Staff, Your Competitive Advantage

Nonprofits are both service centers and experience centers. Clients come for the services and they have the potential to gain as much or more from the learning experience as they will gain from the services. What they learn might contribute more to their achieving the desired outcomes than the services.

The learning experience can be a valuable differentiator. It can significantly enhance the results and differentiate you from your competitors.

A hungry family needs a sack of groceries. What the family learns from the staff while collecting the groceries, is the differentiator between food pantries. For example, most nonprofits want their clients to have a high level of sustainability. How the nonprofit behaves, how the staff thinks about important matters, the culture of the nonprofit, and the policies and philosophy of the board all create a model for living sustainably and have the potential to shape each client’s worldview. Each visit by a client is a lesson in sustainability. Think about the other valuable lessons each visit teaches your clients. Be intentional about the ones that are most important to your clients. Your staff creates your competitive advantage through their actions because their actions teach your clients.

Does your client’s learning experience provide your nonprofit with a significant competitive advantage?

There are probably several fixed assets used to provide services. Those assets are reviewed annually to ensure they are functioning optimally and are kept up to date. However, while there are probably annual performance reviews of each staff member, very little is usually spent on keeping the staff up to date or on continuing education. In addition, the staff review is probably focused on staff performance rather than elements that will change the learning experience of the clients. Most boards can do more to fine-tune their most valuable assets.

Most board focus on tangible results. Continuing the previous example, the number of families served and the tons of food distributed are measured and reported. What the clients learned, how the lessons changed their lives, and the durability of the changes are seldom measured or reported to the board, donors, and community. Those results are also seldom part of the staff’s performance review, even though those are the results that attract donors, define the relevance of the mission, determine the level of value created for the community, encourage community support, and influence the nonprofit’s sustainability.

Next Step:

Determine what you want your client’s service experience to be to make a meaningful, measurable, and durable difference in your clients’ lives

Determine how to measure what your staff does that creates the meaningful, measurable, and durable value for your clients and community

Determine how to invest in your staff to better enable them to be successful

Share your meaningful, measurable, and durable value (anecdotes and statistics) with your donors and community

The monetary analysis of a nonprofit’s process is well understood, well managed, and frequently reviewed. That is good. Creating value beyond delivering services seldom receives the same attention. The focus needs to be on value creation rather than process efficiency or results (bags of groceries distributed).

With the rapid changes in society, the talent discussion is often limited to technical skills (accounting, computer, marketing, etc.). However, value creation comes from leadership skills and other soft skills. Technical skills are easy to hire. Learning to create value usually requires a detailed knowledge of the clients, goals, outcomes, and mission. Leadership skills are also critical. Leadership is necessary to guide the technical experts and enable them to use their knowledge to create value while creating the expected process results.

The value created by your staff is a source of sustainability, client success, community value, and mission relevance.

Take It Further:

Make value the focus of every discussion because value is a competitive advantage that is hard to copy

Invest in creating the leaders you will need five years from now

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post


Comments are closed.