Burnout is one of those topics that it seems like we talk about often, but at the same time, don’t seem to do much about. One of our theories? We’re always trying to stem burnout once its already happened.
Our suggestion? Begin employing employee engagement strategies that encourage and help create safety nets to prevent burnout from even happening. Below are a few of our favorite strategies:
Skip the nonprofit holiday luncheon and instead serve a luncheon at a shelter. Let’s be honest, most nonprofit holiday parties will never rival the resources for profit counterparts have to create exorbitant gatherings, so instead, focus on what brings your employees to your workplace in the first place – meaning. One of the most powerful experiences we’ve seen was a team that took the afternoon before thanksgiving to provide all the fixings to one of the nonprofit’s client families. All participation was optional for employees but in the end, everyone showed up, and several employees went above and beyond to purchase gifts from their own pockets and recruit friends for photography and musical entertainment to enrich the experience.
Take a cue from facebook. Allow your employees to take a little time to think creatively. You’ll be surprised – these unstructured moments actually tend to result in process improvements and efficiency updates.
Encourage mentorship. If you are able to create a formal mentorship program, that’s great. But there’s plenty of ways senior leadership can lead by example and encourage more seasoned employees to take time with newer employees. There are also a number of great mentorship programs for nonprofit employees, they include: the Center for Nonprofit Success, and some chapters of the Young Nonprofit Professional Network and Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy.
Don’t force social interactions, but leave space for them to develop. Many nonprofits are heavily staffed by recent college graduates. For example, if you’ve just finished an event, don’t force clean up immediately or kick anyone out of the space. Instead, let team members connect, reflect, and if there happen to be half-full bottles on wine left from the event, it can’t hurt to share them with the team to toast a great event with a glass of wine (of course, while being age appropriate and sensitive to any employee policies or potential mission clashes).
A great boss once shared this wise advice, “nonprofits may not be able to give the salaries employees deserve, but there are a number of free/low cost ways for nonprofits to ‘compensate’ employees.” Her number one suggestion? A title change to recognize exemplary employees. Other suggestions include: allowing employees flexibility on their schedules (within reason), providing occasional half days or days where you allow your employees to leave an hour or two earlier (without creating a pattern and thus expectations), and of course, upgrading their real estate to a larger or better located cube/office.
Promote opportunities to meet peers. Being new to a nonprofit, let alone the nonprofit world, can be isolating. By making relationships with others across other organizations, it creates opportunities to learn from each other, possibly collaborate, and of course, vent when needed in a safe space.
Stay tuned for our second part of this blog post with additional tips and strategies to prevent burnout next week!
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