Reducing Staff Turnover for Nonprofits and Associations

Dale Winston recently contributed the following article to Associations Now.

With smaller, less hierarchical organizational charts, associations often struggle with attrition, losing aspiring leaders to other organizations. However, with a focus on better succession planning, leadership assessment, and onboarding, an association can slow the outflow of top talent.

Late last year, one of the largest health research foundations in the world approached our firm with an urgent request: It needed to find a transformational head of human resources to help the organization address an alarmingly high rate of employee turnover. The foundation was struggling to retain top performers within its junior- and mid-level ranks. The losses were creating disruption throughout the organization, particularly at the leadership level. Without a sufficient pool of “high-potentials” capable of moving up through the organization, the existing management team was unable to develop and nurture a pipeline of potential successors.

Continue reading on Associations Now. 

Dr. Hanh Cao Yu Joins The California Endowment as Chief Learning Officer

Los Angeles (May 10, 2016) – The California Endowment announced today the appointment of Dr. Hanh Cao Yu as its Chief Learning Officer, an executive position responsible for leading The Endowment’s learning and evaluation activities. The Chief Learning Officer is responsible for learning, evaluation, and impact activities, and ensures that local communities, local and state grantees, board and staff understand the results and lessons of the Foundation’s investments. Ellen Romberg, Partner at Battalia Winston, completed the search.

A nationally-recognized researcher and evaluator, Yu has more than 20 years of leading projects, providing oversight of multi-million dollar budgets and leading cross disciplinary teams. She has partnered with over 40 philanthropic and nonprofit organizations to bring intellectual rigor and strategic recommendations to transform organizations, systems, policies, and communities.

“Dr. Yu has a stellar record leading large-scale evaluations of complex philanthropic initiatives, along with creating and facilitating strong learning communities and knowledge sharing among boards, staff, grantee partners and diverse community members,” said Robert K. Ross, M.D., president and CEO of The California Endowment. “We are honored to have her join our executive leadership team, as she brings a combination of brilliance and commitment that will benefit our entire organization.”

Prior to her appointment at The California Endowment, Yu served as Vice President at Social Policy Research Associates in Oakland where her responsibilities included setting strategic and budget priorities, developing an organizational learning agenda, providing oversight of external strategic digital communications, staff development and diversity action plan. During her 20-year tenure at Social Policy Research Associates she also served as the Division Director of Philanthropy, Equity and Youth. Yu earned her doctorate at Stanford University in Education Administration and Policy Analysis.

Yu will join The Endowment on July 5, 2016 and will work in the Oakland Office. She will report to Dr. Ross and serve on his Executive Team.


The Value of a Consensus-Based Search Process for Nonprofits

The following article, authored by Battalia Winston’s CEO and Chairwoman Dale Winston, was originally published in Philanthropy News Digest. 

If the leadership of a nonprofit or association is not on the same page prior to launching a search for a new team member, there’s a high probability the search will go awry. Therefore, it’s essential that everyone involved in the search — directors, members of the search committee, key management expected to work with or report to the new person, etc. — begins the process with an agreed-upon set of requirements and qualifications for the position, general agreement as to prior experience needed for the job, and first-year deliverables.

Recently, my firm, Battalia Winston, was working with a client that found itself in this very predicament. The organization — a nonprofit focused on supporting the arts — had recently hired a CFO who was failing to meet expectations. His failure to deliver as expected was frustrating for everyone across the organization. As soon as my firm was brought in, I realized the newly hired CFO wasn’t meeting the organization’s objectives for the position simply because they had never been clearly established or communicated to him.

I see this a great deal when recruiting new leadership for mature nonprofit organizations. In many cases, the incumbent leader has been with the organization for many years, even decades. When a long-time leader retires, the role he or she has been playing may be dramatically different than what the organization now requires. Or, the incumbent’s position may have evolved so much over time that it is difficult for anyone but the incumbent to fully describe it, much less be able to wear all those hats. Without a clear understanding of the role as it has been performed, each person involved in the search process tends to develop his or her own opinion about the ideal candidate and vets candidates against those criteria.

To help nonprofits avoid such situations, Battalia Winston has developed a unique service, the Consensus Based Search Process, that eliminates potential roadblocks to a successful search process, establishes clear expectations for all parties, and helps to ensure a smoother recruitment effort.

First, we gather all decision makers together for a facilitation meeting. The sixty- to ninety-minute meeting is designed to help the group come to an agreement on the critical requirements of the search. (Even if your organization is not using an executive search firm, it is important that a third party leads the process to ensure its objectivity and neutrality.)

During the facilitation meeting, we ask each committee member to write down his or her understanding of:

  • day-to-day responsibilities of the position;
  • key qualifications candidates must have to be considered; and
  • year-one objectives and deliverables.

Then, each team member is asked to read his or her responses aloud. We write all the responses on a white board so that everyone can see the common themes. The session allows search committee members to express their thoughts and concerns while moving toward common ground regarding the essential criteria for a successful candidate.

The process is simple and highly effective. We focus the group on the three most important elements of the position, thereby avoiding meandering conversations that may or may not lead to consensus. The process also quickly identifies outlier opinions and serves to encourage dialogue between members of the group so that each member understands the perspective of the others.

After discussing common themes and excising the outlier opinions, we evaluate and prioritize the remaining metrics.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a clear, agreed-upon set of specifications has been established for the search. This is helpful to us, the recruiters, because it provides a clear mandate. For the search committee, it provides a clear set of criteria by which to evaluate candidates as they move through the interview process. And for the candidates, it provides clarity regarding expectations and deliverables.

There are many risks associated with a misdirected search effort. Without clearly defined expectations and benchmarks, nonprofits risk losing qualified candidates. Internal conflict and a lack of agreement and understanding between search committee members also can lead to unnecessary rounds of interviews and drawn-out searches — an incredibly frustrating process for candidates that can hurt an organization’s reputation. To protect your organization’s brand and ensure that it is positioned to secure top talent, you should begin with a consensus-building process.


Battalia Winston Completes Search for W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Battalia Winston Executive Search is proud to announce that Dr. Anitra N. Manning was selected and has started her new position at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation as Talent and Human Resources Manager, Talent Development. Battalia Winston Partner Ellen Romberg completed the search.

Anitra has served as a leadership development executive across sectors for over 15 years. She has led fortune 500 and non-profit organizations in conceptualizing and implementing leadership and learning programs through the integration of innovative solutions, platforms and on the job sustainability approaches. She was most recently the first vice president and business learning strategist lead for SunTrust Banks, Inc. in Atlanta. Prior to this she was a leadership development consultant with Bayer CropScience, director, strategic partnerships at the YWCA of the Greater Triangle, founding director for Meredith College’s Institute for Women’s Leadership and leadership development consultant with Girl Scouts of the USA, National Learning Services.

Anitra received her Doctorate of Education in higher education management from the University of Pittsburgh, her master’s degree in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University, Heinz College and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Hampton University.