Sharing Staff: Developing a Culture of Decent Work
ONN has been supporting and leading the development of a labour force strategy for the nonprofit sector over the past three years. Through research, analysis, pilot and demonstration projects, we are seeking and building solutions to support our paid workforce – over 1 million in Ontario.
Our research on leadership in the nonprofit sector identified many opportunities for collaboration and creativity as we support our most valuable asset: our people. New approaches to leadership, shared staffing and professional development, reinventing the role of Executive Director, and more, have emerged from our work.
Time to walk the talk
Due to the impending maternity leave of one of our leadership staff – who provided a critical skillset to our organization – we considered how to best fill this vacancy. We could have created a contract position for a one year period and sought a qualified candidate through a public job ad. Nothing wrong with this approach. But in thinking about our own policy work in this area, we recognized that we did not want to contribute to more precarious work and contracts in the sector – and for organizations the size of ONN (less than 10 staff), internal mobility is difficult. So what opportunities existed?
Importantly, we saw this impending vacancy as an opportunity – to gain new perspectives and skills in a critical staff role; to provide a leadership opportunity for another organization’s employee who might also have limited internal mobility; to share ways of doing work and promising practices between organizations; and of ensuring stable salaries and benefits for employees.
A secondment approach
Secondment was our preferred option – and we started by seeking out individuals and organizations with the skill set, shared approach to leadership and ONN’s commitment to getting stuff done. And voila – a partnership with Framework Foundation was formed.
Now, there’s no doubt this isn’t an easy fix to a job vacancy. There are challenges to this approach. Despite our excitement of seconding a staff member from Framework, we knew that they would then have a vacancy and would need to recruit to fill the gap that we created – and we all know how time intensive both recruitment and onboarding new employees is. It was essential that both organizations saw this as a strategic opportunity – to learn from each other’s cultures and practices, to build further bridges to our work, and to support a culture of staff development and learning. We feel lucky Framework was willing to take a chance and go on this journey with us.
Learn & listen
We anticipate lots of learnings along the way and know that it will be essential for us to keep the lines of communication open and be transparent about our challenges. We are committed to sharing our learnings as we go, throughout the year-long stay, from our various perspectives.
And we’d love to hear from you as to how other nonprofit organizations are creatively addressing HR issues that can support a vibrant and productive workplace that allows for change and a movement towards decent work in our sector.