Talent Mapping to Increase Staff Satisfaction and Reduce Turnover

August 29, 2016

Heather Carpenter, Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator, M.A. in Nonprofit Management, Notre Dame of Maryland University, and Nonprofit Consultant, Momentum for Impact


When was the last time you revised your job descriptions? For many organizations, job descriptions are stagnant documents that are rarely reviewed. In our book, The Talent Development Platform: Putting People First in Social Change Organizations, my co-author Tera Wozniak Qualls and I discuss the importance of making a job description a living and continually changing document. We describe a seven-step process called talent mapping, where organizational leaders take the time to map strategic goals to the talent that they have, which leads to increased staff satisfaction and less turnover. Here are the talent mapping steps in detail:


Step 1: Understanding competencies


Organizations must to understand the competencies (knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics) that staff and volunteers need to possess in order to fulfill the strategic goals of the organization. My co-author and I spent many months reviewing scholarly and practitioner literature to identify a set of 10 core competencies that nonprofit staff and volunteers should possess. These competencies include:


1. Advocacy and Public Policy

2. Communications, Marketing and Public Relations

3. Financial Management and Social Entrepreneurship

4. Fundraising and Resource Development

5. Grantmaking or Direct Service

6. Human Resources Management and Volunteerism

7. Information Management

8. Leadership and Governance

9. Legal and Regulatory

10. Planning and Evaluation


Organizations can use the 10 core competencies as a starting point for identifying the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics needed to achieve the strategic goals. The 10 core competencies are not meant to be all-inclusive, therefore, organizations also need to identify sub-competencies that are specific to the organization, departments, and positions. The sub-competencies go into more detail than the core competencies. 


Step 2: Outlining competencies that will address strategic goals


Using the 10 core competencies as a guide, organizations then identify competencies that are key to achieve their strategic goals. For example, if an organization wants to increase its annual fund by 10% in the coming year, the fundraising competency will need to be identified to achieve this strategic goal. However, organizations must not limit the competencies to just fundraising. Other competencies such as financial management, leadership, and communications will need to be included in achieving the strategic goal of increasing its annual fund by 10%.


Step 3: Analyzing Jobs & developing job descriptions


Once the competencies are identified, job descriptions are analyzed and revised to ensure that the competencies are included. My co-author and I wrote an article about creating and revising job descriptions. This article discusses the importance of separating job responsibilities into competency categories and seeing if there are missing competencies. The job descriptions are also analyzed to identify proficiency levels. We use the proficiency levels created by the National Institute of Health. The NIH created a proficiency scale of 1 to 5. 


1 = Fundamental Awareness

2 = Novice

3 = Intermediate

4 = Advanced

5 = Expert


Competencies will be rated on a certain proficiency level based on the position and level of expertise needed to fulfill strategic goals. For example, a Development Director will need to possess a higher proficiency level with the Fundraising and Resource Development competency than a Development Coordinator.


Step 4: Assessing your team


In the next step in the talent mapping process, staff and volunteers self-assess their competencies and proficiency levels, which is done by taking the Individual Professional Development Assessment (IPDA). The IPDA is a short self-assessment in which staff identify competencies they perform in their jobs as well as the proficiency levels in which they perform the core competencies. Managers can also assess each employee and then compare results to the employees’ self-assessment. The IPDA results generate good conversations and the opportunity to see if the employee believes they are performing the competencies required in their job description.


Step 5: Finding gaps


In step five, the results of the IPDA are compared to the job description. First, strengths are identified (where employees are performing at an advanced or expert proficiency level). The employees who show strengths can serve as mentors to other employees or volunteers. Second, deficiencies are identified (where employees are performing at a fundamental awareness or novice proficiency level).


Gaps are also identified. Gaps are when a staff or volunteers’ current proficiency level is below the required proficiency level of the job. Going back to the strategic goal example of increasing annual funds by 10%, the development director takes the IPDA and scores a novice proficiency level in financial management in their IPDA, but they need an intermediate proficiency level (as indicated in their job description), so they have a gap. The most important gaps are in those competencies important to achieving the strategic goals. Gaps can also be identified across a department or organization. For example, in one organization, most employees had a gap in the Advocacy, Public Policy and Social Change competency.


Step 6: Filling gaps


Organizations can fill gaps, or improve the proficiency levels of employees, with professional development. Research shows that 70% of learning happens on the job, which is supplemented with 20% mentoring and 10% on the job training. Therefore, if an employee scores a lower proficiency level in required a competency (such as financial management), the organization can provide low-cost on the job experiences for the employee to enhance their financial management skills. One organization I worked with had their CPA mentor the program managers to produce both a program and organizational monthly financial statement so they could see how their program connected to the organizational finances. 


Step 7: Reducing Turnover


The last step in the talent mapping process is reducing turnover. Once an employee (or volunteer) feels invested, they are more likely to stay with the organization. Research shows it costs an organization 75-150% of an employees’ annual salary to loose them. These costs include the lost work and the cost to recruit, hire and train a new employee. Research also shows that younger employees are looking to organizations to provide them with professional development. The talent mapping process is a proven investment in employees and volunteers, which leads to increased employee satisfaction and less turnover. For more information on how to determine your true costs of employee turnover and how much you’ll save through talent mapping, check out this blog post. 

Want to learn more? Register for my workshop, Talent Development for Nonprofit Leaders, at Maryland Nonprofits’ Annual Conference, Celebrating Success – Inspiring Innovation, on September 29, 2016 at the Baltimore Convention Center.  


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