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10 Do's and Don'ts of HR Assessments for Nonprofits

Posted Mar 01, 2024 12:15 PM
A human resource (HR) assessment is a tool used to analyze and identify critical areas in HR for improvement. It ensures that the delivery of HR services is aligned with the organization’s mission and values. An HR assessment is conducted by reviewing written policies, interviewing stakeholders, and observing behavior to analyze how HR is functioning throughout the organization.

However, conducting these HR assessments can be a delicate process, especially in a nonprofit setting where resources are often limited and the workforce might include a mix of paid staff and volunteers.

Let’s explore some of the essential do’s and don'ts of conducting an effective nonprofit HR assessment to help you get started off on the right foot.

5 Do's of HR Assessments for Nonprofits

Consider the following recommendations to optimize your team’s growth, involvement, and development, and to make it more likely that the assessment’s findings contribute positively to your nonprofit’s overarching goals.

1. Do Tailor Assessments to Your Mission

Ensure that your HR assessment is aligned with your organization's mission and values. Let’s consider an organization with a mission focused on inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA). In aligning an HR assessment with these principles, the assessment process could incorporate specific criteria and metrics related to diversity initiatives, equitable hiring practices, and inclusive workplace policies.

For example, questions in the assessment might address the representation of diverse groups in the workforce, the effectiveness of inclusion programs, and the existence of policies that promote equitable opportunities.

Actionable Steps:

  • Review your mission statement and core values to ensure alignment in your assessment.
  • Create questions specific to your nonprofit's work that you can ask your stakeholders.

2. Do Involve Diverse Stakeholders

When conducting assessment interviews or surveys, include a range of stakeholder perspectives. This could involve board members, staff, volunteers, and even beneficiaries. Diverse input can lead to more comprehensive and insightful assessments.

Actionable Steps:

  • Create a committee with representatives from different roles to oversee the HR assessment process.
  • Solicit input from various groups, including volunteers, staff, and board members.

3. Do Focus on Development

Use an HR assessment as a tool for growth and development rather than just evaluation. Identify areas where your employees and volunteers can improve and build out their training and support plans.

Actionable Steps:

  • Identify critical areas for staff development based on your nonprofit's strategic goals.
  • Offer personalized training or professional development plans based on assessment outcomes.

4. Do Maintain Transparency

Be open about the assessment process, criteria, and outcomes. Transparency helps build trust and ensures that everyone understands the purpose and benefits of the assessments.

Actionable Steps:

  • Communicate the purpose and benefits of assessments to all participants beforehand.
  • Share results and next steps with participants to maintain trust and engagement.

5. Do Regularly Review and Update Assessments

An organization’s needs change over time as technology evolves, the needs of the community shifts, as there’s turnover, etc. As such, an HR assessment should be conducted every few years to routinely review and update your assessment findings, methods, and tools in order for the findings remain relevant and practical.

Actionable Steps:

  • Schedule periodic reviews of assessment tools so that they stay relevant and practical.
  • Stay informed about new assessment trends and technologies that could benefit your organization.

5 Don'ts of HR Assessments for Nonprofits

While HR assessments are vital tools for organizational development, there are common pitfalls that nonprofits should avoid. The following highlights areas where missteps can occur.

1. Don’t Overlook Soft Skills

While technical skills are important, don't underestimate the value of soft skills like empathy, communication, creativity, emotional intelligence, and teamwork, especially in a nonprofit setting.

Actionable Steps:

  • Include behavioral and situational questions to gauge empathy, teamwork, and communication skills.
  • Provide training on soft skills development as part of your staff development programs.

2. Don’t Neglect Volunteer Contributions

Volunteers are often the backbone of nonprofit organizations and have a unique interaction with an HR function. It's vital that your HR assessments recognize and evaluate the unique perspective of volunteers, not just paid staff.

Actionable Steps:

  • Develop an adapted assessment questionnaire for volunteers to acknowledge their unique roles and contributions.
  • Use feedback from volunteers to improve volunteer management and engagement.

3. Don’t Rely Solely on Quantitative Data

Quantitative data can be informative but doesn't tell the whole story. Combine it with qualitative feedback for a more rounded view of performance and potential.

Actionable Steps:

  • Combine surveys and numerical ratings with open-ended questions for qualitative insights.
  • Conduct focus groups or one-on-one interviews for deeper understanding.

4. Don’t Ignore Compliance

Be aware of legal requirements and best practices, especially regarding privacy, discrimination, and pay transparency.

Actionable Steps:

  • Regularly review assessment processes for compliance with both local and federal employment laws and regulations.
  • Consult with HR experts to make sure your assessments respect privacy and non-discrimination laws.
  • Consider conducting an HR audit alongside your assessment to zoom in on compliance.

5. Don’t Forget About Feedback

Encourage and value feedback from employees and volunteers about the assessment process. This feedback can be crucial for developing fair and practical assessments, as well as making continuous improvements to them.

Actionable Steps:

  • Implement a feedback mechanism for participants to share their experience with the assessment process.
  • Use this feedback to make continuous improvements in your assessment strategies.

HR assessments in nonprofits are not just about evaluating the performance of the HR department; they're about nurturing a passionate, skilled workforce aligned with your mission. By following these do's and don'ts, your nonprofit can conduct HR assessments that are effective, fair, and beneficial to your entire organization.

About the Author: Conor Hughes (HR Consultant at RealHR Solutions)

Conor is a professionally certified consultant (SHRM-CP), board member, and marketer. He enjoys managing projects, creating strategies, and brainstorming ways to bring organizations to new heights. With the company in mind, he strives to serve others by building trust and relationships while guiding them through the process of growth. He seeks to use technology to empower organizations and individuals while guiding all steps of change management.

As a board member of the Westchester Human Resource Management Association, he serves as the Social Media and Marketing Chair. He helps foster collaboration and community engagement for HR professionals across Westchester, NY. Conor specializes in communication and relationship building to strengthen teams. He is passionate about workflow optimization and solution-based technology to enhance an organization's mission-driven impact.

Outside of his professional engagements, Conor can be found traveling to unique destinations to hike, camp, and explore. He loses track of time when his camera is in his hands, and he has a passion for poetry and painting. While the Hudson Valley will always be his home, he has now found himself exploring the Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado.