I am not a Global Chief People Officer. Hart Square is not a workforce planning consultancy.
In this context, I write this article. It is based on observations of the sector this year: my personal and the practice’s experience of the UK non-profit workforce in 2022.
At its heart, this is an article about human beings and the choices they are making right now.
The world of work is ever-changing yet 2020 pumped the accelerator (or catch up) pedal. The pandemic ripped up the ways of working script. Brexit finally happened.
2021 was a latent, in-and-out, let’s-see-what-happens year in the sector.
What are the impacts now evident across our workforce? A personal, Hart Square perspective:
Our clients have been destabilised by the bounce-back of the careers market. Covid-19 was an economic crisis, yet not one driven by a failure of market capitalism. The job market recovered. Now, charities and non-profits are losing people to more competitive sectors, to organisations outside of Britain, to career breaks and early retirement.
Technology partners have been worse hit by this volatile destabilisation. It is a candidate’s market and the competition for digital technology professionals has exploded. Tech teams in the sector are shedding headcount and fighting hand over fist to replace good people. There has been a startling impact on the stability of implementation change.
Legacy systems and applications are being “sunseted” – targeted for their end of life – at even greater speeds than before 2020 and with tighter termination deadlines. In human terms, that seasoned single developer of that software package isn’t there anymore. They reskilled and moved teams, companies or sectors. Cue decommissioning notice to unprepared clients.
Workers are exhausted, still catching Covid, still recovering, some still dealing with the ravages of long Covid or grief through Covid lives lost, still context shifting ten Teams or Zoom calls per day with unruly kids, dogs, plants, lives in the background.
Work culture is fractious. In shed offices and table-top workstations up and down the country, focus returns to what you are wearing, what your screen background says about your work ethic.
Leadership teams toil over whether it is fiscally or ethically right or not to come back to work in buildings. Estates strategies battle openly with the health and wellbeing zeitgeist.
Where do the answers lie? A personal, Hart Square perspective:
Empathy – not soft sentiment, the practice of empathy in the workplace carries greater weight now. Work-life boundaries have shifted. As employers and colleagues we all have a common responsibility to understand others’ personal contexts, especially when it may be priming their next career choice.
Benefits – address, redress your benefits package where achievable for those joining, staying or considering leaving your organisation. The sector still has a lot to offer in competition with other sectors. It is the same for non-profit-facing tech companies with revenue and profit. We must compete.
Motivation – not a week passes when I do not name-drop Danial Pink and his book, “Drive”. Career motivation is driven by many hygiene factors. Stick-and-carrot, reward-and-punishment models are under major revision. Develop with your people what truly motivates them at work.
Sustainability – cultivate true, smart, data-driven workforce planning based on sustainability. You will lose people; you will have daunting horizons where demand overshadows delivery. It is the way with project change. Capacity management must be more thorough and realistic than ever before.
Flexibility – if you delve to the bottom of satisfaction surveys, 121 notes, appraisal feedback, chances are you will find people still craving more flexibility in how they work. A focus on deliverables versus time spent, in a flexible pattern of work, will protect you and your workforce.
We are in a strange worrying place with the sector’s workforce right now, especially the project-change workforce. Revolution or recovery, I want us to find a way through to the next steady period.
The rallying cry across the sector sounds much the same as with other fundamental challenges in recent years. We must understand and accept the change, be as smart as we can within our means, act faster than we think we need to put solutions in place that align with our core values.