have to deal with sensitive issues and witness hardship, duties which may be especially challenging for younger team members. Compassion fatigue and emotional burnout are incredibly debilitating, and senior executives need to implement strategies to help junior staff manage emotional stress. Fortunately, there is evidence to suggest that management teams are doing more to support staff mental wellbeing, with 74% claiming to feel supported by their leadership team. 

Feeling Undervalued

Feeling undervalued or underappreciated can be damaging for junior members, so it is crucial that senior leaders put systems in place to ensure that their contributions are acknowledged and celebrated. Establishing inclusive and open communication channels with new recruits is one such way to foster a culture of recognition. 

Attracting and retaining exceptional talent for charity sector jobs can be difficult, especially given charity recruitment issues like limited funding, skills shortages, and above-average turnover rates. When employees can have higher-paying equivalent roles in other sectors, the charity sector faces losing best talent if salaries are not addressed. TTo learn more about how to overcome these issues and motivate employees to remain at your organisation, read our ‘How to Retain Talent in the Charity Sector’ guide. 

Key Strategies For Supporting Junior Talent 

As we alluded to earlier in this guide, enriching the talents of junior professionals in the charity sector offers numerous benefits. Early-career professionals are able to provide innovative ideas and fresh perspectives while contributing to fostering a thriving workplace culture that attracts more top talent. Without proper support for junior talent, your organisation may risk losing out on all of these key advantages. 

Failing to nurture younger team members may also result in a lack of preparedness for future leadership roles. If top-quality junior employees decide to leave your charity due to a lack of support, you could struggle to fill key positions with internal candidates, leading to increased hiring costs and potential leadership costs. Other consequences associated with neglecting junior talent include diminished innovation, reduced employee engagement, and a less attractive employer brand. 

Here are the most effective strategies that senior leaders should adopt to support junior talent: 

1. Outline Clear Career Paths 

Providing junior staff with a well-defined career path is pivotal for their professional development within an organisation. By setting achievable goals that correspond with a bespoke progression plan, you’ll equip them with the motivation and incentive they need to remain a loyal team member. You should also ensure that the career path you give them is closely aligned with your charity’s mission and goals; this way, they’ll feel that their contributions are making a meaningful difference. 

Transparency in career progression can be a deciding factor in a candidate’s choice to join an organisation. This is particularly the case among younger workers in the early stages of their professional careers, with a survey from Lattice indicating that 37% of Generation Z employees and 25% of Millennial employees actively seek job opportunities that offer detailed career pathways. These statistics highlight the important connection between outlining transparent career plans and retaining exceptional junior talent. 

To create career path plans that lay out what junior employees need to do to progress, senior executives should follow these best practices: 

  • Evaluate the junior employee’s skills, long-term goals, and ambitions.
  • Define professional goals and establish measurable milestones to track progress and growth. 
  • Identify the key skills that employees need to nurture to advance to the next stage of their progression plans.
  • Provide resources such as workshops and training programs to help junior talent enhance their skills.

2. Create a Culture of Open Communication

Creating a culture of open communication is essential for any organisation, and charities are certainly no exception. Younger professionals, in particular, respond very well to professional environments where two-way dialogue and feedback are encouraged. A failure to facilitate effective communication with your junior talent may reduce their motivation, engagement, and willingness to stay at your charity. 

An analysis of the trends among employees aged 16 to 24 found that 68% cite poor internal communication as a valid reason for leaving an organisation. From this finding, we can surmise that the majority of Generation Z professionals value transparent communication and in-person interactions, viewing them as the cornerstone of a healthy work environment. 

With communication channels between your senior leaders and junior talent, your charity can look forward to competitive advantages like reduced staff turnover, increased innovation, and better problem-solving abilities. Organisations should bear in mind that establishing a culture that champions communication starts at the top, and senior executives are responsible for setting an example. They can do this in a number of ways, including: 

  • Creating opportunities for regular communication via team meetings, one-on-one meetings, and employee surveys. 
  • Utilising multiple communication channels like social media, in-person meetings, and email correspondence to reach junior staff.
  • Maintaining a respectful and inclusive tone that makes all junior talent feel welcome.

3. Offer Mentorship Programs 

Senior leaders can play a fundamental role in supporting the growth and development of junior-level talent by establishing and actively taking part in mentorship programs. Their involvement in mentorship schemes can be beneficial for new recruits at the early stages of their career, as they can draw on their expertise to provide invaluable guidance and insights. By having regular interactions with an established and experienced member of the team, junior employees have a greater chance of enhancing the skills necessary for progression. 

Here are the essential components that your mentorship program should include: 

  • A clearly defined purpose and a list of measurable goals for mentors and mentees.
  • A structured program framework that outlines the duration of the mentorship, communication channels, and the regularity of meetings.
  • A matching process that considers the interests, goals, and personalities of mentors and mentees.
  • A feedback mechanism that evaluates the progress of the mentorship.
  • Continuous support to address challenges and offers guidance on how to make sure that relationships continue to be productive.
  • If your organisation is relatively small, you could utilise external mentoring opportunities.  

Another key advantage of mentorship programs is that they have the potential to boost employee retention. There is significant research indicating that there is an inextricable link between providing mentorship to junior staff and lower turnover rates. For instance, one study found that retention rates are far higher among those who participate in mentorship schemes: 22% for mentees and 20% for mentors. 

4. Recognise and Reward Achievements 

Leadership teams that acknowledge and reward their staff for their accomplishments typically enjoy impressive employee retention and satisfaction rates. Employee recognition can dramatically boost staff morale and productivity, especially among junior charity workers who routinely deal with difficult issues. According to Quantum Workplace, organisations with recognition programs have a 31% better talent retention rate than those without. 

There are many ways to recognise and reward the achievements of your junior talent, such as: 

  • Public Acknowledgment: Public recognition of an employee’s accomplishments is an ideal way to help them feel valued. You could showcase their achievements in team meetings, organisation-wide emails, or newsletters. 
  • Incentives: Offering incentives like additional leave days, volunteer opportunities, and access to exclusive benefits can be a great way to highlight your staff’s achievements. 
  • Peer-to-Peer Recognition: Senior leaders should encourage a culture where team members vocally acknowledge each other’s contributions, whether it be at a team meeting or via an employee recognition and rewards platform. 
  • Personalised Recognition: Everyone has their preferred method of receiving praise, and personalising recognition to suit each employee’s unique preferences shows that you care about everyone’s needs. Some may enjoy public recognition, while others will appreciate a personal thank-you note.  

5. Promote Diversity and Inclusion

Going above and beyond to foster a diverse and inclusive environment is a great way to support junior talent. Analysis shows that Generation Z and Millennial talent highly appreciate diverse workplaces, viewing robust EDI policies as a necessity in the modern workplace. A study by RippleMatch shows that 75% of Generation Z employees consider an organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion before deciding whether to apply. 

Inclusive workplace cultures create a sense of belonging and acceptance, which can help junior employees to feel welcomed. If your junior talent feels truly valued, they are much more likely to remain at your charity. Let’s examine the key methods you should follow to strengthen your organisation’s dedication to diversity: 

Creating Advancement Opportunities for Diverse Candidates 

Creating clear pathways to leadership for individuals from diverse backgrounds is crucial for charitable and nonprofit organisations. These pathways should be transparent and actively communicated to attract talent from underrepresented groups who seek inclusive career advancement opportunities.

Fair and Open Compensation and Benefits Structures

Offering fair and transparent compensation and benefits packages is essential. Recognising the value of diverse perspectives and experiences through equitable pay and benefits can serve as a strong incentive for candidates from underrepresented backgrounds to consider joining your organisation.

Addressing and Accommodating the Needs of Diverse Staff 

It's important for organisations to accommodate diverse needs. Recognising that candidates may have unique personal or family circumstances, providing flexible work arrangements and support systems that prioritise work-life balance can help attract exceptional diverse talent.

Senior Leaders Supporting Junior Staff in Charities: Key Takeaways

The development of junior talent is paramount in the charity sector. Senior leaders must support and guide early-career professionals, all while acknowledging and addressing their challenges. This guide delved into 5 key strategies for this support: clear career paths, open communication, mentorship programs, recognition of achievements, and promoting diversity.

Investing in junior talent not only tackles staffing challenges but also fosters innovation and inclusivity. By nurturing these individuals, organisations ensure a vibrant future for the charitable sector. Senior leaders' commitment to developing young talent is an investment in long-term success and resilience.

Our Commitment to Charity Recruitment 

As specialists in charity recruitment, we go above and beyond to connect outstanding talent with exciting and fulfilling charity jobs. Our dedicated consultants have a proven track record of matching high-quality job-seekers with charities and non-profit organisations throughout the UK. We have been providing market-leading hiring solutions since 1996, and you can count on us to give you a swift and stress-free recruitment experience. 

Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can support your career goals or staffing needs. 

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  • TPP Recruitment, Northern & Shell Building, 4th Floor, 10 Lower Thames Street, London, EC3R 6AF