The great resignation and shortage of talent is not limited to the companies and individuals we serve. Chambers and Associations are experiencing our own shortage of qualified employees. I’ve heard a lot of industry leaders say “you don’t work for a chamber or association for the money.” So my question is, “why don’t we?”
When faced with hiring several positions in 2019 and 2020, it was clear to me that I was not competing for talent with other chambers, I was competing for talent with my members like Toyota, Hilti, JPMorgan Chase and those companies that have an employee-centric culture. It definitely put a sense of urgency into rethinking the benefits and pay we offer. Our organizations need the best and brightest, but we shouldn’t assume talent will just buy into our mission, the same way we don’t assume members will continue to renew just because it’s the right thing to do.
Then I looked at our employee manual. Not only was the language very legal-focused, it read more on what we weren’t allowed to do, rather than what we had to offer. That realization started a complete overhaul with this goal: be more supportive of our team and competitive for talent.
There are dozens of ways to support our employees and increase benefits without costing the organization a huge amount of money right from the start. Benefits like additional PTO, holidays, a flexible remote work policy, volunteer time, and a relaxed dress code are just some of the easy ways our Chamber stepped up with employee benefits.
One of the biggest additions is fully paid parental leave. In the 16 years and four chambers I’ve worked for, none of them offered paid parental leave. My colleagues had to rely on short-term disability or reduced pay to be home for a family addition. You know what short-term disability doesn’t cover? Adding to your family through adoption.
In 2018, when I adopted my daughter, I had luckily built up enough extended leave to take a few weeks off. So, when I had the chance to change this policy for the better, it was one of the first things I did. Now new parents receive paid time off regardless of how their family grows, including birth, adoption and foster care.
Another one of the biggest changes came in the way our employee manual is written. Rather than focusing on policies that prohibit behavior, the manual reads like a warm welcome letter to employees. It walks through setting expectations from both the employee and organization, and dives deep into our Culture Code. Even better, it focuses on one clear rule: Use Good Judgement. That rule is supported by our four guiding principles that guide our team in pursuit of the chamber’s mission:
1) Embrace and Drive Change
2) Be Passionate and Determined
3) Serve Members Like Family
4) Leave a Positive Impact on the Community and Profession.
In the end, this new policy manual won’t take the place of growth opportunities and pay. But it does nicely compliment those important pieces. It helped me attract a shining star on our team who is a new mom and worried about flexibility. It helped me keep an employee who values time to volunteer and was considering a job change. And it helps us all work better, together, because we feel valued and supported by the organization and each other.