CAVR 2009 Parker Speaking Notes

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Presentation by M. Parker
Topic: Intergrated Human Resources Keynote
Presented at VolpediA - CAVR 2009 Conference

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  • 1. Integrated Human Resources - Sustainability Through People CAVR Conference - June 3, 2009 Presenter, Martha Parker Edmonton, Alberta I have presented much of this material on two other occasions - in Toronto last May at a summit coordinated by Imagine Canada, Volunteer Canada and the Association of Fundraising Professionals and at Alberta’s provincial Family and Community Support Services Conference this past November. As I told the audience both times, this is probably one of the most difficult presentations I have ever prepared. One thing I learned about myself many years ago is that I have a personal need to influence. Because of that, it’s intimidating to know that I’m speaking to a room full of people who are all working in the nonprofit sector and to also know, that I don’t want to just stand in front of you and do the typical “rah rah presentation” on volunteerism. I really do hope that my remarks will make you think, will stay with you and will help address some of the real issues I believe are facing volunteerism today. In other words - I don’t want this to be a time out for anyone in this room; I want it to be a time in. Once you leave this room, I‘d like to think that you would have at least three things that I’ve said that you want to use to influence the work you do. Now that’s PRESSURE!!!!! both for me and for each of you. Last year, my daughter sent me the text of the commencement address Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios delivered to Stanford’s graduation class in 2005. He made a couple of key points that really resonated with me. For those of you who know me, I frequently talk about how important it is to connect the dots. Steve Jobs noted that one of his learnings after he got fired by Apple…. despite the fact that he was the guy who had invented Apple….. was that sometimes it’s hard to connect the dots looking forward and much easier to connect the dots looking backward. That’s certainly been my experience since I left Volunteer Calgary five years ago. A number of important events and experiences over the last ten years have impacted how I currently think about volunteerism. I never got fired like Steve Jobs; but, I did get tired. I am however still very engaged in the sector, and have been blessed with time to reflect on my work in the community - good and bad - and like Mr. Jobs, I have appreciated the opportunity to do so. • In retrospect, the first event that had significant impact on my new thinking about volunteerism was the immense opportunity organizations in Calgary had about thirteen years ago when both Nova (later purchased by Trans Canada) and TELUS introduced programs that offered community placement of employees who were retiring or being downsized. These were not volunteer placements as the companies involved agreed to pay up to 20 hours a week for those employees who chose to take this option 1
  • 2. as part of their transition plan. These were people who were Executive Assistants to the top guns of these companies, project managers, Human Resource staff, IT staff, communications staff and on and on. In other words, highly talented and skilled people. It didn’t take long before Volunteer Calgary was getting calls from employees of the corporations involved that they couldn’t find placements. No one wanted them because they didn’t fit the current job descriptions of volunteer needs in the organizations they were approaching. Volunteer Calgary engaged a really keen Trans Canada retiree to help us/help them. Over the next three years, Volunteer Calgary assisted in finding community placements for many of these employees. Our organization alone was blessed to be able to attract 18 of these highly skilled people. They literally changed our organization and did everything from reorganizing our filing and technology systems to helping us start a dozen new programs. We learned during that time that we had to call Executive Directors and CEO’s of organizations rather than Managers of Volunteers to help us find opportunities for those who chose the community placement option. Needless to say, the corporations involved had created a mind blowing program that could have had long term impact on the nonprofit sector and positioned them as absolute leaders in nonprofit capacity building, except, we - as a sector- didn’t know how to use the talents of their people and frankly the corporations involved didn’t know how to effectively leverage and support the program. It was….sadly….discontinued. • In many articles being written about the nonprofit sector, one of the issues that keeps coming up was and is that organizations have a heck of a time recruiting Board Members. Both Volunteer Calgary and Volunteer Vancouver have developed Board Banks over the last few years, working on our own and then working with Altruvest - a Board Match and Board Leadership Program out of Toronto. Much to our surprise and despite recognizing that these programs were high tech and high touch and ensuring we had the supports needed to implement the programs, both organizations have found that nonprofits were not great (in fact, generally, they were dreadful) about following up with potential Board members. Many interested volunteers were never even approached. So how do those of us who work as sector serving organizations continue to make the case for a perceived shortage of Board volunteers, when our direct experience tells us something totally different? Was the problem with the program that the two Volunteer Centres were not dealing directly with Executive Directors and CEO’s rather than Managers of Volunteer Resources? Was it because Managers of Volunteers did not feel it was part of their job responsibility and therefore did not engage their CEO’s/Executive Directors in the program that was being offered? Was it a combination of both or was there a variety of other reasons that we were missing? 2
  • 3. • Leadership Calgary was another program where I had tremendous learning. The curriculum in Calgary is focused on transformational change and adaptive learning rather than teaching traditional leadership skills. In the first five years of the program, the biggest complaint we had from our annual group of 30 extremely bright participants - average age of 35 - as they tried to connect with systemic change projects in the community was - “no one wants us - the old guard will not let us in”. A more recent example that reinforces that not much has changed since those early years of Leadership Calgary was discussed in the March, 2008 Alberta Community Leadership newsletter. The article, written by Brenda Herchmer, is titled The Importance of Emerging Leaders and focuses on an innovative Alberta grant initiative “to use parks and recreation to create places, spaces and culture that would encourage people to get physically and socially engaged in their communities”. The call for proposals appealed to a number of early adopters who didn’t happen to be in senior positions of authority. In more than one community, as long as these initiatives were below the radar screen, excitement prevailed. As soon as they became more public, these emerging leaders were slapped on the wrist - and reminded of their place in the existing hierarchies. I couldn’t say it better than Brenda, when she wrote. “So what’s up with that?” Again, we are constantly talking right across the country about a leadership deficit; but, as Brenda concluded and I agree, perhaps its time “to rethink what we mean by leadership.” To further reinforce the danger of not engaging emerging leaders, there was an article in the Globe and Mail in March of 2008 about a university student named Jesse Hamonic who, in 2006, became very distressed about homelessness in Winnipeg. Some of you may have read it at the time. To quote the article, he wanted to do something about the homeless issue and “tried volunteering for a few well established local charities. To his shock, they turned him away.” At the time of the article, he had launched three charities and was working on the fourth - all targeted at engaging university and high school students in community initiatives focused on homelessness and hunger. There are and will be more and more social activists just like Jesse and they will either change the world with us or without us. That does not mean to say they are not as the article implied - sometimes rather vexing. It does mean that our systems are currently blocking talent that could add value to our work. • I can think of many other examples that cause concern. I have experienced on a number of occasions in the past few years, donors who want to align their philanthropic donations with their volunteer commitments and to be involved with decisions as to how that money will be spent. This is reflected in the huge growth of community foundations and designated and donor advised funds as well as the emergent social 3
  • 4. venture partner organizations across North America. At the very worst, we see what we might perceive as narcissistic funders who want their money to be spent in the way they want their money to be spent, even when you can prove to them that it could be used more effectively. Twice in my last year at Volunteer Calgary, we refused significant offers of funding because we sincerely believed the suggested projects would not serve the community well. At the same time, perhaps if I’d been less tired or more tuned in, we might have been able to redirect those resources. • The last ah ha for me, in terms of rethinking volunteerism, was speaking just a month before my retirement to two different and fairly large (100 plus) professional groups of Managers of Volunteers - The Association of Directors of Volunteer Resources in Calgary and the Volunteer Management Group here in Edmonton. The topic was how to position the Manager of Volunteers in an organization. I suddenly realized - after the first speech in Calgary - that I was giving the same speech I had been giving for at least ten years and I promised myself that I would never, ever, ever give that speech again. I renegotiated the topic with the Volunteer Management Group in Edmonton, and focused my comments on where volunteer programs fit within human resource strategies from an organizational context. One of the questions I asked in my new and greatly adapted but truly less than brilliant presentation was, “if, as professionals in the field, you had to change public policy around volunteerism what would you focus on.” Frankly, after some discussion, few in the room felt that they needed to take responsibility for issues around mandated volunteerism or the cost of police checks or the cost of insurance with regards to those organizations that were dealing with vulnerable people. These were organizational issues. My key learning at that time was that the volunteer program cannot and should not be siloed in any organization. That in fact, the job of the Manager of Volunteers then and now - more than ever - needs to change from that of a perceived coordinator of volunteer resources to that of a strategist and most organizations are either not hiring strategists or not encouraging their Managers of Volunteers to be strategists. Now don’t get me wrong or start thinking that this would be a good time to throw buns if, in fact, you had buns to throw. I think Managers of Volunteers are key people in our sector - particularly in those organizations and institutions that are still hugely dependent on large numbers of the traditional formal volunteer. I’m extremely embarrassed to say that it took me 17 years to realize how much more they could be, if we started to look at volunteerism from a different construct and volunteer engagement opportunities through a new lens. The world is constantly changing in terms of both demographics and psychographics and as a well respected volunteer centre we should have taken more responsibility for ensuring we were relevant to the current and emerging environments. 4
  • 5. Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty” so let’s get to “what should we be doing with regard to these particular trends? I’ll start by sharing with you some of the work that is going on in Western Canada - because this is where I live and what I know best. I hope many of you check out Charity Village from time to time and that some of you read the interview about a year ago with Colleen Kelly and the subsequent article on Trends and Issues - again with Colleen - on the HR Council website called “It’s ALL about the people”. Volunteer Vancouver has been doing some amazing work with Executive Directors in Vancouver. Their programming and their training is focused on building organizational capacity and infrastructure by effectively engaging the new volunteer and it has been evolving over the last seven years. If you go to their website, you will see references to a wide range of training opportunities focused on translating a people lens philosophy into practice and you will see monthly volunteer opportunities that offer high level, challenging ways for volunteers to engage in building stronger organizations. The neat thing about Volunteer Vancouver’s work in this area is that they learned while doing - testing the tools and practices they are using within their own organization before hitting the street with their learning. Volunteer Vancouver has a small staff - I think about ten people. Beyond the work they did with their members last year, they engaged, within Volunteer Vancouver, 188 volunteers in 242 different volunteer roles. They truly walk the talk. You may have just seen the reference to their new book - A People Lens - 101 Ways to Move Your Organization Forward on the HR Council Website. It just came out and documents case studies of effective engagements between organizations and specifically skilled volunteers. There are also a number of excellent perspectives in the book talking about the “New Volunteer”, framing new thinking around what one of their guest writers calls “Knowledge Philanthropy’, another who writes about ‘Climate Change for the Voluntary Sector”. It’s a thoughtful read and I promise, one that you will go back to often. In the fall of 2005 (almost three years ago), the United Way of Calgary hired me to write a program to pilot how best to engage high skills volunteers in Calgary. We did so in partnership with Volunteer Calgary and framed the project with the eight organizations in the pilot around how to begin to look at an integrated human resource model. We were conscious of the emerging number of retirees and baby boomers that we would loose access to if we didn’t start to think of new volunteer engagement strategies. We were also aware that Generation X’ers had immense talent and interest in the sector and that we were not accessing that talent very effectively. We called the project the High Skills Project based on the fact that we wanted the pilot organizations to start looking at how they could engage contract volunteers in moving their organizations forward. Part of the condition of being chosen as one of the pilot organizations 5
  • 6. was that the Executive Director of the organization had to participate in the project. We started the design of the project with the $50,000 premise. If I were to offer each of you $50,000 to increase the capacity of your organization - with one condition - the condition being that you had to outsource the money to five contracts with no contract costing less than $5,000 or more than $10,000 - how many of you would be interested? Needless to say, like you, all of the organizations who were part of the Calgary project were interested…… at which point we had to inform them that we didn’t have the money to give them. We did; however, move quickly on to the fact that every single project they thought up could be contracted out to a high skills volunteer. We then advised them that a coach consultant and an applied researcher would be working with them for the next year. The Volunteer Calgary project was completed with recommendations to continue to move the learnings out into the broader community. There is a summary of the project on their website. Laurel Benson, their new Executive Director is currently working with Volunteer Calgary’s staff to implement some of their learnings in house with an understanding that, like Vancouver, they can’t teach it unless they model it. I am using words from both Volunteer Vancouver’s work and the report from the Calgary project to tell you about their mutual learnings. Amazingly, they are very similar. Integrated Human Resources or People Focused Organizations require commitment from the top. They require deliberate, intentional and mindful strategies to look at what’s needed to advance the mission of the organization. Just as they would look at what financial resources are needed to drive the mission forward, they need to be able to identify and address both paid and unpaid staffing needs. That means that the Board and the Executive Director have to be accountable for creating a culture that is focused on organizational excellence and valuing people. That culture is absolutely critical for success. To extend the work of these two organizations, Karen Lynch, Executive Director of Volunteer Alberta, is now in the process of planning a pilot project in Alberta and is committed to moving the concept of integrated human resources forward. Colleen has been generous in offering her support to both Calgary and to Volunteer Alberta. Volunteer Canada is also interested in doing work in this arena and are pursuing funding to do so. They already have a couple of really excellent tools that I would recommend to any of you who want to begin to assess the viability of your volunteer programs. The first is the Code for Volunteer Involvement. How many of you have already adopted the code? The standards of the Code are aligned with the standards of the CAVR which ensures that there are not a pile of duplicated processes hanging around out there. The Code is the first step in 6
  • 7. ensuring that the leadership of an organization is on side with commitment and resources to support volunteer engagement. The other Volunteer Canada tool that I would strongly recommend, if you are not already using it, focuses on job design and is called (if you go looking for it) ”A Matter of Design”. I found it truly excellent in helping me get past the traditional job description mentality to thinking through possibilities and accountabilities for those contract or project positions I mentioned earlier. I would also recommend Good to Great and the Social Sectors by Jim Collins. This book should be required reading for anyone who works in the nonprofit sector. As to why managers of volunteers should read this small but powerful book….. it references how important it is to have a people focused organization and that any of us can ‘build a pocket of greatness without executive power, in the middle of an organization” if we deliberately choose to do so. I’m sure the book can be purchased on line and I encourage you to seek it out. I cannot tell you that this work is easy. In fact, even with a dedicated coach consultant, Volunteer Calgary will honestly tell you that the case studies they developed with their pilot organizations are valuable for their learning but disappointing in terms of each organization’s movement forward. Looking at a holistic human resource plan sounds like a simple and sensible thing to do. In reality, it isn’t, particularly when we add this to all the other issues in the sector that drive us all to wish for longer vacations and budgets that didn’t give us nightmares. Much is changing in our sector and it’s changing quickly. All of you are aware of the issues around project funding and lack of dollars to sustain programs at a time when demand for service is higher than any other time in our history. With changing demographics, lack of time, and lack of funding to effectively design new ways to engage and mobilize paid staff, why would we be surprised to see the same issues starting to impact our volunteers. According to a recent Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey in the US, “both nonprofits and corporations are overlooking opportunities to leverage pro bono and skilled volunteer support to offset a decline in corporate giving dollars. Despite the challenging economic backdrop, nearly 40% of nonprofit executives say they will spend between $50,000 and $250,000 on outside contractors and consultants this year. Yet nearly 24% of nonprofit respondents have no plans to use skilled volunteers or pro bono support in any capacity in 2009.” That is an amazing statistic when we know that there is a pile of talent out there wanting to engage. The survey then says, “Further, 95% of nonprofits agree they are in greater need of pro bono or skilled volunteer support, however 35% do not have the appropriate infrastructure needed to successfully deploy volunteers. Also, 24% have no one in charge of volunteer coordination, and 23% have a person with 7
  • 8. less than three years experience in the position. Corporations don’t fare much better, with 26% having no one to oversee the corporate employee volunteer program, and 17% having no such program at all.” Is this not an amazingly important issue for the profession of volunteer administrators/managers of volunteers to grapple with? In the Introduction of the Summary Report from Toward a Labour Force Strategy for Canada’s Voluntary and Non-profit Sector published by the Human Resource Council it is stated that - “There is a growing concern about the labour force challenges facing the voluntary and non-profit sector. There are more signs that organizations are less and less able to recruit the talent they need in today’s tightening labour market. An effective labour force equals an effective sector.” These comments are applicable not just to paid staff; they are also applicable to unpaid staff. In the current economy, we may not struggle quite so much for paid staff; however, accessing the actual talent we need is not just about finding the next warm body. If I had a dream, it would be that, at the beginning of every year, our leadership or management teams would sit down to discuss and design a fully integrated human resource strategy - including paid staff (both full time and part time), consultants or outsourced work, episodic and direct service volunteers, high skilled or contract volunteers, and Boards of Directors…. in whatever combination makes sense to that organization. The talent is there if we can just figure out how to engage it and use it constructively. Lastly I want to quote an article in the Philanthropist by Lynne Toupin and Betty Plewes called Exploring the Looming Leadership Deficit in the Voluntary and Non-profit Sector where they say “It appears that the voluntary and nonprofit sector is suffering from an identity crisis. Often we describe ourselves in terms of what we are not, because it is easier than finding commonalities within the various sub-sectors. Are we a charitable sector doing good works and delivering services? Or are we a space where citizens engage with others to address key global, national and community issues? “ Most of you are probably aware of the Graff- Reed Conversations called Who Cares. Linda and Paul are both respected and very well versed in the data about volunteerism in this country and they both believe volunteerism is seriously on the decline. They believe that this is a community problem and that we all need to be very concerned. I agree that we need to be concerned; however, personally, I do not believe volunteerism is on the decline. I think there are lots and lots of Canadians out there wanting to engage and wanting to make a difference in community. Citizen engagement, building social capital, creating a sense of belonging and connectiveness in our communities, and engaging others to help in solving tough community issues - is this not our most important work? Boundary spanning between organizations, coalition building, creating alliances …..these are things 8
  • 9. we say we are good at in the nonprofit sector. In Canadian Policy Research Network’s Leadership Summit 2008 Report, Peter MacLeod is quoted as saying “democracy is the world’s greatest experiment and citizenship it’s most radical idea.” Our sector has built its reputation on being the best that democracy offers in that we provide place for citizens to engage in building the communities we want. But do we really? The world has changed and the new volunteer keeps trying to engage. We - the sector - are not making it easy for them to do so. As Pogo says - “I’ve seen the enemy and it is us”. This room is full of leaders in volunteerism. You are part of an honoured profession. Transformational leadership is about being in the space between “no longer and not yet”. I encourage you to be transformational leaders and, as such, to be both deliberate and strategic about creating an exciting place for the next wave of volunteers in this country. We have never had a better time to connect with the immense talent that is available in our communities - baby boomers, young social entrepreneurs, corporations that are looking for opportunities to share their skill set (not just write cheques), IT professionals and on and on and on. Your Boards of Directors, your Executive Directors and CEO’s, and your Fund Development Specialists need to be working with you to leverage those skills - to look through new eyes at integrated and strategic human resource planning - to look at creative ways to build the capacity and sustainability of your organizations by engaging people’s hearts, their hands and their heads. I am going to end my remarks with three questions: Based on these emerging trends - baby boomers, an aging population looking for how to productively live their lives over the next thirty to forty years, the growing impact of service learning demands by schools and universities (whether mandated or otherwise), employee volunteerism, and overall, the tremendous wealth of untapped talent out there in community - is it …….. 1. The role of nonprofit/voluntary sector organizations to support the growth of volunteerism and community service - in a sense, to value and enhance civil society and build social capital? I mean this question in the larger context, not just in respect to the needs of individual organizations. 2. If not, whose role is it? 3. If it is our role, what resources and strategies do you need to move the larger agenda forward in terms of integrated human resource management within your organization and in the broader community? How do you begin to engage the immense talent in our communities to build the capacity of both your organization and ultimately the community as a whole? Are you up for the work? Are you prepared to be both a champion and a catalyst for the change that’s needed? 9
  • 10. References/Resources: Stanford Report, June 14, 2005 - Commencement Address by Steve Jobs - CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios - June 12, 2005 Community Leadership - March 2008 - Volume 2 Issue 3 The Importance of Emerging Leaders - Brenda Herchmer www.culture.alberta.ca/communityservices - Leadership Development Patrick White - Globe and Mail - March 21, 2008 - Generation NGO www.globeandmail.com Charity Village - Elisa Birnbaum - April 28, 2008 Leadership in Focus: Colleen Kelly - www.charityvillage.com HR Council for the Voluntary & Non-profit Sector - Trends and Issues - May 5, 2008 - Colleen Kelly - It’s ALL about the People www.hrcouncil.ca A People Lens – 101 Ways to Move Your Organizations Forward - Volunteer Vancouver www.volunteervancouver.ca The Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement - Volunteer Canada 2006 - www.volunteercanada.ca/resource A Matter of Design - Volunteer Canada 2006 - www.volunteercanada.ca/resource Good to Great and the Social Sectors – Jim Collins, 2005 Voluntary & Non-profit Labour Force Study - Report Summary - 2008 - HR Council for the Voluntary & Non-profit Sector www.hrcouncil.ca - HR Council Projects The Philanthropist - Volume 21, No.2 - Pages 128 -137 Exploring the Looming Leadership Deficit in the Voluntary and Nonprofit Sector - Lynne Toupin and Betty Plewes www.thephilanthropist.ca Who Cares? The Graff Reed Conversations - Linda L. Graff and Paul B. Reed www.CanadaWhoCares.ca Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN) - CPRN Leadership Summit 2008 Report - March 20, 2008 - Connecting with Canadians - Shaping our Future www.cprn.org 10