Jump-start your staffing strategy: Three steps toward a plan

Written by: Stephanie Hodge
Published on: Mar 14, 2018


It’s been said that a nonprofit’s greatest assets are its people – which is why they require just as much thought, planning, and care as any other resource. To get the right people in the right roles at the right time, you need a strategy. That begins with three questions:

  • Where are we going as an organization?

  • What skills does the organization need to get there?

  • How will we develop HR strategies to develop or acquire those skills, given circumstances within the organization and in the greater environment?

The answers to these questions must tie into the overall strategic plan – if your HR plan doesn’t  align with your strategic goals and activities, then you aren’t really planning. In brief, here are the three steps you’ll need to take in order to design a comprehensive set of  HR strategies.

  1. Assess your current HR capacity. First, you need to determine if you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities (known in the HR world as KSAs) on-hand to pursue your strategy and meet your goals. Taking a KSA inventory is easier than you might think. Depending on the systems you have in place, you might be tracking data that will fill you in; if not, you might ask managers to briefly assess their reports, ie., “List three strengths of each employee you manage.” Consider what’s feasible.

  2. Forecast HR needs. Given the goals you’ve established in your strategic plan, who do you need to achieve them? In addition to skill sets, account for the number of people and type of positions it will take. Say your goal is to open up a new facility: You’ll need a real estate expert to acquire it, a facilities manager to oversee it, program managers to deliver services, and perhaps more.

  3. Identify the gaps. Comparing your capacity assessment with your needs forecast, identify the KSAs you have on-hand with the KSAs you need. Pay special attention to each employee’s strengths relative to their positions, and don’t hesitate to reassign them if it will better leverage their talent. If new employees are needed, consider the management burden: Do you have enough people to oversee them? Do your recruiting and hiring processes need streamlining to meet your timeline?

Once you know what you need, you’ll be able to develop sound HR strategies for finding the right talent, managing performance, keeping people engaged, and earning loyalty over the long-term. A few points to keep in mind:

  • Acquiring the right talent requires consistency in your recruitment and screening process, casting a wide net, and communicating the unique benefits of a position with your organization.

  • Performance management is a matter of providing clear standards and feedback that goes beyond formal, once- or twice-a-year reviews, and highlights the positive more than the negative.

  • Compensation should make the most of your resources, going beyond base pay: Consider health coverage, retirement plans, vacation, talent development, opportunities to advance, flexible scheduling, and paid leave to pursue volunteer opportunities.

Stephanie Hodge is the CEO and principal consultant at Essex Consulting, providing HR and business solutions, and a trainer for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.