“Economic Turmoil is Exacerbating the Great Resignation.”—Forbes
“Youth Summer Employment at Lowest in Decades.”—WTOC-TV
“Long Waitlists for Afterschool Care as Programs Struggle to Find Workers and Demand Soars.”—Chicago Tribune
There has been a lot of coverage in the media recently of public and private sector staffing challenges. While some of these challenges are directly related to the COVID pandemic, it is also true that problems had been brewing for quite some time.
The pandemic has simply exacerbated trends that were already becoming apparent. For youth-serving non-profits, these challenges include:
- Increased competition for talent from paid internships and other career development opportunities
- Shifting youth attitudes to summer and part-time work opportunities
- Growing pressure to raise wages, as traditionally low-wage private sector jobs start paying more
Luckily, youth-serving non-profits are ideally placed to attract engaged, values-driven talent that’s looking for more than just a paycheck. Doing so, however, requires some intentionality and strategic thinking. Below are some tactics and strategies that non-profits can use to boost their recruitment.
Exploring Non-Traditional Talent Pools
High school- and college-age talent has traditionally been one of the backbones of entry-level hiring within the youth-serving space. Some organizations, however, are now looking at alternative communities and demographics to help broaden their pool of potential talent. This might include outreach to senior groups and retiree organizations, or it might mean implementing impact hiring strategies that remove barriers for traditionally marginalized groups—for example individuals with disabilities, parents looking to get back in the workforce, or, where appropriate and safe, citizens with non-violent criminal records. Civic organizations like Civitan Clubs, Rotaries and others can also be a great source of engaged, community-minded talent that may be looking for new ways to serve.
According to Paige Bagwell, Redwoods Chief Operating Officer, the key to making these impact hiring strategies work is to tailor your positions to the specific strengths, skills and needs of the people you are hiring:
“There’s a lot of value in recruiting from non-traditional talent pools, both in terms of growing your pipeline and also bringing in a more diverse set of perspectives and skills. It’s important, though, to be intentional about providing support that fits the needs of your employees. Are older recruits able to work the same amount of time or full day like others, for example? Are there specific skills they may need additional training on? Starting that conversation early is a big part of making impact hiring work.”
One effective way to reach non-traditional talent is to market heavily to people who are already taking part in your programming. By posting information about career opportunities at your facility, you can both reach candidates directly—and you may also reach parents, guardians or other relatives who may be seeking to guide the young people in their lives toward more rewarding career options. Other tactics to consider deploying include a letter-writing campaign to local high school students, for example, or launching a media plan to get local news coverage about the fact that you have positions open.
Marketing Your Positions to the Needs of Your Audience
It might sound obvious, but in a world where there’s growing competition for talent, we are all going to have to compete harder to win that talent. That’s why it’s important to remember that potential candidates will be scrutinizing your ‘career product,’ just as they might scrutinize a potential product purchase. Start by defining what your selling points are:
- Do you expect talent to come to your organization and stay for their entire career, or do they come for a couple of years and then move on to other opportunities?
- How does your organization contribute to employees’ broader career journeys, and make sure that you become a meaningful part of that journey?
- What do your ideal employees care about, and what are their values?
- How does your organization align with those values?
Once you have a clear picture of what you are ‘selling,’ you are much better placed to frame your job opportunities in a way that directly aligns with the interests and values of your audience.
Job postings can help set the tone for what is to follow. Rather than just focusing on duties or requirements, it’s important to emphasize the values that the position embodies, as well as the career benefits you are able to provide. Consider the two fictional job listings below: