It seems that every conversation I have with nonprofit leaders turns to hiring. Like our for-profit counterparts, we're seeing unprecedented challenges in the labor market. You are familiar with Jim Collins and his focus on having people in the right seats on the bus. Today, nonprofits are scrambling just to fill the bus, even when those who fill seats may not be in the ideal spot long-term. As you consider partnerships or move forward with integration, be sure you and your partner are aligned and have considered these components of an effective personnel plan:

  • Are your salaries in line with each other and competitive in today's market? In any labor market, a partnership requires the exchange of salary information and an agreement on how to handle any discrepancies in pay schedules. While some organizations may do an immediate upgrade for positions to be sure they are equitable, others phase them in. Whatever you do, be sure to communicate it clearly and explain the "why" behind your decision. If you have not reviewed your salary schedule for a while, it may be time to upgrade starting salaries, especially for entry level positions.

  • Have you considered the impact of bringing on new staff at the high end of the range when current staff may be on the low end? In a field where unrestricted resources are scarce, it's not as simple as raising salaries across the board. Communicating a plan to review and upgrade existing salaries can be critical to keeping staff from leaving to pursue other opportunities.

  • Can you both articulate a clear compensation philosophy, and are they aligned? If not, spend time early on reaching an agreement. Things to consider include your philosophy and practices regarding merit-based raises, cost-of-living adjustments and other opportunities for salary adjustments, benchmarking for positions, the use of signing or retention bonuses, and the schedule with which you review salary data and make adjustments to your ranges.

  • Nonprofits have begun using the signing bonus, a tool that is historically associated with the corporate community. Be sure you've talked through when and how you will use these, the schedule for payouts and if the use of a signing bonus is limited to certain positions and/or timeframes. While signing bonuses can be effective to attract new talent, they can also cause resentment for staff who were hired before or after a campaign. Be sure you've thought through the unintended consequences and evaluated the return on investment.

  • Salary is only part of the equation. Benefits, including paid time off, are an important component of any compensation plan. Thoroughly review the benefits offered by both organizations, then select a rich package that adds value for your employees. Be sure to effectively communicate these perks in recruitment.

  • We know that vaccination status is a critical issue. Determining whether to require vaccinations is a complex decision, one that finds organizations struggling. Be sure you and your partner have reviewed current policies and talked through the impact of any changes, so you are in agreement to move forward.

  • Recruitment is just the beginning. Replacing an employee is expensive and time-consuming and usually ends up costing significantly more due to rising salary expectations. Discuss with your partner retention strategies and intentional efforts to build employee morale. It is important to communicate your appreciation for the staff on a regular basis, especially during a partnership project when people will probably be feeling especially vulnerable.

Finally, take a good look at the seats on your new and improved bus, and look at resources within. Partnerships provide a unique opportunity to realign duties and offer staff new opportunities. Hopefully, the talent you need already lies in your partnering organization. A thorough review of agency needs and employee skills can lead to surprising, mutually beneficial opportunities.