Friday, May 7, 2010

Why good HR practices in Nonprofits are so important

Last Semester I took a course on Human Resource Practices for nonprofits. The course did not focus on hiring, firing, and evaluation practices, that was just one lesson; it did not focus on employee manuals and benefits packages, that was also just one lesson; what the course focused on was the need to create an interdisciplinary team among your staff and volunteers to provide a better service for your stakeholders (the people you serve). Throughout the course, students expresses frustration; frustration for not receiving an education in what they saw as "needed" for someone to hire us. Though we saw the team building as important, we were not convinced our current or potential employers would also see it this way. No matter what the employers think, though, I have discovered that team building is one of the most important things any organization could have in in Human Resource Management.

Nonprofit workers, especially in smaller nonprofits, often see their sole purpose as getting their job done; fulfilling all the objectives and goals listed on their job description. If their job is build a program, they put everything they have into building it. If their job is to oversee the finances, they make sure they are doing this to the very best of their ability. Everyone knows a nonprofit worker has to go above and beyond, however are they actually going above and beyond their job.

Over the past two years I have had the opportunity to observe an organization up close: an educational institute. This organization, for the most part, employs teachers, Rabbis, a CFO and an office manager. Like most nonprofit organizations, it does not employ anyone with experience in managing human resources, or anyone even without the experience to at least try. The result of this situation is a group of educators who are so passionate about education, who have such great ideas of how to revolutionize the way they teach their students, but who can not actually make this revolution happen. In this organization, each person is on his or her own to "try out their ideas" and everyone is trying something different. This lack in a unified method for educating results in the students not receiving the message the school intends to send. The students often play "good cop vs. bad cop" with their teachers; the students seemed to have learned that pitting two disparate views against each other is acceptable; and the students don't seem to have learned how to respect the teachers, what the teachers have to teach, or even how to respect themselves. Had this school brought the teachers together, as a team, created an environment where each teacher could contribute his or her expertise, and together developed a plan for educating their students to get across their message, the school may have actually had a positive affect on its students.

The management of human resources is not only about the management of benefits and salary packages or overseeing the hiring and firing processes. The management of human resources is about managing the human capital you have in your organization, the value that each person has to offer, and ensuring that the individuals who work so hard for your cause, are working together for the greater cause. As with anything, you are greater then the sum of your parts when all the parts work together.

Shabbat Shalom!

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