High employee engagement and a workforce full of happy, motivated people is often viewed as a top business strategy, with tangible benefits for both the organisation and the individual.
But what happens when engagement morphs into something far less positive — burnout?
To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, Freelance Writer and HR Specialist Nicola Greenbrook has been exploring the reasons why working at home during the Covid-19 pandemic could be making us engaged-exhausted.
What is employee engagement - and why is it good?
If people at work have good quality roles and are managed well, it’s likely that they will be happy, healthy and fulfilled.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) explains that employee engagement ‘relates to the level of an employee's commitment and connection to an organisation’ and provides examples of recognised engaged behaviours, such as being optimistic, solution-orientated and going above and beyond.
The CIPD recommends a narrower, more specific view from the Utrecht University group of occupational psychologists. This defines work engagement as a state of mind in which, rather than being burnt out, employees show vigour, dedication and absorption.
From a business perspective, high levels of engagement can lead to better productivity, improved products or services and innovation. Evidence by voluntary movement Engage for Success shows that there are positive relationships between aspects of employee engagement and other business metrics, such as customer satisfaction and retention. It can also be seen as a way to gain competitive advantage.
So far, so good…
What is burnout - and why is it bad?
Yet, there can be too much of a good thing.
Whilst the benefits of high employee engagement have been established, we are perhaps less familiar with what happens when it becomes something much less positive — burnout.
So why does a once highly productive, enthusiastic and engaged employee become stressed, irritated and unproductive?
Let’s first take a look at what burnout is. The World Health Organisation classifies burnout as ‘…a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’.
The definition goes on to say that burnout (in a workplace context) is characterised by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
- a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.
When engaged becomes exhausted
So, what causes this transition from engaged to exhausted? Can we really have these simultaneous experiences?
You can become too engaged which can, unwittingly, contribute towards feeling stressed. The three opposing behaviours of burnout — vigour, dedication and absorption — can become something more damaging.
Over a year since we first went into lockdown and with the majority of us still working predominantly from home, some of us are working too much — and we don’t know how to stop. Employees have faced increased workloads, uncertainty and general pressures due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus and so in some cases they are showing a bit too much vigour.
In the article ‘Why Your Passion for Work Could Ruin Your Career', the Harvard Business Review refers to Robert J. Vallerand’s Dualistic Model of Passion, The model suggests that people can have a passion for their work which can be both harmonious (they retain a sense of control and keep work in harmony with the other facets of their life) and obsessive (they find it tricky not to work, even if it conflicts with their home life). The differences between harmonious and obsessive passion can have implications for burnout.
Dedication can be unhealthy, too. In the aftermath of full lockdown, with homeschooling and other caring responsibilities there to disrupt our regular schedules, some people may feel they need to prove to their employer just how hard they are working, especially if this is coupled with a fear about redundancies in the current climate. They willingly take on more projects despite being overloaded and juggling other commitments. This level of engagement can lead to an unhealthy approach to work — where they attempt to be ‘everything to everyone’ in their lives. It’s a slippery slope; maybe they feel they haven’t done enough today, so they do just a little bit more. Or they log in again in the evening to ‘keep up’.
Finally, highly engaged people often show too much absorption. When working from home, it can be difficult to stop boundaries from becoming blurred, or being obliterated altogether, and to unplug. It’s easy to fall prey to the ‘one more email’ phenomenon in the absence of a commute, or to sacrifice a lunchtime walk for the satisfaction of ticking one more thing off of the list.
What was once an enjoyable absorption in work; that pleasant sensation of being fully engrossed without distraction, can creep into an inability to tear yourself away — even if it is after hours and you haven’t thought about what to eat for dinner.
As a result, we become what’s known as engaged-exhausted.
What is this doing to our health?
According to The CIPD. (2021) Health and wellbeing at work survey 2021. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Covid-19 is among the most common causes of stress at work in the top three causes; with 31% of respondents stating stress caused by new work-related demands or challenges due to homeworking as a result of Covid-19.
The survey reports that (70%) of respondents have observed some form of ‘leavism’ (the use of allocated time off, such as annual leave for sickness or to catch up on work), such as working outside of contracted hours or using holiday entitlement to work over the past 12 months.
For many who have taken on caring or parenting responsibilities during the ongoing pandemic, work and caring needs go to the top of the list — and looking after own needs? These get pushed down to the bottom of the list.
According to the CIPD, employees can become disillusioned, unproductive and, potentially, seek employment elsewhere. Signs of burnout include headaches and migraines, fatigue and lack of energy and anxiety, sadness and depression.
How to preserve high-engagement and prevent burn out
It is important for individuals to recognise the signs of burnout — and the responsibility of employers to help their teams stay on the positive side of employee engagement.
Employers should keep an eye on their high performers and recognise that while engagement is a good thing, it needs to be managed too. Driving positive behaviours is a good start; such as taking breaks and making time for physical activity, rather than being sat behind a desk all day.
It is especially important to provide sufficient resources for staff and line managers who remain at home or work a hybrid pattern as Covid-19 restrictions ease. This could include regular catch ups, providing feedback and setting clear expectations to avoid any confusion or overcompensation.
Monitor the levels of demands you place on your teams and rebalance workloads, especially those with multiple responsibilities or who may be particularly feeling the impact of a year’s lockdown. Avoid late-night emails or encouraging a sense of ‘always on’.
Individuals should try to assess their level of risk when it comes to burnout and ask themselves a few questions. Is your identity with work so strong that your work-life balance is hazy? Are you taking on too much?
Here are other ways to keep yourself from the darker side of high engagement:
- Book a mini-break (at home). As obvious as it may sound, book in annual leave and a day off at home to relax and step off the wheel for a bit.
- Create work-life boundaries. Set yourself strict start and finish times most days, with breaks built in that you won’t budge on. Consider setting an alarm to signify the end of the working day — and resist the urge to snooze.
- Move! The theme of 2021’s Mental Health Awareness Week is nature and the environment; there are lots of top tips about how to find, connect with and get out and about in nature. Leaving your desk for even 20 minutes can make a difference.
- Speak up - Recognise the symptoms of burnout and speak to your manager, employee assistance programme or GP if you start to experience them. Mind provides some useful tips on how to talk to your employer about your mental health.
High employee engagement is great, but can come with unpleasant side effects if employers — and individuals — don’t take important preventative measures.
It can be all too easy for engagement to creep into burnout, with damaging effects on our physical and mental health.
Whether taking a bit of time out, talking to your manager about making small but impactful changes to the working day or vowing to send your last email at 5.30pm — proactively managing burnout risks can ensure you stay productive, happy and, most importantly, healthy.
More from Nicola Greenbrook
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If you’ve sensed something missing from the last two summers – besides a social life, holidays, hope – it might be the absence of softball updates here on the Harris Hill Blog. It might also not be, perhaps the more likely scenario, but it's too hot to start splitting hairs. Either way, there's good news: while Covid did stop play in 2020, by the following year it was clear that even a major global pandemic would ultimately prove no match for the mighty London Charity Softball League! So after a slightly scaled-down season last summer, the league's been back in full swing for 2022, bringing London’s green spaces alive with the sound of respectable charity professionals thwacking balls around with enormous enthusiasm. And bats. They’ve valiantly played on through the summer’s sweltering heatwaves, whittling nearly 60 teams (representing well over 80 charities) down to just six, who’ll battle it out this very Thursday in Hyde Park for the Bluestep Cup, the Shield, and the much-coveted Harris Hill Plate! Which I should clarify is an actual trophy, not a leftover from our recent office move*. *That said, anyone with the space and an interest in winning the prestigious Harris Hill Lever Arch Files or the Harris Hill Mismatched Tupperware Items Of Unknown Origin is warmly invited to get in touch. So who's made it all the way? Readers - if that’s not an over-optimistic use of the plural - behold the 2022 finalists! The Cup: Mind vs the Mighty CRUKs The Plate: RNLI vs Independent Rage The Shield: Wellcome Funderbolts vs Versus Arthritis Three teams are making their first finals appearance, namely Versus Arthritis, Wellcome Trust and Independent (R)age, who’ll be playing 2018 Shield-winners RNLI for the literally unimaginable glory of hoisting the Harris Hill Plate. All eyes will then be on the big cup final, between two teams who’ve certainly played this game before. Exactly this game, in fact, against each other in last year’s final, when 2019 cup-winners Mind were denied the double by the Mighty CRUKs of Cancer Research UK, chalking up their fifth league victory of the last fifteen years. As for us, with temperatures set to sizzle it's just as well we're sticking with Harris Hill tradition and supplying the liquid refreshments, while there'll be plenty of support from our fellow sponsors too. So it just remains to wish the very best of luck to all the finalists, may the best team/s win, and whether you're playing or just sipping a (possibly) cold beer on the sidelines: have a fantastic time at the finals! Team HH x View the latest charity jobs ► More from the Harris Hill Blog Introducing an exclusive partnership with Maudsley Charity We're delighted to be working in partnership with Maudsley Charity on their biggest and most important recruitment drive to date, supporting their ambitious growth plans for 2022/2023 as they continue to raise profile and increase the diversity of their team. Guest writer Nicola Greenbrook has the details. Read more ► What’s the going rate for your charity sector role? Whether you’re a head of fundraising for a small charity, digital manager for a household name, or in any of almost 200 other positions in the sector, you’ll find answers in the brand new 2022 Harris Hill Salary Survey. Read more ► Back to the Harris Hill Blog homepage ►
We're delighted to be working in partnership with Maudsley Charity on their biggest and most important recruitment drive to date. We'll be working exclusively to support the charity’s ambitious growth plans for 2022/2023 as it continues to raise its profile and increase the diversity of its team. We're also delighted to welcome back guest writer Nicola Greenbrook, who explores this exciting collaboration further, finding out what it means for the charity, its people and the communities it proudly serves. Maudsley Charity is a mental health charity based in South London. It funds and promotes innovative, collaborative projects and ideas that make a tangible difference to the lives of those who experience severe mental illness. Working alongside South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, the charity brings together researchers, frontline clinicians, service users and their families, and a wide range of voluntary and community organisations to prevent mental illness, improve care, and support recovery. They work primarily within South London but believe that all the work they fund has the potential for wider impact at both national and international levels. Ambitious plans for change Maudsley Charity is undergoing a significant period of growth and change — and exciting times are ahead. The charity has been building a solid foundation since becoming an independent entity in 2018 and is now entering a period of expansion. It has bold ambitions about maximising impact, addressing issues of discrimination and exclusion in what it works on and how it works, and generating funds to extend its work and build support communities. The charity plans to grow its headcount to approximately 18-20 staff by March 2023. Key appointments in the past 12 months include a new Director of Fundraising & Communications, Communications Officer and Grantmaking Systems Lead. Growth continues with a new Programme Manager, Senior Impact and Learning Manager and NHS Trust Engagement and Fundraising Manager amongst other important new hires. However, it’s not simply about increasing headcount. The wider context In May 2020, George Floyd, a black man, was murdered in the US City of Minneapolis by a white police officer. His murder led to widespread protests about police brutality, police racism and the lack of police accountability and sparked a global movement, as countries across the globe held some of the largest Black Lives Matter protests in their history. In the UK, George Floyd’s death both devastated and galvanised the nation, sparking mass activism. According to The Guardian, within days of his death, thousands of people across 260 towns and cities in the UK defied the COVID-19 enforced lockdown to join large anti-racism rallies which resulted in a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. The landscape has irreversibly shifted since the murder of George Floyd, and Maudsley Charity knew that they had to step up and do more. The charity funds many projects that are helping to address the health inequalities that minoritised communities face within the mental health system (particularly Black people with African and Caribbean heritage and South Asian communities), but realised that more focus needed to go on inclusive recruitment and employment practice. They demonstrated a clear willingness and openness to change in order to become a more inclusive employer. One of the first steps was to recognise that its workforce was not as diverse as the communities it serves. Reflecting diverse communities The charity is based in South London, in an area with some of the highest levels of mental ill health in the UK driven by deprivation and discrimination. It has made an active commitment to ensuring sustained diversity within its team in terms of ethnicity, class and lived experience of mental ill health and, crucially, one which reflects the communities it serves — including Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark and beyond. In addition, it recognised that as part of their attraction strategy, the charity needed to work towards changing the external perception of the charity and become well-known and trusted in South London and beyond. Maudsley Charity is underpinned by principles that actively value and encourage respectful and positive attitudes to differences. Their values include: Knowledge teeeeeetx Improvement We value diversity of experience, expertise, and perspective. We will build into our organisation, and every aspect of our work, a range of voices, including those of people who experience mental illness. We care about maintaining high standards and improvement. We will be open about where we could do better, learn from our successes and failures and expect those we work with to do the same. Recruitment practices: doing things differently With this new recruitment drive, Maudsley Charity committed to trialling different methods to address any unintentional blockers and biases in their hiring practices. It reviewed its processes and, working in partnership with Harris Hill, ensured that the channels they are using to recruit new talent are clearly aligned with its objectives. Some of these practices include: • Writing helpful, friendly and engaging adverts; avoiding gender-driven language and using a tone of voice that speaks to candidates the charity may not necessarily have spoken to before. For example, stating that, ‘as a team we value and acknowledge diverse experiences, voices and perspectives, particularly those who come from minoritised communities and/or have direct experience of living with mental illness or being a carer for someone living with mental illness’ and ‘we welcome your application if you are from a Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic background, have a disability, are LGBTQ+, have any other protected characteristic, or have lived experience of mental illness’. • Using images in recruitment packs that aim to be more reflective of the communities that it serves. • Engaging candidates on social media platforms such as Twitter by telling them that they are interested in their potential as much as their existing skills and experience. • Using ‘blind’ recruitment processes (removing a candidate’s name and other identifying factors, such as age, location, and school or university names from their application) to make it easier for hiring managers to make objective decisions about the candidate’s skills, experience and suitability for a role — and lessen the risk of conscious or unconscious bias. • Offering candidates the opportunity to see interview questions in advance to aid preparation. • Ensuring interview panels are diverse and comprised of people from different teams, and asking values-based interview questions, not just competency-based, to attract people who are motivated by the charity’s values but may not have the relevant qualifications at this stage. • Reviewing the recruitment process at each stage to ensure it is as inclusive as possible; removing any potential barriers, identifying new ways to remove any unconscious bias and ensuring that candidates are not being set up to fail. Why work for Maudsley Charity? Lisa Williams joined Maudsley Charity in 2018 as Business Support Manager. Her main responsibilities include HR, contract management and governance. She is also the Secretariat to the Board of Trustees. After the pandemic, the charity knew it needed to get to grips with its people policies and procedures and establish its HR function — and this is where Lisa’s role comes in! She is working towards an HR qualification and somehow finds the time to volunteer too — so she can truly feel the impact of how other charities make a difference to their service users. Lisa believes the charity offers its people the chance to grow and develop in their roles and focus on their continuous professional development. She has particularly enjoyed working with Lisa Kiew, Director of Finance and Operations, whose “drive and vision to make changes has been the making of us and our improvements, and how far we have come.” She recognises that the charity is in a fast-paced place of change — and that change has been challenging but is being embraced. She said, “I have never been an employee of a charity before where people really want to get it right and make a difference in this way.” Lisa believes the charity, its senior leaders and people demonstrate an openness to try different things and to reflect on its learnings; what went well and what could be improved, but also to celebrate what has been achieved. On this journey, the charity learnt that, not only do they need to be clearer in how roles are described but also, how important it is that candidates get a feel for the charity’s developing journey. This has given the charity a great opportunity to reflect on other HR processes and practices. She believes that the charity is very good at collaborating and coming together as a high-performing team; they share and respect ideas, work towards achieving common objectives and really live the charity’s values. Lisa and the team are looking forward to the changes ahead and are keen to see improvements, motivating and supporting each other along the way. Harris Hill are delighted to be working with Maudsley Charity and helping them to find new talent to join their excellent teams. The new partnership will inform the way that the charity works moving forwards and represents an exciting time in its history with a sharper focus on impact in all they do. Nicola Greenbrook, London based freelance writer, podcaster and HR Specialist. teeeext • Contact Nicola teeeext • Follow Nicola on Twitter You can find out more about vacancies at Maudsley Charity here ► More from the Harris Hill Blog How to handle competency-based interviews - part 1 They’re a great opportunity to show you’ve got the necessary skills, but what exactly are they and how can you be sure to shine? Director Jenny Hills of our executive practice offers detailed insight and expert advice in the first of a two-part guide. Read more ► What’s the going rate for your charity sector role? Whether you’re a head of fundraising for a small charity, digital manager for a household name, or in any of almost 200 other positions in the sector, you’ll find answers in the brand new 2022 Harris Hill Salary Survey. Read more ► Back to the Harris Hill Blog homepage ►
Big journeys begin with small steps, say people who’ve never hiked to the furthest departure gates for a budget flight from Gatwick. But thinking small can often be a smart move when it comes to your choice of employer, so in celebration of Small Charity Week, we're sharing six good reasons to join a small charity and ten fantastic opportunities to do so. There’s a lot to be said for working for a small charity, much of which we said in our article 'Should you be working for a large or small charity?' back in early 2020. But by way of a brief(ish) summary, because life is short and you've got more than enough to do, we give you... Six reasons to work for a small charity Broader experience Small charities don’t have the luxury of hiring different people for every different job, so your job title may just be the start of what you do. With fewer people on board, it’s all hands on deck, so a fundraiser, for example, will probably work across multiple revenue streams, and may get involved in marketing, managing events and many more areas of the charity’s work. Will you be busy? Yes. Will you curse yourself for volunteering to do far too many things at once? Also yes. Will you ever be bored? Impossible. When would you find the time? Greater autonomy and responsibility If you’re a digital team of one, guess who’s making the decisions on digital strategy? If you’re used to your brilliant ideas having to pass through five layers of people for approval, each finding new and creative ways to ruin it with 'helpful suggestions', you’ll find the speed and simplicity of decision-making both liberating and exhilarating… Greater exposure …which can sometimes be a little scary, as there’s nowhere to hide if it all goes horribly wrong. But the upside - unlike larger organisations where your achievements can often blur into those of the wider team – is that whatever you do will be recognised, giving you full credit where it’s due. Flexibility and speed In the nautical world, as we learned last year when everyone’s internet shopping got stuck in the Suez Canal, larger vessels find it harder to change course, and the same is true of most organisations. With fewer people in a smaller area, small charities can often be more agile and respond more quickly when things change – in the same way a squirrel can scamper up a tree at the first sign of trouble, but when you try it as an elephant, it tends not to end quite so well. Being close to the action Working at the head office of a major charity can sometimes feel half a world away from the people you’re trying to help, which is often because it is. In a small charity however, you’re more likely to have direct contact with beneficiaries and supporters, getting to see the difference you’re making first-hand. The atmosphere ‘We’re like one big happy family!’ say all kinds of alarming organisations. But if they're anything like actual families, it can only be so big before you start getting factions and tribes, meeting up with smiles all round at Christmas while secretly plotting each other’s demise. Or at least, a sustained programme of ‘not being very helpful to’. But whether it’s just the numbers, proximity, or the camaraderie of pitching in together to get things done, small charities do seem particularly good at fostering a genuinely friendly environment. Ten of the best If a small charity sounds like the right kind of place for you, read on: here are ten great opportunities we currently have with fantastic small charities around the UK. Just click any of the titles or links for full details of each role and how to apply. Director of Development & Strategic Partnerships Newcastle • £40,000 - £45,000 • Full time Read more ► Fundraising & PR Lead Kent • £37,000 • 22.5hrs per week over 3, 4 or 5 days (flexible) Read more ► Fundraising Manager Crowborough, East Sussex • £30,000 - £32,000 • Full time Read more ► Chief Executive Officer Cardiomyopathy UK, Amersham • c£65,000 • Full time hybrid role, 3 days per week in the office Read more ► Chief Executive Officer Dartmoor Preservation Association, Devon • c£45,000 pro rata • Part time hybrid role, 4 days/28 hrs per week Read more ► Director of Finance & Resources London • £57,000 - £60,000 • Full time hybrid role, min 2-4 days per month in the office Read more ► Part Time Head of Finance Milton Keynes • £47,500 - £52,000 pro rata, • Hybrid role, 4 days per week, 1 of which to be in the office Read more ► Finance Executive Woodford Green, London • £38,000 - £40,000 (full time) or pro rata part time (3-4 days per week considered) • Hybrid role Read more ► Programme Manager Denmark Hill, London • £38,000 - £46,000 depending on experience • Full time, hybrid working Read more ► Senior Impact & Learning Manager Denmark Hill, London • £48,000 - £52,000 depending on experience • Full time, hybrid working Read more ► None of these quite what you're looking for? View more of our latest jobs ► Back to the Harris Hill Blog homepage ► More from the Harris Hill Blog Should you be working for a large or small charity? Does size matter? It’s a question we’re certainly not the first to tackle - if that’s the word - but what size of charity is best for your career? The Fundraiser asked us and here's what our deputy CEO Faye Marshall had to say. Read more ► What’s the going rate for your charity sector role? Whether you’re a head of fundraising for a small charity, digital manager for a household name, or in any of almost 200 other positions in the sector, you’ll find answers in the brand new 2022 Harris Hill Salary Survey. Read more ►
For many people, flexible working is here to stay (except Fridays when it dials in via Zoom), but are charity staff among them, and are salaries affected? Here's what we're seeing, adapted from our 2022 Salary Survey. Back in 2019, we reported that flexibility had overtaken salary as the number one expectation (not request) from candidates, and while many employers were tentatively flirting with the idea, few had dared to embrace it wholeheartedly. It’s safe to say none of us expected working from home to become mandatory for stretches of the following year, but having tried it, many charity employers were firmly in favour, finding fears of lost productivity unfounded, and benefiting from considerable savings on costly premises. This is all to the good for candidates, who are now far better able to find the flexibility they need. And as many predicted when first introduced, some of the changes look set to be irreversible: even among employers (with a few exceptions), we’re seeing limited appetite to resurrect the five-days-a-week office model in its entirety. How is flexible working affecting salaries? Things were expected to go one of two ways at the start of the pandemic, largely depending where you stood on the glass half-full/empty debate. Either: a) reduced overheads would give employers scope for higher salaries, or... b) employers would seek to offer lower rates for remote workers, citing their lack of commuting costs. (Alternatively, staff required to be in the office may at some point demand higher rates to cover these costs, delivering a similar two-tier result). While it’s early days and these scenarios could still happen, we’ve seen no sign as yet in the charity sector: salaries are being driven by the usual factors of supply and demand, with the impact of flexibility so far appearing to be neutral. Why flexibility matters Flexibility might not (yet) influence salary, but we can’t stress enough that it’s an even more vital component of your offer if you’re hoping to hire. By next year, we might even find ourselves publishing a flexibility survey, rather than focusing on salaries, such is its influence on candidate decisions. And like salary, the more you can offer, the greater the appeal. Stipulating five days a week at the office will severely limit your options, so avoid unless it’s genuinely essential. Hybrids of home/office work are popular though, and charities increasingly happy to offer them, with extra appeal if people have a say in their schedule rather than having it specified for them. The flexible future? Of course, now it’s no longer a rarity, flexibility isn’t quite the candidate-magnet it once was for those who were first off the mark. To regain that advantage now, think next-level flexibility - not just where people work, but when: maybe early or late shifts for the larks and night owls, or swapping eight consecutive hours for four-hour blocks, to manage childcare or other responsibilities? What other obstacles might prevent people who’d love to work for you from doing so, and can you find flexible ways around them? Clearly any new arrangements also need to be operationally viable and fair to all, so the possibilities are unlikely to be endless, but in the campaign to attract new talent, greater flexibility continues to be a vote-winner. For more on current market trends, together with the latest rates for more than 200 charity roles, check out the full Harris Hill 2022 Salary Survey, give us a call, or get in touch with one of our specialist consultants. More from the Harris Hill Blog How to handle competency-based interviews - part 2 In part two of our guide, Jenny Hills looks at what to say when you don't have the competency in question, and how to bring out your personality, values and vision for the future, even if the questions focus firmly on your past. Read more ► What to expect as a charity sector temp It's a great way to gain skills and experience fast, and with high demand throughout the sector, might temping be right for you?Our senior temps specialists Sekai Lindsay and Ryan Elmer have the lowdown on what you need to know. Read more ► Back to the Harris Hill Blog homepage ► View the latest jobs ►
If you've tried to recruit recently, you'll know that candidates are getting harder to find than sea turtles, anything your size in the sale, or the point of ITVBe. So what's going on, and what can you do about it? Here's our take on it, adapted from our 2022 Salary Survey. Given the pandemic saw many charities scaling back their operations, with 43% reporting job cuts by September 2020, and at least 7,400 known redundancies by the end of that year, you might expect to find a plethora of available candidates battling it out for precious few vacancies in the sector right now. But far from it: jobs on our site have been nudging pre-pandemic numbers for months, yet applications have yet to bounce back to anything like the same extent (NB: great news if you’re job-seeking - apply now while there’s limited competition). So where is everybody? One factor is that many of those made redundant or furloughed in 2020 have left the sector altogether. Having had to find new employment, many have embraced their new careers and seem unlikely to return any time soon. The labour shortage isn't unique to the charity sector, of course. Teachers, truckers, cabin crew, carers: it’s hard to name a group who aren’t currently short on numbers (besides government ministers, who we’ve had more than enough of for years, some would say). In some of these cases, dare we say it, Brexit appears to be a contributing factor, but for charities? Not so much, according to NCVO’s UK Civil Society Almanac, which shows that after falling slightly in the immediate wake of the 2016 referendum, the proportion of EU nationals in the UK charity workforce has since remained stable, hovering around 4%. However in London the figure is nearer 14%, potentially making any fluctuations more noticeable. Safety first A bigger factor is that in the stormy, uncertain conditions created by the pandemic, many who might otherwise have opted to move have been reluctant to rock the boat. After all, the launch of the furlough scheme had vividly illustrated the danger: only those on the previous month’s payroll were originally eligible for support, throwing a lifeline to established employees, but leaving those who’d just changed jobs to drown (not literally – you’re thinking of immigration policy). While this was remedied some weeks later, many will have concluded in that time (if not already) that staying put was by far the safest option. Charities have also been seeking stability, judging by the frequency and size of increases offered to retain existing staff. For many organisations, it’s been a better option than having to find replacements, with onboarding having proved a particular challenge while working remotely. Further factors We’ve also seen a significant cohort choosing to move out of London, where about 50% of the sector and many of our clients are based. However most of these individuals have been choosing to stay within the sector, so it’s more a redistribution of the candidate pool than a reduction. This is perhaps the only group who may have seen slight reductions in salary, if they previously received London weighting. In summary then, the ongoing candidate shortage is partly about numbers, with fewer people in the sector, and partly availability, with a smaller proportion than usual in the market for a move. Both are likely to continue the upward pressure on salaries. Tackling the problem When every role requires charity sector experience that no new entrant can gain for that very reason, the only possible result is ever-increasing competition for an ever-diminishing pool of candidates. Meanwhile outside the sector, the pandemic led many people to re-evaluate their priorities, one result of which is an even bigger-than-usual pool of talented people in the commercial sector who are eager to work for charities. It's by no means the whole solution, but we're starting to see an increasing number of charities turning this to their advantage, particularly in areas like corporate fundraising, where those on the business side of a partnership are well-placed to vault over the fence to the charity side. In our experience, where charities are embracing this, not only are they bringing valuable new skills into the sector, but it’s also proving to be a highly effective way of increasing diversity, making it well worth considering as a way forward. For more on current market trends, together with the latest rates for more than 200 charity roles, check out the full Harris Hill 2022 Salary Survey, give us a call on 020 7820 7300, or get in touch with one of our specialist consultants. More from the Harris Hill Blog How to handle competency-based interviews They’re a great opportunity to show you’ve got the skills, but how can you be sure to shine? Director Jenny Hills of our executive practice offers detailed insight and expert advice in the first of a two-part guide. Read more ► What to expect as a charity sector temp It's a great way to gain skills and experience fast, and with high demand throughout the sector, might temping be right for you? Our senior temps specialists Sekai Lindsay and Ryan Elmer have the lowdown on what you need to know. Read more ► Back to the Harris Hill Blog homepage ►
They’re a great opportunity to show you’ve got the necessary skills, but what exactly are they and how can you be sure to shine? Director Jenny Hills of our executive practice offers detailed insight and expert advice in the first of a two-part guide. What is a competency-based interview, and why do recruitment panels use them? A competency-based interview is one that focuses on establishing that you, as a candidate, have the skills, knowledge, experience, etc, to succeed in a role, as evidenced by your achievements so far. These competencies should be made clear on the job description and person specification of a role. If you read these documents carefully ahead of time, there should be no surprise questions in a competency-based interview. Competency-based interviews are used by organisations because: • They are fair and objective. In a well-run recruitment process using competency-based interviews, candidates can be well-prepared as they will have the JD and person specification well ahead of the interview. All candidates are asked the same questions in the same amount of time, and are assessed against the same criteria (the competencies). • They can highlight your potential and transferable skills. If you're going for a promotion (say from Head of Finance to a director role) or looking to move into a different type of role, a good person specification should break down the role into separate points such as 'ability to manage a remote team', 'knowledge of charity accounting rules', 'ability to communicate complex information to non-finance specialists', etc. Each of these are competencies. A step-up candidate can show they have these competencies with specific examples (and can therefore be successful in the new role), without having held that exact title before. • They help level the playing field for candidates who are not natural interviewees. There are people out there who are just good at interviewing. They're able to relax, come up with answers quickly, and can tell a great story about why they would be perfect for this role. Lucky them, but that’s not most of us. Most of us get a little nervous, need to take a breath before answering a question, and despite researching the organisation thoroughly before an interview, don’t turn up thinking we can solve their every issue before lunchtime on our first day. Competency-based interviews actually help you here, because you can prepare, anticipate the questions you’ll be asked, and therefore (fingers crossed), be less nervous. Also, you're not being assessed on your insider knowledge of the organisation - you're being assessed on how your own experience to date has prepared you for this role. These interviews are also effective at weeding out candidates who are good at interviewing (who can talk the talk) but in reality are less qualified for the actual role. Someone who can talk a great game about how they would, say, double the charity’s income in six months, won’t get very far in a competency-based interview if they can’t provide solid evidence of a track record of doing something like that before. How to tell if you’re in a competency-based interview Hopefully, you will have been briefed ahead of time on the format of the interview, but if not, you can spot a competency-based question by its focus on your past career. Some tell-tale phrases are: • Give me an example of… • Tell me about a time when… • Where have you demonstrated… • What experience do you have of… • How have you gone about… If you hear any of these or similar, it’s a competency-based question. Sometimes, the focus on the past might be less obvious, but a competency-based answer is still usually the best way to answer questions like these: • Tell us about your knowledge of… • Describe your ability to… • What’s your awareness of… Even if it's not the main focus, most interviews will include some competency-based questions. So, how do you go about answering them? Answering competency-based questions with the STAR technique The STAR technique is Competency-Based Interview Answers 101. Basically, the STAR technique is about answering a competency-based question with an example in four parts: Situation, Task, Action, Result. What does that mean in practice? Let’s look at an example. The question to be answered is, “Please could you tell us about your experience of leading and motivating a team?” What this means Answer Situation Setting the scene: what your role was, and the challenge or opportunity When I joined my current role as Head of Trust Fundraising, I had a team of five relatively inexperienced staff who were demoralised, felt isolated and were directionless after an extended period without a team leader. The trust bid pipeline was in danger, and was projected to deliver only 60% of the team’s target, which ultimately risked service provision. Task What your responsibility was/what you needed to do I was tasked with stabilising and growing the trust funding pipeline, which required me to develop and motivate the team to perform at a level they never had before. Action Quite simply, what you did I held workshops with the team to review what had been won, what had been submitted, what was in process and what was expected for the rest of the financial year, and an assessment of how likely we were to win each bid. We used this information to write a new annual strategy for trust fundraising. For each member of the team, I gave them a “blank slate” and focused on their performance now and in the future, setting individualised KPIs against the strategy, and regular check ins with me. I set a firm “no-blame culture” across the team between individuals and in group settings. I also set up a “buddy system” with the services team, so my team could see the impact of their work and the services team got a better understanding of what my team needed to write effective bids. Result What was your impact? By the end of the financial year, we had secured the existing pipeline of funding, as well as an additional 15% on top of our target. We were able to review our annual strategy and convert it into a 5-year strategy, which we are now halfway through the third year of delivery, with year on year increases in funding won. The same people are still in the team, with one member promoted by me last year into a manager position in accordance with her development plan, with a new hire reporting into her. Our latest staff survey revealed that the team feels strongly connected to the work of the charity, with a clear sense of their own individual contribution. Why use the STAR technique? The point of the STAR technique is to provide a clear structure to your answer that is easy to remember and follow for both you and the interviewer. Most of us are good at remembering chronological, cause-and-effect narratives – a story - which is basically what an answer structured around Situation, Task, Action, Result creates. It’s easier for you (and equally importantly, the panel) to remember a nicely structured story than a list of facts and figures, no matter how impressive those facts and figures may be. Similarly, don’t feel the need to throw in every single detail you can think of for the example you do give, and risk the panel losing the thread of your story. Stick to what is most important and relevant to the role you are interviewing for. Which is why… Less is (usually) more So, you're asked to demonstrate your communication skills. You’re a great communicator and have loads of examples, but don’t be tempted to reel them all off. Stick to one example that you judge to be most relevant to the role, and tell it well using the STAR technique. Put yourself in a panel member’s shoes as they are listening to your answer. What’s easier to follow: a list of ten projects from across your career (which are probably on your CV already) or one example, put in a context that makes it relevant to the vacancy, and that follows through to an impressive result that they would like to see replicated at their organisation? If you’ve given a strong example and now want to go further and show you’ve done this more than once, you can demonstrate this breadth by finishing with something like, “that was the most complex communications challenge I have faced, but I applied the same principles in the merger at this charity, the rebrand at that charity, and most recently the new service launch in my current role”. In part two, we'll look at how to bring your personality and values into play, deal with competencies you don't have, and inspire the panel with your vision for the future, not just your past. Read part two ► More from the Harris Hill Blog The Harris Hill Salary Survey 2022 What’s the going rate for your charity sector role? Whether you’re a head of fundraising for a small charity, digital manager for a household name, or in any of almost 200 other positions in the sector, you’ll find answers in the brand new 2022 Harris Hill Salary Survey. Read more ► Back to the blog homepage ►
In part two of our guide, Jenny Hills looks at what to say when you don't have the competency in question, and how to bring out your personality, values and vision for the future, even if the questions focus firmly on your past (read part one here). Bringing yourself to the interview One of the risks of a competency-based interview is that they can seem a little formulaic for both panel members and candidates. On the other hand, one of the best things about working in the charity sector is that we really care about the work our organisations do, the impact and the people. Recruitment panels want to get to know what makes you tick as a person. Sometimes, you will be asked directly about your values or personal qualities: “How have you demonstrated our charity’s values of x, y and z”? However, don’t wait for a direct question like this to come up to show you who you are. You can avoid the risk of your answers appearing to be 'by the book' by showing your enthusiasm, your values and your personality and self-awareness, and thread these throughout your answers. Here are some examples of how to weave these in: • “It’s important to me that everyone feels included and valued in my team, and so I…” • “This was causing tension in the team, and while my preferred management style is to build consensus (which has previously manifested as conflict avoidance), I made sure to tackle this head on by…” • “What drives me most is delivering justice for our communities, and I built this into our service design process by…” We’ve seen candidates ace questions by being really honest about the limits of their experience, giving example of where things didn’t quite work perfectly and being very clear about what they learnt from it. How to answer a tricky question There will probably be things on the job description or person specification that do not play to your strengths. That is totally fine – there is no perfect candidate for any job, and if you weren’t a strong candidate for the role, you wouldn’t be invited to the interview. So, you’re asked about that one thing you haven’t done before or aren’t quite sure of. Don’t panic! The trick to answering a tricky competency-based question is to give your best (most relevant) example, and then demonstrate an awareness of the development points for you and how you are going to tackle them. Let’s say you are a fundraiser going for a new role. The person specification says you need knowledge of the Raiser’s Edge CRM but you have only ever used the Salesforce system. However, you were the internal lead in implementing a major update and supporting your colleagues in adopting the new system. When asked about your experience in fundraising CRM systems, in your answer you can highlight how quickly you got up to speed with this new system, how you made sure the functionality worked for your team and supported them to use it. You can then tell the panel, “I know you use Raiser’s Edge here, and while I have not used that CRM before, I’m confident that I will be able to grasp the system quickly, as I have already watched a number of introductory and tutorial videos on YouTube and it doesn’t seem too dissimilar. I’d be happy to do further training ahead of my start date to ensure a smooth transition into the role”. Taking your answers further If you’ve researched the organisation and have a clear idea of what you want to achieve in the role, competency-based interviews can be frustrating, as the focus is on your past, not what you will do in future. There isn't always a natural place in the interview to share your vision and plans for the role, but you can bring them in by linking to your past experience. Let’s say in your current role, you have had great successes in bringing in younger donors, and you know a key part of this new role is to reach new audiences of potential funders. Give your STAR answer when asked about your experience of diversifying the donor base of a charity, and talk them through how you brought on younger donors. Then you can tell the panel (concisely) that you feel a similar plan could work at this charity, and while this aspect of what you did might not be relevant, these steps and that type of messaging are likely to be similarly effective in this role too. This shows that beyond a competency match with the role, you have really done your research into them as an organisation, and thought through what your experience can add in this new role. That kind of preparation shows you are genuinely interested in them and their work, which always leaves a favourable impression on a recruitment panel. Don’t feel the need to do this for every question, but if delivering on this one thing is a major point of interest for you in the role, and/or it tackles an issue you know the organisation is facing, it's always helpful to add this to your answer for the relevant questions. So to summarise, there's nothing to fear from a competency-based interview, and plenty to welcome. It’ll be fair and objective, assessing your experience against requirements, and since you can anticipate the questions, you can prepare and structure your answers in the most effective way. And while the questions may ask for little more than a list of what you’ve done, you can use them – with these methods and some wisely-chosen examples - to give the panel a far more rounded picture of who you are, showing them what you'll bring to the organisation when you're ultimately working in the role. Jenny Hills, Chief Executive & Director Recruitment Practice, Harris Hill ► If you haven't already, you can read part one here, while for more advice on forthcoming interviews or executive-level requirements, you can reach Jenny Hills on 020 7820 7321 or via email to this address. Back to the Harris Hill Blog homepage ►
Temping is a great way to gain skills and experience fast, and with high demand throughout the sector, it’s a great time to give it a try. Harris Hill’s senior temps specialists Sekai Lindsay and Ryan Elmer have the lowdown on what you need to know... For most of this century, temps have made up around 5% of the UK workforce, but considerably more of the voluntary sector (around 9%, say NCVO), making temporary work a familiar experience for many. If you’re considering it for the first time however, here’s a summary of the basics. What’s the difference between permanent, temporary and contract roles? Obviously the duration of the job, but there are some other key differences: Permanent roles You're employed directly by the organisation, on their payroll and, once you pass any probation period, entitled to all their staff benefits. Temporary roles You're employed by the agency through which you found the role, on the agency’s payroll and entitled to the agency’s benefits. However you're under the care and command of the organisation the agency has placed you in, normally for an agreed length of time, but this may be extended (with your consent) if the requirement is ongoing. Fixed term contracts You're employed directly by the organisation and on their payroll, just like a permanent role, but for a specific, limited amount of time, such as 6 or 12 months. Why temp? According to ONS figures, for around 30% of temporary workers it’s purely the lack of a permanent job, but the larger proportion have a variety of reasons, including: • The chance to work for multiple charities in a short space of time, rapidly expanding your insight and experience of the sector. • The opportunity to sample different roles in different places, helping to identify what you want (and what you don’t) from your career if you’re unsure. • Gaining more skills, confidence and adaptability, improving your prospects of landing (and succeeding in) the perfect permanent position when you find it. • To continue earning, including holiday pay and pension contributions, even if future plans mean you can’t commit to the role permanently. Don’t expect it every time, but there’s also the chance it may develop into something longer-term or even permanent. Getting into an organisation is often the hard part, but if you’re there as a temp and known to be personable, reliable, hard-working and a quick learner, they may be keen to keep you on board, even if you don’t have the specific experience that would normally be required. What are the drawbacks? It’s not all kittens and rainbows of course, even (we assume) at the Rainbow Centre for Kittens, so be aware that: • You’ll be paid weekly, for exactly the hours you work, as marked on a timesheet signed by your manager. So when you’re not working (if you’re off sick or for any other reason) you’re not earning. However you’re still entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. • Requirements for temps tend to arise at short notice and can end just as quickly too, so you won’t always know how long your role will continue, or what you’ll be doing (and therefore earning) next week/month. Planning ahead for anything can be a challenge. • Under Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) you’re entitled to the same salary and benefits as permanent staff after 12 weeks in the same role, but until then you may sometimes be on less favourable terms. How to temp through an agency Most temp vacancies go through agencies because the employer needs someone immediately. Yesterday, preferably. For these last-minute requests, there's no time to advertise and wait for applications; employers count on agencies to know good people already, so you need to be registered with one to be in the running. • Choose a reputable agency with plenty of jobs in the sector you’re keen to work in. Let’s say Harris Hill, for example. (Other agencies are available). Then just get in touch to register as a candidate. • We’ll need your CV, and will take you through the necessary checks and references first, to save you any unexpected roadblocks later. • We’ll then discuss your experience, the type of roles you’re looking for and aim to match your skills with suitable roles. • If there’s nothing immediately, don’t worry. Just keep an eye on the site, check back often, and apply for roles that match your skills and experience. Apply for the right roles, not just any roles This is really important as a temp. Meet 80% of the criteria for a permanent role and you can probably be trained on the rest, but this doesn’t work for temps as there’s no time for training. Clients need someone with all the right skills from day one, and with roles often attracting 100+ applications, they’ll probably find them. So there’s no benefit in applying for anything and everything; better to focus your very best efforts on a small number of roles where you closely match the requirements. Nonetheless, there are ways of improving your prospects… How to stand out • Remember that temp placements happen at speed, so make sure your CV is sufficiently clear and well-structured to see the key points at a glance. • A short opening profile summarising key skills will help this, as will bullet points to pick out skills and experience. • Include any transferable skills, explaining how they’re relevant for the role. • Tailor your CV to the role in question. Don’t make the reader piece together clues as to why you’re right for it – spell it out clearly from the start. • List any relevant systems, CRMs or packages you’ve worked with, and be specific, even if they’re a little obscure. You never know when one of them might be the deciding factor. Finally, one of the most effective things you can do is also one of the easiest, yet it’s often overlooked: let us know when you’re available. Why it pays to keep us posted When a last-minute temp vacancy comes in, we need to know two things fast: who do we know with the right skills, and who’s free to do it? Our database can answer the first question, but because we don’t track your every move (trust us: we can barely plant a plant, never mind a microchip), not necessarily the second. Unless you're already working for us elsewhere, we can only be certain of your availability if you've recently told us. This needn’t mean calling in every week – a one-line email will do, or even just a text. But simply by confirming you’re available, you’ll have dramatically improved your prospects of a great placement coming up soon. We hope that’s answered a few questions, but if you’d like to know more, please get in touch via the details below, or you can register as a candidate here. Sekai Lindsay Business Support roles 020 7820 7307 Email Sekai Ryan Elmer Marcomms, Events and Fundraising 020 7820 7313 • Email Ryan More from the Harris Hill Blog Good news: your CV's in demand! Jobs in the charity sector are bouncing back in a very big way, so recruiters and charities alike are jostling for a glimpse of your CV. Read more ► A brand new office in Paris! (Garden) We've recently relocated our central London office to a continentally-named corner of SE1 with a rather colourful history. Read more ► Back to the blog homepage ►