Pulse poll results: 40% of NFP workers tempted by the 'Great Resignation'

Posted on 27 Nov 2021

By Matthew Schulz, journalist, Our Community

Not-for-profit employers should brace for a huge movement of workers in the next year, according to Our Community’s survey of more than a thousand members.

Job Quit happy i Stock 1067459330
A large proportion of the workforce is tempted to move on, our new study shows.

The Pulse Poll survey interrogated views from the sector in the wake of the global trend dubbed the “Great Resignation”, now sweeping across the United States, Europe and other developed countries.

Pulse poll findings
Answers to the question: How likely are you to leave your job in the next 12 months?

The Pulse Poll drew 1062 responses to the question “How likely are you to leave your job in the next 12 months?”, and found:

  • 27% of workers were highly likely to leave
  • 13% were “quite likely”
  • 23% “could go either way”
  • 17% were unlikely to move
  • 20% were highly unlikely to quit.

That’s at least 350,000 workers heading out the door, based on an estimated 1.3 million workers in the sector.

The figures are an alarming result for a sector that faced rising pressures before the pandemic and has since suffered a significant spike in demand for services, combined with a funding squeeze and a collapse in volunteering.

Combining the “quite likely” and “highly likely” numbers, the poll showed that workers in big NFPs were more ready to quit (43%) than workers at small (39%) and medium-sized organisations (36%). Medium-sized organisations had the most workers who were happiest staying put (44%).

Pulse poll reasons
The key reasons respondents gave for wanting to leave their NFP job.

Of those wanting a new job, respondents nominated the pandemic as the number-one factor prompting them to “reassess my priorities” (37%), while others sought career progression (35%), more money, better management (both at 33%), a better culture (32%) and greater recognition (30%). Others sought better conditions, such as shorter hours (23%), a “change of scenery” (21%) or more flexibility (15%).

Respondents expressed strong feelings about the type of work culture and conditions they wanted.

One worker said they were “looking to find a job where I can keep working from home”.

Another looked set to move for a range of reasons: “Working long hours from home during the pandemic; little room for negotiations in terms of meeting KPIs during lockdown; micro-managing and lack of trust to get the jobs done from home.”

Others were concerned about vaccination mandates, with one declaring, “If any exclusion is promoted – particularly towards those who have chosen not to take 'the jab' – then I will not stay in my current position.”

Most of the respondents came from medium (26%) and large (36%) not-for-profits, with the largest contingents representing human services and disability, community development, health, education, and arts and culture.

Community and disability workers study reveals similar trend

A new large-scale study by sector superannuation provider HESTA found a similar trend, with industry representatives stating that attracting and retaining staff was a key issue for the sector, and that widespread departures could trigger a gap in talent and expertise.

Superannuation provider HESTA's new report.

The report The State of the Sector 2021: Community and Disability Services Workforce Insights based on 4600 responses, found that 17% of workers in those subsectors planned to leave the industry sector entirely in the next two years, with a lack of career opportunities and development the key reasons for wanting to move on.

Younger workers aged 18–39 were the most likely to be planning their exit.

In another result similar to the Pulse Poll, nearly one quarter of respondents to the HESTA study did not feel appreciated by their employers, with social workers the most dissatisfied in their jobs. On the other hand, 89% said they had felt supported during the pandemic.

The study showed a strong correlation between career opportunities and whether respondents would recommend their employers to others, while low pay rates were one of the drivers of dissatisfaction about working in the industry. The estimated median salary for HESTA members working in community services was $55,587.

How to keep staff: Reward performance, show you care

Catherine Brooks
Catherine Brooks

Community Directors Council member Catherine Brooks has predicted that organisations that failed to maintain a supportive culture during covid-19 would face the highest workforce turnover and employee movement.

The HESTA study backed that view, with nearly 60% of workers who felt unsupported by employers during the pandemic planning to leave the sector (31%) or change jobs (28%).

“The data showed a clear need to improve opportunities for career progression and skills development to encourage professionals to stay in the sector,” the report said.

In a help sheet aimed at NFP leaders, Ms Brooks offered the following tips to help organisations hold onto staff.

Not-for-profits should “offer flexibility even when you are able to return to the office” and “reinforce the best of your workplace culture, even if it’s done online,” she said.

“Show employees you care. Take the time to talk about non-work-related things and make sure you’re sending care packages that are tailored to people’s needs.”

Top performers should be “given opportunities to grow, but also make sure they’re not burning out.” She said organisations should encourage staff to take annual leave to counter stress, citing one organisation that closed down for two days to enforce some time off.

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