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2021: The Nonprofit Talent Frontier

Now that 2011 is well underway, we started thinking about what factors will influence nonprofit talent management 10 years from now. While we doubt that recruiting will be done by robots and reference checks will happen by telepathy, we do have a few perhaps more realistic predictions for what the future holds:

(1) Generationalism =  We are just seeing the first waves right now of how hard it is for Boomers to manage Millennials, and in an increasing number of cases, for Millennials to be managing Boomers and Xers.  We have several generations in the workforce right now with very different values, approaches, expectations, and management styles.  Nonprofits are going to have to be more flexible in response, meet the needs of their labor pools where they are at (not where employers want them to be), and offer a solid amount of management training to accommodate these shifts.

(2) New Diversity = First, we had almost zero diversity in nonprofit senior leadership.  Then, we had what you might call statutory or compulsory diversity, in which many nonprofits focused primarily on race and gender diversity because they were afraid of getting sued or because they were concerned about negative perceptions jeopardizing their fundraising efforts.  In the next ten years, nonprofits are going to have to revisit how they define diversity more broadly, develop a true belief about why diversity is vital to the success of their ventures, and struggle with the difference between diversity and inclusion.

(3) Flex-Town USA = More and more workers are looking for part-time, flex-time, consulting, work-from-home, and work-from-the-beach engagements.  People are juggling more things simultaneously in an effort to improve their lives and technology is making it all possible.  We can’t keep putting talent into boxes and assuming that most of our employees will work 40 hours per week from our downtown offices.  To adapt, nonprofits are going to have dramatically revisit their notions of leadership, teams, communication, and collaboration.  This transformation will not be easy and we’ll need lots of new tools and approaches to pull it off.

(4) Leader Crisis Deja Vu = There was a lot of discussion about the nonprofit sector leadership crisis and related human capital challenges between 2000 and 2008.  Then, all of a sudden, everyone stopped talking about it because the global economic downturn flipped the equation toward more of a leadership surplus that was even harder to manage.  Nothing has fundamentally changed over the past few years, however, so as economy recovery begins in earnest over the next few years, we are likely to see the return of all the old issues and discussions.  Hopefully the loss of momentum around addressing these issues hasn’t set us back even father than we were before.

What other trends might impact our future recruiting and hiring practices? What recruiting challenges and opportunities do you predict for your organization?

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