Roles in the not-for-profit (NFP) sector are on the rise, and interestingly, we are seeing increasing interest from candidates from other industries when we advertise for new positions. Many candidates are looking for more purpose and meaning from their work and state they have a strong personal desire to make a difference. Further to this, some candidates coming from larger organisations or corporate positions have said they would be willing to consider a reduced remuneration package if there were other benefits on offer. A major drawcard for the NFP and disability support sector are the intrinsic rewards available – meaningful work, flexibility, freedom to work from home and positive interactions with others. Employees generally enjoy their work and value the impact it has.

With more roles on offer, access to funding through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the recent abolishment of the individual assessment proposal to the delight of many, now is a positive time for the industry and the time to attract quality candidates with a thirst for making a positive difference. So how can employers ride this increase in interest and create working environments corporate high-flyers are willing to jump ship for, as well as retain the great people they already have?

  1. Understand the psychology

The secret to knowing how to attract and retain candidates lies in the intrinsic rewards that draw people to work in the NFP sector. A huge part is the direct link employees have with the work they carry out, and their ability to shape people’s lives for the better. Employers in this space should firstly build a high-engagement culture with a clear meaningful purpose. According to this article The Four Intrinsic Rewards that Drive Employee Engagement, to stay connected to their work, employees should have:

  • A sense of meaningfulness, a connection to what their organisation is setting out to achieve and a clear view of who they are supporting
  • A sense of choice – the freedom to choose how to carry out their work
  • Competence – the confidence that they are handing their tasks and performing well; and
  • A sense of progress – their efforts are working towards something.
  1. Provide clear purpose

A great benefit to the NFP sector is employees can see the difference they can make. They have insight into what their NFP organisation is setting out to accomplish and a clear role in carrying it out. This sense of purpose really helps engage and retain staff. Quite a few years ago I worked with a disability services organisation and helped them recruit several key staff. Two of them had no previous sector experience, but 15 years later they are still working in the sector, in senior leadership roles with the same organisation, and both feel it was the best career decision they ever made.

  1. Create the right working environment

A recent study carried out by asked more than 4000 ethical jobseekers about the perks that made working in their industry so attractive. This article The top perks that potential employees really want from your NFP revealed employees valued:

  • Flexible work hours
  • The option to work from home some days
  • Access to a training budget or professional development days
  • An office with natural light
  • Paid time in lieu for extra hours worked.
  1. Be inclusive

Recent research published in the Ivy Business Journal, found tangible rewards such as pay raises, bonuses and benefits were not as effective for day-to-day motivation as the psychological rewards employees get from doing work that has meaning. Also extremely interesting is employees are more likely to stay loyal to a company that is seen to have greater corporate social responsibility and inclusive, accessible leadership. Employees who feel valued for their individual contribution to an organisation will experience greater job satisfaction.

  1. Provide feedback and celebrate success

Another big tip for NFT is to recognise and celebrate success. This article, How to celebrate success in your team – and why you need to do this more says you should not underestimate the value in congratulating someone when they have done a good job. “What you choose to celebrate also tells your team what is important to your organisation and helps them focus their energy on more impactful work”. For case workers who may be seeing the same clients over and over, it can be the positive feedback from their manager that encourages them to keep going.

With the right mix of these recommendations, you can see the appeal of working in the NFP sector and why in this post-COVID world where people are looking for more flexibility and balance in their lives, they are more willing to leave the traditional 9-5 role to find something different. The disability sector in particular offers so much from case workers to administrative to management, so if you are someone looking for a change, I encourage you to have a think about whether it’s right for you.

In the meantime, I’m always happy to chat if you would like to find out more.

Best wishes,

Sybille Goss


Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash