by MaryAnn Raash
When you say your prayers at night, do you include a prayer to find workers? If you do, you are not alone. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics Nonprofit Report (prepandemic), there were 12.5 million nonprofit workers. The pandemic hit the nonprofit sector hard (I can hear you now: Tell me something I don’t know!). When 1.6 million workers lost their jobs, it affected our missions. Even today, while some of the workers have returned to the nonprofit sector, we are still down about 76,000 jobs as of August 2022 (Johns Hopkins Economic Data Project).
When you start helping candidates visualize themselves in the role versus making the job about you, chances are they will click to read more. You have just made it personal.
If we paid attention, we learned some of characteristics of the quitters and why they left the job market (e.g., how they were treated, to pursue dream jobs, and looking for purpose). The main reasons quitters walked off and didn’t look back was because they were looking for meaningful work/purpose, family-friendly work environments, and flexibility. Aha moment: Was that first reason purpose?
Like so many of you, I was led by Jesus to this work. The main reason I left my secular career was because I wanted to serve something bigger than myself. I was tired of making money for someone/something I just didn’t believe in. Bingo! Purpose.
So when I look through your job openings, will they speak to someone like me? Or will your job openings, simply put, speak to you? Knowing that the average candidate spends seven seconds reading your ad, what do your job ads say? Is it all about you? Here’s an example of the typical job opening:
Come work for an amazing place doing amazing things, work with amazing people and with an amazing mission.
Now of course, I’m exaggerating; however, time and time again I see job openings listed like this. We are emotional creatures. How about pulling on our emotional strings? What separates you from, say, the corporate world? What might happen if you tried this instead:
Imagine how it would feel at the end of the day to know that you have helped transform people, one life at a time?
When you start helping candidates visualize themselves in the role versus making the job about you, chances are they will click to read more. You have just made it personal. You’re asking them to do something (visualize, imagine, etc.). You can use the same headline to describe your opening for custodian as you can for a shelter manager position. The easiest way to create your opening line is to think of your job description in terms of benefits and features. So, a feature of working at your mission could be serving and helping others. The benefit of working at your mission is getting the opportunity to serve God and transform lives. Now, put all of that together, and you have a five-second commercial that could say:
How would it feel to come home at the end of each workday knowing that you made a difference in the lives of unsheltered men? Bring your love for Jesus, and let’s have a conversation.
Do you see where I’m going? If we know the most important person in the room is the applicant and not the employer, then why is it your job ads are all about you, the employer? You don’t have to be an expert job description writer. Go on Linked-In or Indeed. Review the job descriptions that you like. Look at the ones you don’t. What stood out about the ones you liked?
When I consult with others in the HR world, I constantly remind them that you must meet candidates where they are, not where you are. So, where are these candidates? I know you have reached out to every church within a 10-mile radius and every Christian college you can find. However, if we are truly meeting candidates where they are, we might have to accept that fact that they may not be the strongest in their faith or in a faith that matches our own. I understand that this is where I lose a lot of you. In fact, last year at the Citygate Network conference, I connected with a development manager for a large mission. I can still hear her:
Well MaryAnn, that just won’t work for us. You see, we are different. Candidates have to be a certain faith. We ask them to write their statement of faith; they have to tell us how they spend their weekends and what they do. They must commit to living a certain lifestyle.
I will tell you that I questioned if even I could possibly get a job at that mission. The list went on. As I stood there listening to the development manager, all I could think about was, “No wonder you’re struggling to find people.”
Now, I’m not suggesting you hire an atheist. Let me share a story that happened at GIFTS Men’s Shelter. We reached out to a couple of non-Christian colleges to recruit interns. One semester we had an intern come to us who said she believed but that she struggled a lot and was hurt by scary Christians (my phrase, not hers). We brought her in and taught her all about the shelter. She did homeless outreach with us in the community. She sat in devotions alongside our men. She came to our staff devotions. She served meals. She learned how to work at our thrift store. We taught her everything we could. We showed her who Jesus was through our actions.
Close to the end of her internship, she told us she was starting to attend church again with her daughter. She said she no longer was afraid, and felt that her experience with all of us had brought her closer to God. Isn’t our God amazing? He knew all of this and put her in our pathway. It was our job to nurture the seed that God had planted.
Don’t overlook who God may be bringing into your workplace. He may send you someone who doesn’t have a “bachelor’s degree” in their (or your) faith. In fact, he or she might be struggling with an “associate’s degree” in faith. If we know that there are no such things as perfect Christians, why do so many of us look for them?
What I’m getting at is, don’t overlook who God may be bringing into your workplace. He may send you someone who doesn’t have a “bachelor’s degree” in their (or your) faith. In fact, he or she might be struggling with an “associate’s degree” in faith. If we know that there are no such things as perfect Christians, why do so many of us look for them? I don’t want to come across snarky; however, I’ve been asked to consult on many of my colleagues’ recruitment processes. Honestly, often it felt like the candidates were being screened out versus screened in based on the faith questionnaires. I don’t know about you, but my faith walk is very personal: It’s a conversation — and a beautiful one — not something I fill out on a form. The number-one complaint I hear is, “They just are not strong enough in that area. They are not the right kind of Christian. They believe but I don’t see how they could help someone who is struggling.” I read Romans 14:1 for my response: “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” And Romans 15:7: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Paul was one of the smartest recruiters I’ve ever read about.
Have you reviewed the number of hours your people are putting in and how they might be neglecting their families to complete the work? These are two top reasons people will leave your mission.
So, encourage conversation instead of trying to find out electronically what someone believes. I ask all potential employees to walk me through their faith journeys and tell them to reveal as much or as little as they would like to. The response to that one question tells me more than anything about the people who God is bringing to me. I may have someone who is new on his or her faith journey sit in on devotions for a month with our guests or have him or her paired up with a faith leader as a mentor. I don’t look to dismiss people who aren’t where I think they should be from a faith perspective. Do you remember where you were when you first joined your mission? Was your faith as strong when you started as it is now? I bet I know the answer. Keep that in mind or you may miss an opportunity. Who is God bringing into your life?
Now to appease the masses, and to quiet those who are saying, I’m doing that, but they aren’t sticking around long enough; we have too much attrition; we lose them after the first interview. What is your strategy to plan, source, attract, and engage? What does your five-year recruitment strategy look like? These aren’t trick questions, and regardless of your size, everyone needs a plan. The good news is that it’s never too late to start.
The first step is an easy one: to look for a good template to aid your planning process. A quick search on the internet for “recruitment strategy templates” will help you find a lot of options. Put together your plan. What is your budget for next year, and what might it look like in three years? Define your goals. Engage with anyone in your mission who supervises people. I generally start by asking, Who do you need in order to plant more seeds? That starts a discussion. What will you need to do the work outlined in your strategic plan? I make a list of everyone’s input. Most of the time, people are describing the same role but calling it something different. After I take down the titles of what teams think they need, I start asking what responsibilities team members will have and what impact they will have on the mission. There is a lot of elimination in this stage of the planning process, and it’s generally done by the same person who suggested the hire. The point is to get people thinking about what they need and then to listen to them. Identify mechanisms and vehicles you will use to source the candidates.
How are you promoting your mission as a place that provides purpose not only to the guests who stay there but to employees as well?
Sourcing involves selecting the best techniques and channels (Boolean searches, social media, referrals, job ads, etc.) to reach candidates. Do you track how someone has heard about you? How you found a candidate 10 years ago isn’t the same way you will find your next hire. If an applicant tracking system isn’t in your budget, you can track this information via a spreadsheet.
Next up is attracting your talent. To do this, you must go where they are. Are you participating in the community job fairs and reaching out to colleges? Are you on Handshake? We have to go where the talent is, and that’s not always in the churches. Do you have a recruitment corner set up at your mission with a “why we work here” illustration? Better yet, have you surveyed your team? Why is it they work here? How are you promoting your mission as a place that provides purpose not only to the guests who stay there but to employees as well? Use those testimonies in your social media. Put together a content calendar for the next six months. Get creative: Plan recruiting events such as Bring a Buddy to Work Day; have a potential candidate shadow for a half day. Always be on the alert — some of our most successful recruits come in unconventional ways. That’s how God works. He doesn’t always work on our timeline or using our prepared routes.
Now that you’ve got them, it’s up to you to keep them. Remember at the beginning of this article, I said that quitters left their jobs and didn’t return because they were looking for purpose, a family-friendly environment, and flexibility. If I were to survey your team today, would they say they get all of that at your organization? I have a feeling that some might say they are experiencing burnout. I would even venture to guess that more than a few would say that they work ridiculous schedules and that their personal lives suffer because it’s all in the name of Jesus. Have you reviewed the number of hours your people are putting in and how they might be neglecting their families to complete the work? These are two top reasons people will leave your mission. When was the last time you asked your team members what they are doing for self-care? More importantly, are you modeling the same?
Engage your workers with purpose. A recent study conducted by the Gallup organization and the National Opinion Research Center said that 78 percent of all Americans claim they want to experience some form of spiritual growth, and of this group, half of them felt they were too busy with their careers to enjoy God (source: www.gotquestions.org). That is where you and I come in. Let’s give them what they want, purpose. How would it make your thrift store employees feel about the work they do if they attended a homeless outreach with the local police or community partners? Monitor their experiences throughout the process. Bring them into community events and introduce them. Just imagine, How would it feel to serve at your mission knowing you have candidates vying to work there?
Jesus led MaryAnn to the GIFTS Men’s Shelter in Janesville, Wisconsin, where she serves as the executive director. MaryAnn began her career in recruitment. She led teams across the U.S. She then moved into RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) and directed recruitment strategies/solutions for accounts such as Ascension Healthcare and Walgreens.
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This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of INSTIGATE magazine. © Citygate Network, All rights reserved. Please email email@example.com for additional permissions.