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Give and Take: Grow your own

If we're serious about growing our own talent let's start really looking at how we can create more opportunities

WHEN WE got the results of our salary survey this year it was clear that a number of respondent charities had taken their focus off talent management, and in particular the retention of talent. Retention of staff was only a key focus for just over a third of organisations, slipping from 58% the previous year. In fact over half stated that they simply weren’t focusing on retention. Perhaps we have more than enough to be thinking of in just keeping our ships afloat, or perhaps we have slipped into the trap of thinking in straightened times people tolerate with more dissatisfaction (the fear being that the alternative might be unemployment).

I also met two women recently both of whom have inspired and challenged me on issues of talent management. It got me thinking about what we should do as an organisation to not only talk the talk (encouraging others to focus on appropriate reward and recognition to keep good staff on side, motivated and giving you their very best) but to also walk the walk – leading by example.

The first is Karen Mattison, Co-founder of ‘Women like us’. She passionately and convincingly speaks on the talent we (employers) often overlook in women who have taken career breaks and returned to work by the assumptions we make and the traditional approaches to job structure. Our salary survey also reinforced our knowledge that more women work in junior roles and often have lower levels of career satisfaction. The challenge to our members is to consider how to use skilled experienced workers who choose to take junior roles, perhaps in the pursuit of better work life balance. Is this really delivering balance and mutual benefit or are we just failing to challenge stereotypes and provide realistic opportunities for more flexible and rewarding working?

The second inspirational woman was Rachel Whale, who runs Charityworks, a graduate scheme. I could admit to being initially a bit sceptical as to what a graduate scheme might achieve for us – that it might be something suitable for bigger charities. I was also concerned that it would it be assumed to be an excuse for cheap labour. Would it really provide an opportunity to attract new talent into the sector with the desire that values driven success can be grown from within and the sector offering a realistic career option?

Rachel outlined the scheme, how it dovetails into wider leadership initiatives and the benefits to organisation and graduate alike. Rachel challenged me to think about how we might be able to play an active part in talent management. Now I am no push over – I don’t just say yes to an interesting proposition but need to be convinced. But I did have to think hard to try to justify why we wouldn’t put our money where our mouth is and help raise our role and purpose in the consciousness of a talented graduate whilst at the same time benefiting from their enthusiasm, desire to learn and grow, values and drive.

This scheme enables us to support the nurturing of talent and potential future leaders, meets our workplace needs and exposes the next generation of sector talent to the vital role we play in raising the standards of charity finance. It doesn’t cost us much more (once we taken into account employment overheads) than if we’d gone to market for an employee either. From the graduate’s perspective they get a paid placement with intense support, mentoring and training, a probably like minded ready made peer group and exposure to a wide cross section of charities.

So my challenge to others – if we’re really serious about growing our own talent and hopefully seeing those who move between sectors taking with them values and social awareness that’s at the heart of our work then let’s start really looking at how we can create more opportunities – it just makes sense not only for charities but for the wider future workforce narrowing the gap between ‘for’ and ‘not for’ profit.

Caron Bradshaw is CEO of the Charity Finance Directors’ Group and blogs regularly for Financial Director

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