Skip to main content

We all know it can be difficult to attract and retain talent in the for-purpose (not for profit) sector. Salary levels, career progression and professional development issues are all too familiar; meaning, purpose and ‘making a difference’ can only go so far. There are however, many incredibly talented people dedicating themselves to creating impact. So what works?

We’d suggest considering the following 5 key areas to help you find and retain great people.

  1. The ‘personal why’. How often do you really know the genuine reason why someone joined your organisation? Why someone wants to join your organisations is critical. Simon Sinek’s ‘golden circle’ framework explains it well and this can be applied to an individual’s why, as well as an organizational one. Sinek talks about inspiring leaders who focus on why you do something, not what you do it and how you do. So when you hire someone, focus on their personal purpose and motivations as to why they want to join your organisation and ensure their personal why matches the organisation’s purpose.
  2. Your purpose. So you’ve checked the candidates ‘personal why’ but are you really clear on your organisation’s purpose? Any mission drift occurred recently you can put your finger on? No? Really? Make sure EVERYONE from your organisation (including the board) are clear on why your organisations exists – you need to give a consistent message.
  3. Follow a process when a hiring. There are well defined good hiring processes which include:
    – clearly defining the role, skills and behaviours you desire so expectations are clear
    – casting your net wide to find someone (don’t just hire someone because someone knows someone and it’s a quick fix),
    – have several people meet them to see if the cultural fit is right, and
    – ensure you ask probing and relevant questions.
    So follow the process, don’t short cut it; invest in your most valuable assets.
  4. Flexibility. The best people working in the for-purpose sector understand that they don’t have “a job”; They have responsibilities and an overarching why. Think of it this way: if an air traffic controller said, “I did my tasks correctly today” but the airplanes crashed, would that be good enough? The right people focus less on the task list and more on the outcome for which they are responsible (e.g. getting the airplanes up and down safely).
  5. Creativity. Look for people who think outside the box and can be proactive in finding solutions. The for-purpose sector needs to be creative to do so much with so little.

Purpose is the new black. The for-purpose sector has once compelling advantage over traditional commercial business, in that they can offer direct connectivity to purpose. Purity of mission has the power to ignite passion, and commitment. But it needs the good practice to go with it to truly make it successful. A perfect balance of head and heart.

Rachael McLennan
Executive Director at People for Purpose

Stephen Penny
Founder of Good Foundations