I received a Board Issues Hotline (515.963.7972; firstname.lastname@example.org) call from a Missouri administrator who has a serious problem.
His newly formed board personnel committee is concerned about staff morale and is planning to make a “suggestion box” available to the organization’s employees. The committee chair’s method for this suggestion box? Just email your complaints, suggestions and thoughts to the committee chair!
“I don’t even know where this idea came from,” said the Missouri executive director.
Here’s where this type of board action comes from: Board members are volunteers, and for the most part are well-meaning when they propose “suggestion boxes.” As volunteers, they typically have very little day-to-day contact with the organization, so they often wonder how things are going in certain areas—such as “Are employees happy?”
When enough board members start thinking this way, watch out. Management of staff is the CEO’s responsibility. It is your job to ensure that staff is being listened to—that their complaints and suggestions are given thorough and fair hearings and then acted upon when they are good for the nonprofit.
When board members express a desire to know more about employees and their work, show them turnover rates, evidence of how you resolve standard staff grievances, staff awards and testimonials from those you serve that focus on employee care and interactions.
Maybe the best way to keep a personnel committee or the board from stepping out of line is through an online survey to find out what is on your employees’ minds. A survey on Survey Monkey (https://www.surveymonkey.com) will help you uncover any below-the-surface issues that staff are hesitant to bring to your attention. These might be occurring in the areas of morale, communication, accountability or the direction the nonprofit is taking.
This activity may be well worth your while, because if you do not undertake it, someday the board may do it for you.
Jeff Stratton, Editor