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How to Hire (and Retain!) the Best Staff for Your Association or Chamber

MemberClicks Avatar MemberClicks January 17, 2023
Table of Contents
10 min read

Being able to build the best experiences for your members depends on who is helping to run your association. We know you want to find and keep the best employees, but hiring the best staff possible and retaining them can be more challenging than you think.  

We’ve got you covered though. We’re tackling all these points so you can build the staff of your dreams in 2023. 

Bookmark this page so you can easily access it next time you're hiring

First, some stats about hiring the best staff 

A 2022 employee study from LinkedIn says that: 

  • 76% percent of hiring managers admit attracting the right job candidates is their greatest challenge. 
  • Nearly 60% of job seekers quit online job applications mid-way due to their length and complexity. 
  • 70% of the global workforce is made up of passive talent who aren’t actively job searching, and the remaining 30% are active job seekers. 
  • 27% of candidates say they are seeking caring work environments. 

On top of this, it’s getting harder to find the right employees with the right skills and hiring is getting more competitive as COVID changes the priorities and expectations of employees. 

What to take away 

Basically, you’re not alone with looking for the best people. But employees are looking for the best workplaces at the same time. Keep it simple to apply, take interviewing seriously and don’t skip out on onboarding.  

Top tip: Understand what employees are really looking for 

Promoting the same benefits to potential employees now as you did even 5 years ago won’t return the same results. What employees are looking for from their jobs now are: 

  • Work-life balance 
  • The ability to work from home / remote 
  • A focus on mental health and wellness 
  • Opportunities for professional growth 
  • High quality workplace culture 

The last point, culture, is potentially the hardest thing to pin down because it can mean something different to everyone. 

The enigma that is workplace culture 

The culture of a workplace is the attitudes, beliefs, behavior and day-to-day atmosphere of a work environment. The rise of startup culture and tech monopolies started to push this idea that workplace culture is ping pong tables, free drinks, catered lunches and the ability to wear whatever you want to work.  

Over the COVID-19 pandemic, however, that image was shattered. Now, a positive work culture is all about: 

  • Open communication 
  • Transparency from leadership 
  • Teamwork 
  • Meaningful work 
  • Collective core values with a focus on doing good 

It also includes many of the points above that employees look for now: work-life balance, opportunities for growth and a positive environment for health and wellness.  

Workplace culture for associations 

Associations are already set up to be an incredible workplace. Not only are most associations already focused on development, creating experience and working towards helping people, but you have the ability to provide a great benefit to employees through everything you do with your members.   

For many organizations, their mission and vision is at the heart of what you do for your members, what events you hold and how you go about your daily jobs. Culture is important to employees, but don’t underestimate how important it is for you, too. It’ll come into play when hiring. 

Finding the best employees 

That same report from LinkedIn states that “70% of the global workforce is made up of passive talent who aren’t actively job searching, and the remaining 30% are active job seekers.” 

This means that getting the best employees possible may require going out and looking for them. A LinkedIn message or email sharing information about a role, why you think they’d be a good fit and an invitation to learn more can do a lot to pave the way to your organization.  

Must ask questions when interviewing for new staff

When you do land that interview with a potential employee, you absolutely need to ask the right questions. Sure, people can rehearse or practice their answers to interview questions, but even that shows a knack for preparing and thinking ahead.  

Here are the 4 questions we think should 100% be on your interview list. 

1. Tell me about your background. 

There’s a reason this question is a classic. This is your chance to compare what your candidate put on their resume to what they will tell you about themselves in person. This question allows you to see if 1) they are being transparent and 2) their experience is a good fit for your nonprofit’s needs. You can even provide a follow up question to see what a typical day in their past position looked like to get a clearer picture. 

2. What about the position do you think you’d jump into easily and what would you have a hard time adapting to?  

By this point, your candidate should have a pretty good idea of what the position entails (if you described the job responsibilities well). This overview will let you know how they evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses about this position without asking them straight out. Also, it’ll be good to know from a manager perspective what you’d be working with on a regular basis and how they can benefit your nonprofit.  

This question also helps you see what type of employee they will be. Do they bring up a few skills they’d like to learn or places they want to grow? Or do they seem uninterested in development? And what kind of employee are you looking for? 

3. What in our mission resonates with you? 

For almost any nonprofit, their mission is the heart of why their employees come to work. As we said before, your mission can directly impact your culture. This question helps you to decide if this person is really a great fit for your organization. It is absolutely possible that they may not be a good culture fit. This question will also reveal how they uniquely relate to your mission, providing further insight on their personality. 

4. Why did you (or do you want) to leave your last job?  

Why ask? While no one loves being asked this question, it’s beneficial to ask as it provides you some information about how your candidate deals with change. Also, depending on how much you’re researching your candidate’s references, this will reveal how honest they are being about how they cut ties with their previous employer or what their standing is in their current company. 

Onboarding new employees 

Now that you’ve found a great employee and they’ve accepted the job, it’s time to onboard them! 

You want new staff to be set up for success when joining your association the same way you want new members to be. Good employee onboarding contributes to: 

  • Employee retention 
  • Productivity 
  • Quality of work 
  • Communication and teamwork 

Almost 1/3 of all employees begin shopping for a new job in their first 6 months of being hired – all because their experience in their new role isn’t what they thought. It’s not that surprising when 88% of companies don’t onboard new staff efficiently. Why stick around at a workplace that doesn’t seem to care about you? 

How you onboard can make a huge difference. We believe onboarding should be looked at in 3 steps: Before they start, when they first start and a few months after they start.  

Before they start…  

Believe it or not, the onboarding process starts (or should start) before the hire actually shows up to work. You want them to have everything they need to succeed and hit the ground running, and that means preparing their workspace in advance. 

Prepare their workspace  

In addition to having a clean space for them (a little dusting may be required!), have their computer and phone set up and basic office supplies laid out – a notepad, pens, tissues, hand sanitizer, etc. They’ll, of course, bring in many of their own supplies, but having the basics ready to go not only boosts efficiency, but just makes for a warmer welcome.   

If they are working from home, make sure to ship them their computer and all other needs before their start day. You may also want to provide a stipend for them to purchase anything they may need like a new desk chair, mouse, keyboard etc.  

Set up most (if not all) necessary accounts  

Think about what accounts your new hire is going to need right off the bat. What software will they be using day-in and day-out? Go ahead and set up accounts for them, if you can on your Association Management Software, email, social accounts, etc. That way, on their first or second day on the job, you can dive into training without having to spend time on some of those more administrative tasks.  

When they first start…  

Woohoo!! It’s starting day!!! Make it the best day ever with these tips. 

Show them around and introduce them to the team 

With so many interviews being done virtually, many new hires don’t know the workspace, office or any other employees. If they are working in office, show them around the space and point out where certain supplies are (the dishes, the coffee, the paper towels, etc.). Make sure to introduce the new hire to others in the office.  

If you’re working virtually, set up informal coffee chats so they can get to know the people they work with and can form relationships. Inter-office relationships do a lot to build a sense of team, promote open communication and build a deeper connection to work.  

Don’t skip the educational stuff 

New hires can be eager to jump into work. But don’t overlook the foundation building and education needed to set them up for success.  

  • Discuss your organization in depth 
  • Make sure they understand your members (maybe even set up some meet and greets with your most engaged members) 
  • Coach them in your software 
  • Give them time to process everything they’re learning 

Be clear about expectations 

Many new hires can be worried about not meeting expectations or fulfilling the role. In reality, new hires shouldn’t be expected to do more than just learn and build that foundation for the first few weeks or months. Be clear right away of what you expect from them at this time, how success is measured in the role, and when you’ll be expecting them to take on more projects. 

A few months after they start… 

Now that your new hire has settled in, time to check in! 

Be present for their first 6 months 

The onboarding process shouldn’t end once training is over. Continue to check in with the new hire months after they’ve started. Let their first project be something that can east them in and follow up to see how they found it. You want to balance them being empowered in their role but not overwhelmed with unrealistic expectations. 

A few months in you may want to revisit the subject of expectations and success. You may want them to have more output or to take on an extra project. Don’t expect them to just know that without you telling them.  

Ask for feedback 

A new hire isn’t necessarily just going to feel comfortable giving open and honest feedback about their time so far at your organization, so make it a point to ask. Ask them: 

  • How the onboarding process was (and is) 
  • What they felt they could’ve used more of, 
  • What aspects could be improved upon.  

Even if you’re not actively hiring now, you will again at some point in the future, and the better you can make your new hire onboarding process, the better your employee retention rates are likely to be.  

Employee retention: How to keep your stars 

When workplaces find a great employee, the biggest mistake they can make is assuming they’ll stick around forever.  

The top five reasons employees leave their jobs, according to Monster, are: 

  1. Insufficient pay or unfair pay practices 
  1. Unmet personal goals and dreams 
  1. Excessive workload 
  1. Unexpected job / career opportunity 
  1. Lack of recognition or feedback 

The best way to keep employees is to actively work to battle these 5 points. 

Review your pay structure, benefits and bonuses regularly. For associations, added benefits could be free access to member events, networking opportunities, etc.  

In order to meet the goals and dreams of your employees, communicate with them regularly about their career goals. Most importantly, listen to what they say and take action to build opportunities around your employees. 

Be aware of how much you’re asking of your employees. Remember that work-life balance and a positive workplace with a focus on mental health and wellness are some of the highest priorities for employees in 2023. Managing workload is an excellent way to do this. 

While you can’t do much to battle external opportunities, you can create internal paths for your employees to grow and learn. If they can advance in your organization when they love to work there, they may not want to leave. 

Finally, be generous with your feedback and recognition. We all love to know we’re doing a great job. Make sure you’re telling your employees in a way that is genuine.  

Finding, hiring and keeping the best employees for your association 

Finding, onboarding and retaining members is the goal of any association.  Having an iconic and amazing team in place will make it easy. Make sure you hire and retain the best employees with these tips. 

If you need help with onboarding staff, we have a free downloadable guide that can help.  

cta to download an onboarding guide to new staff
Free Member Retention Guide

Ready to retain members and keep them coming back forever and ever? This guide will teach you everything you need to know about member retention. We cover all the basics, like the first steps to member retention and how to map out your member journey. From there, we dive a bit deeper into retention tips.