The Performance Management Imperative

The Performance Management Imperative

Historically company performance review was an annual affair…review the numbers and, based on what you learned, chart the course for the next year. Sometimes the course had been corrected based on the numbers, but often not. Reputation often drove business success—as much, if not, more than performance.

As we know this is no longer an effective approach to leadership. The market changes too fast and companies need to both predict and respond to marketplace trends and rapidly course correct as indicated. We need to perform (at least) at the level required in the contract. More likely than not, if we are to stay competitive, we need to exceed contractual expectations.

According to a recent survey reported in NonprofitHR, “87 percent of global organizations said they had transformed their performance management approach in the last 18 months or intended to change it in the near future.” Organizations are moving to an emphasis on continuous, rigorous review of data, leveraging accessible and efficient financial and
programmatic platforms.

Today effective company leaders must be able to cite precise performance goals (financial and programmatic) and their status toward meeting targets by the day, month, quarter and year.

“Go deep with business performance monitoring…” advises Optimas Financial and Accounting Solutions. “It can be the difference between success or failure in this highly competitive marketplace”. Optimas cites benchmarking, a technique of comparing our business performance against competitors as a good way to gain insight into performance. Companies can use benchmarking to compare their performance to similar organizations working in the same sector, and within their own organizations by comparing performance with industry standards.

Rigorous performance management is essential to ensuring sustainability, relevance and impact—key pillars of the work of The Fedcap Group. Each year performance management becomes increasingly important and is the focus of our Corporate Weeks, Brown Bag Lunches and Leadership Academy. We are working hard to activate additional features of our financial, HR, fund-raising and business development software platforms—becoming increasingly data informed.

For monitoring financial performance, we have selected key measures such as revenue, cash, margin, A/R, % of budget expended, pipeline, billing, and contract maximization—developing both agency-wide and company specific dashboards. These dashboards focus our leaders on the right financial metrics—the metrics that we believe matter.

It is imperative to build the same kind of deep dive key performance indicators (metrics that
matter) in the areas of contract/regulatory compliance, program outcomes (to include our 5 Bold Goals I have discussed in past blogs), fund raising and new business development.

Critical to the long-term efficacy of building a data driven organization is our approach to employee performance. According to Sara Pollock in HR Daily Advisor the strategies for driving employee performance must include tightly linking company and programmatic goals to individual performance measurement. I believe that employees need to see the direct link between what they do every day and the overarching goals of the company. Tying their performance to organizational goals and outcomes means that they have a stake in the impact, they see how their role contributes to making a long-term impact. I plan to discuss this more in upcoming blogs.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Strategic Partnerships as a Vehicle to Make a Lasting Impact

Strategic Partnerships as a Vehicle to Make a Lasting Impact

The Fedcap Group is comprised of a growing number of top tier companies with a common mission of improving the long economic well-being of individuals we serve. Our combination, with over 20 companies, is driven by the unprecedented complexity and enormity of the social, political, and economic challenges facing the nonprofit sector. We do not believe that these challenges can be tackled alone. Moving the needle and fundamentally changing the outcomes for those we serve requires a concerted, collaborative action by organizations committed to making a long term, sustained impact. Effective combinations enhance our collective market position, improve efficiency in service delivery, enhance our overall service structure, improve quality and have potential to achieve broader systems change.

It is our experience that this kind of integration of efforts requires significant time, energy, effort and resources. It requires that we develop a collaborative mindset by working together to define success, articulate shared goals, and create mechanisms for rigorously measuring

As an example, a collaborative of institutional funders focused on poverty alleviation. Tom Fry, a member of the collaborative, characterizes Big Bang as a learning community where members exchange information and profile grantees to accelerate the flow of funds. “It’s a symbiotic relationship” explains Fry. “Each member brings their expertise and knowledge, and that enhances everyone’s decision-making ability and ultimately achieves greater impact.”

This concept of a learning community is at the heart of our approach to combinations. Strategically working to identify best and promising practices, leveraging each company’s core competencies and building and sharing knowledge, improves our collective efforts.

A successful learning community provides a platform to fundamentally improve the outcomes for individuals we serve, as well as to influence the way that systems design and fund services.

It sets goals and measures collective progress.

It provides a platform for shared learning—both successes and failures.

It provides diverse opportunities for people to develop skills.

It accelerates learning toward replication and scale.

By joining together, nonprofit organizations create an optimal environment for staying relevant, ensuring long term sustainability and measurable impact.

Staying Focused and Clearing the Noise

Staying Focused and Clearing the Noise

There was a time when organizations had a contingency plan just in case things changed. In today’s world, change is the rule rather than the exception. How do we manage the daily onslaught of distractions, continuous change and upgrades and stay focused on our mission? 

How do we clear the noise?

Each year The Fedcap Group launches a new Leadership Academy—comprised of emerging leaders from across the organization. During the first session, we spend time discussing the importance of tuning out the noise in order to enhance our focus, and our analytical and critical thinking.

We talk about the importance of using questions to clear the noise…moving away from being swayed by what we think we know and focusing on learning more and developing a deeper understanding of the problems we are trying to solve.

Business Insider advises that in order to develop the focus muscle, companies need to select 1 to 3 high priority goals and stick to them. In the same spirit, several years ago Steve Jobs said something that has stuck with me: “Focus is not about saying yes. It is about saying no to the hundred other good ideas that clutter the mind and shift the focus.” 

This has been the strategy of The Fedcap Group as we established our five bold goals to make a lasting difference. In my December 9th 2019 blog, I introduced our 5 bold goals:

1.) Every person living in foster care has the resources to go to college and graduate;

2.) Individuals who leave prison/jail get a job, rejoin their communities and do not reoffend; 

3.) Adults with an intellectual disability who want a job are employed at a competitive wage;

4.) People on public assistance obtain jobs and reduce dependency on government assistance; and

5.) Children ages 0-6 are prepared and inspired to complete their education, obtain employment and live full lives.

We are driven to achieve these goals. We are spending our time researching these five issues. We are asking questions. We are studying what has worked and what has not worked. We are establishing our baseline, building and testing innovative practice strategies, developing mechanisms for measurement and reporting, and we are building an organizational culture of possibility and accountability.

As a large organization these goals bind us –they are the demonstration of our common mission. And as these goals become reality, they become our legacy.

To be successful each leader of The Fedcap Group has to critically think, clear the noise and, as Steve Jobs said, say no.

Equity: A Square Deal for Everyone

Equity: A Square Deal for Everyone

Last week I discussed the concept of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the workplace. This week I would like to focus more on this concept of Equity—not just in the workplace but across society.

The Square Deal was the name given to President Theodore Roosevelt’s domestic program, which reflected his three major goals: corporate responsibility to citizens, consumer protection and conservation of natural resources. Over the years the Square Deal was applied to his approach to conflict resolution–listening to both labor and management, his attitude of kindly justice between man and man, without regard to what any man’s creed, color, birthplace or social position, and his efforts to equalize the power imbalance between corporations and common people.

At The Fedcap Group, this concept is at the core of our work.

When I think about Equity, when I contemplate “a square deal”, I think about it in terms of aspiration and opportunity.

In the simplest terms, when you believe that achieving a dream is possible…when you believe that you have options and choices, when you are inspired by those around you to aim high, dreams become reality. Do you know that when a child has a savings account, even less than $500, she is 3 times more likely to enroll and 4 times more likely to graduate from college? The very act of just having the savings account inspires a young person to believe that college is possible. And then, college is not just possible, but it is a reality. Too often, bright youth in the child welfare system believe that they have no other option than to go to work directly from high school. They don’t believe college is a choice. Yet they are by every measure as smart and capable as their peers who happened to have the luck of the draw to grow up in a supportive family. When we instill in them the belief that they are capable, when they come to believe that they have a choice about attending college, they can—and do—rewrite the narrative that once told them college wasn’t possible.

So many people come through our doors believing the narrative they have been told about who they are –and about their potential. People told them they were lazy, and they believed it. Others said that they were not going to amount to anything, and they believed it. Others said that they weren’t very smart …and they believed that too. Soon their “brand”, their self-definition, the way that they presented themselves to the world was driven by these words. And the world responded accordingly.

But, if instead, what would happen if we told people how smart they were —and they started to believe it? If we told people how motivated they were, and they started to believe it? If we looked into their eyes and told them that they could accomplish anything they set their mind to, and they started to believe that too? What kind of a world could we together create? This is why our work with youth with disabilities or adults on public assistance is so critical. We don’t want to help young people simply transition to an adult service system—but to college, a job, and a full life in the community. And we want to help those relying on public assistance find employment and the pride of earning a paycheck.

Every day at The Fedcap Group we strive to find ways to help children, youth and adults with barriers to economic well-being, complete their education, obtain training, find employment and secure their pathway to long term self-sufficiency.

We work as hard as possible to help them get a “Square Deal”.

Embracing Evolution

Embracing Evolution

There are very few good leaders who dive headlong into change without some caution, yet at the same time we know that in order to fulfill our mission, we must EVOLVE to make progress.  To meet our goals and succeed in achieving long term relevance, sustainability and impact, nonprofits need to continue to refine technology, human resources, communication strategies and approaches to donor engagement. 

At The Fedcap Group we are driving into the future with our eyes on the following high level goals:

      • Every company of The Fedcap Group achieves clearly defined corporate health indicators.
      • Every company of The Fedcap Group is supported to meet or exceed contractual, regulatory and compliance standards.
      • Every company of The Fedcap Group has assets that must be leveraged in order to amplify our ability to achieve significantly improved outcomes within our five major focus areas: youth in transition from foster care, children ages 0-6, adults with disabilities, the previously incarcerated and individuals on public assistance.
      • The Fedcap Group continues to develop and implement solutions that impact the design and delivery of government services—shifting the overall outcomes of the system.

In order to accomplish these major goals, we have spent a considerable amount of time ensuring company leaders are fully engaged and onboard and understand their role in achieving success.  We are investing in the staff of the organization through new efforts to listen and learn from their perspectives. We are upgrading our technology to provide staff with state-of-the-art tools required to effectively monitor program outcomes and finances. And we are engaging our community of donors in very specific ways around our future.  In other words…we are evolving.

In “Creating Change: A Brave Path Forward for Nonprofits,” Jessica Haynie and Vicki Pozzebon, reporting in North Carolina State University’s Philanthropy Journal, stresses the importance of creating forums where leaders are able to talk openly about the pressing questions and/or issues that are blocking them from moving forward. This kind of self-check is critical. We have spent a tremendous amount of time over the past several years clarifying expectations, laying out and refining our major areas of focus, building more effective communication strategies, and supporting leaders in their ability to effectively lead.  These conversations are not always easy, but they are imperative.

We have also engaged partners in very dynamic ways.  The bigger the goal, the more important the partnerships.

Paula Schneider president and CEO of Susan G. Komen, the leading breast cancer organization, suggests in a Forbes Nonprofit Council post, that nonprofits need to work together for real change. “As much as we’d like to think our nonprofit organizations are uniquely equipped to change the world, we can’t always do it on our own.” She believes “partnerships are an essential part of our existence. It takes everybody rowing in the same direction, tackling each project hand in hand and focusing more on reaching our common goals than on who gets credit for the effort.”

This has proven to be true for The Fedcap Group.  To make the kind of systemic changes needed to significantly improve outcomes for our target populations requires strategic partnerships—moving from fractured systems to integrated and seamless pathways to getting the right services at the right time.  

Evolution is not always easy—but it is imperative for organizations who want to make a difference.

The Practice of Gratitude in the Workplace

The Practice of Gratitude in the Workplace

As individuals in the US are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, I thought I might share some interesting perspectives on gratitude in the workplace.

According to Greater Good Magazine, the practice of gratitude has started to infiltrate workplaces, from new software companies to older institutions like Campbell Soup, whose former CEO wrote 30,000 thank you notes to his employees. Though research on gratitude has exploded over the past two decades, studies of gratitude at work are still somewhat limited. The results so far link it to more positive emotionsless stress and fewer health complaints, a greater sense of confidence in the mission.  It also can help us achieve our goalsfewer sick days, and higher satisfaction with our jobs and our coworkers.

Emerging research suggests that gratitude is revolutionary in the workplace, contributing to the kind of workplace environments where employees actually want to come to work and don’t feel like cogs in a machine.

Robert Emmons, author of The Little Book of Gratitude: Creating a Life of Happiness and Well-being by Giving Thanks, and a leading researcher on the subject states “Most of our waking hours are spent on the job, and gratitude, in all its forms, is a basic human requirement.”  Emmons highlights that gratitude takes people outside of themselves and to a place that is part of a larger, more intricate network of sustaining relationships that are mutually reciprocal. “In this sense, it, like other social emotions, gratitude functions to help regulate relationships, solidifying and strengthening them,” he says.

Researchers from the London School of Economics, in analysis of 51 companies, found that while financial incentives can backfire when it comes to motivating employees there is overwhelming evidence that gratitude and appreciation are highly effective motivators for staff.  They found that 80% of employees are willing to work harder for an appreciative boss.

Expressing gratitude is not difficult, but it does require a small bit of time and intentionality.  In this season of thankfulness, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the board members, staff, donors, funders and consumers of The Fedcap Group—for their unwavering commitment of time and talent to doing the right thing, in the right way to achieve the right results.  

Honoring our Veterans–Individually

Honoring our Veterans–Individually

As we honor our veterans today, I am so pleased to invite Colonel David Sutherland, Chairman of Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, to be my guest blogger. His experiences and voice are so important for us all to hear.

Diversity and inclusion frequently take a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, recruiting and retention may focus on veterans, as a whole, rather than the divergent qualities that enhance thinking and execution. 

 It’s ironic that lumping veterans together as a category defined as “diverse” may cause us to ignore the individual characteristics that make them assets to organizations.

 I like to say that if you’ve met a veteran, you’ve met “a veteran.” One veteran, one time, each one is unique.

 We veterans are more than just the sum of our parts. Yes, Veterans Day is a celebration of an amazing group of people. At the same time, we are remiss in not looking beyond the massed surface and into each one’s experiences and goals.

 My wish is for you to get to know us as a unique group of people who have taken a different path to get to this point in our lives, and who may have hit roadblocks on this journey created by their service to our country. Let’s start with three areas key to ensuring that veterans succeed where they live: 

      • Working with purpose. Those who served in uniform boast years of specialized training that make them experts in their fields, yet there remains significant underemployment and uncertainty. That’s why Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services works with employers, hiring managers, and recruiters to improve workplace hiring programs. This work goes beyond employment programs for veterans as a whole and instead seeks to establish a culture that considers the specific skill sets of each veteran and matches them to the position best for them.
      • Healing with honor. Let’s look at the data. Burn pits, enormous craters where waste is openly incinerated, are this generation’s Agent Orange. These chemical hazards are responsible for causing cancers, tumors and respiratory issues. Opioid abuse among combat-exposed individuals is 7 percentage points higher among those who deployed but didn’t see combat. Further, the number of veteran suicides exceeded 6,000 each year from 2008 – 2017 – or more than 60,000 over a decade. Part of what drives these numbers is an epidemic of disconnection that happens when we look at veterans en masse rather than creating a culture that considers the unique needs and isolation of each individual. It’s about making it personal – for both the veteran and the civilian.
      • Living with hope. T.S. Elliot said, “Home is where our story begins.” Dixon Center and its partners, among them Soldier On and Freddie Mac, are working to expand affordable housing, educate community-based organizations on fair housing practices for veterans, and increase compassionate outreach to those who are, or are at risk of becoming homeless. The goal is not to create new programs. Rather, the goal is to enable the integration of housing services that consider each veteran’s needs into existing programs to increase impact.

 This Veterans Day let’s keep in mind that as with people, one size does not fit all. In fact, one size often fits none.

Retired U.S. Army Colonel David Sutherland is Chairman of Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services. He commanded the U.S. combat brigade in Diyala Province, Iraq (2006-2007) and served as Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2009-2012).

Thought Leadership

Thought Leadership

In the age of social media, when anyone with many Friends or a large Twitter following can be considered a thought leader, we need to step back and consider exactly what thought leadership is in the non-profit world, and why it so important for us to develop it to our best advantage. Thought leadership is a way for a brand to position itself as a leader in its field or sector by demonstrating its values, its expertise, and sharing its thinking about the future.

Michael Brenner, recognized as a top marketing influencer by Forbes and by Huffington Post as a top business keynote speaker, believes “thought leadership means you provide the best and deepest answers to your customers’ biggest questions in the formats your audience likes to consume.” To Brenner “authentic thought leadership remains a driving force in successful companies across almost every industry.”

In Business News Daily, Skye Schooley, writing to define thought leadership and why it matters, adds “As a notable expert in a specific company, industry, or society, a thought leader is someone who offers guidance and insight to those around them. In other words, a thought leader has a positive reputation of helping others with their knowledge and insight.”

As Caroline Avakian points out in the Jewish Philanthropy blog: “Thought leadership is not just a PR function. It requires that we have an idea–something to make the world a better place, something that will solve a problem or improve a process.”  Organizations can be treasure troves of excellent ideas waiting to be unleashed and shared with the world. These organizations can succeed with limited resources and small or non-existent communications and marketing teams that are allocated to drumming up support in an overcrowded charity marketplace. 

An organization’s energy is sometimes focused on elevating a single member of its team to thought leadership status, usually someone high in the hierarchy like the executive director. At The Fedcap Group, conversely, we are totally committed to populating our organization with thought leaders who serve as a collective asset. When we foster a culture of deep learning and train staff in our core philosophy and values, we will develop more ways for thought leadership to become embedded in the DNA of the agency.  We recognize that thought leadership can come from any source – executives, customers, product managers, designers, customer service reps, and sales people. We all have knowledge, experience and a point of view. As it permeates the organization, it organically spreads to the community.

Avakian notes, “Thought leadership is arguably the most effective and least expensive way an organization can build awareness, support for ideas, and influence the communities it needs to reach, including decision makers, policy makers and donors.”

Finding The Best Talent In A Highly Competitive Environment

Finding The Best Talent In A Highly Competitive Environment

According to Roy Mauer in a blog for Society of HR Management, “Nonprofits should emulate corporate recruiting to compete for talent. Yet, 64% of nonprofits do not have a formal recruitment or retention strategy.”

Profit making companies can spend vast sums to bring top talent into their organizations, but what about organizations with limited funds that must compete for the same talent?    

I believe it is our culture that drives people through our doors. 

Jason Walker, Director of Talent Acquisition at Habitat for Humanity International, believes that a workplace culture that engages top talent requires a well-structured, strategic hiring plan closely tied to the agency’s mission. “In support of our mission,” he states, “we act intentionally to attract talent that has both the values and skills to expand Habitat’s impact and the way we address housing needs.’

The struggle is to know what you need and why you need it, then accept nothing less.   This resonates with me.  I have found that it is MUCH more costly and stressful to an organization to hire the wrong person because we are in a hurry to fill the slot, than it is to wait and find the right person. 

Candance Ho from Whole Whale recommends that, after defining the talent required, an organization create a scorecard that lists all the attributes that it is looking for in an employee, and why those attributes are needed for that position.  Whole Whale’s talent scorecard’s attributes include “efficiency, empathy, analytics, curiosity and a positive outlook.”   At The Fedcap Group we use terms such as: 

    • Passionate: They are driven to create/identify and resource the most effective ways to solve problems for people with barriers.
    • Informed: They are current within their respective fields.
    • Credible: When they speak, people listen because of their depth of knowledge and expertise.
    • Smart and Fast: They can see the end result and take quick, thoughtful and decisive action.
    • Creative: They generate innovative and often unexpected answers to difficult problems.
    • Curious: They thrive on new information and opportunities.
    • Dedicated: They run a continuous campaign to advance the position of The Fedcap Group and the people we serve.
    • Understand the concept of “Good to Great”: They constantly look for opportunities to improve the work of The Fedcap Group, searching for best-in-class practices, but not reinventing the wheel.
    • Flexible: They are able and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
    • Fun: They take their work seriously, but not themselves.

Nonprofits also need to find candidates who care about their mission.  Do they understand what we do?  Can they describe it?  Did they care enough to do the research? 

Critical to finding the right candidate is having the right job description that makes people want to work for our organization.   Recruitment at its core is marketing, and it is smart to engage a marketing firm to review the language in job descriptions. According to Nonprofit HR, the Corporate Leadership Council found that a well-executed EVP (employee value proposition) is invaluable in ensuring that job descriptions stand out.  A good EVP is a simple, focused statement of why someone would want to work in your organization, and according to Nonprofit HR, it can improve the commitment of new hires by 29%.   It can also solidify the organization’s brand and guide its recruitment strategy. “To create an EVP, compile data from employee engagement, onboarding and exit surveys. Identify key trends from among those three types of interactions. This may include information on benefits your employees value, elements of the workplace culture that help them succeed or simply why they enjoy working for the organization.”

We can compete with the for-profit environment—we must leverage our mission, have a smart strategy and tell the story of what we do in a compelling way. 

I welcome your thoughts.

The Urgency of Effectively Managing Reputational Risk

The Urgency of Effectively Managing Reputational Risk

Reputational risk is now the number one concern according to a survey reported by Bruna Martinuzzi in a 2018 American Express blog. We see almost daily in the media, how easily a company’s reputation can be ruined—this is a growing danger we face.

Fortunately, there are many ways to protect our reputations, but we need to develop a solid approach to management of that risk. Reputation is “the emotional bond between a company and its stakeholders,” according to Melanie LoBue in her blog at Reputational risk can threaten the life and longevity of our organization, increase risks to the likelihood of negative events and public opinion, and impact income, as well as public image.

Just as we have smoke detectors to detect a potential fire, we need a similar detector for reputational risk, suggests Carrie Minnich in her blog from the CPA Center of Excellence. At the speed of sound or a simple click, an organization’s reputation can be devastated. For non-profits, the impact on reputation may be even more devastating. As Minnich points out, a hit to a reputation can result in loss of volunteers, lack of referrals, decrease in the win rate of proposals, and create difficulty in hiring and attracting top quality board and staff. She suggests as a starting point periodically “googling your organization to see what others are saying.” It is imperative that we are aware of what the public sees so that we can aggressively correct inaccuracies and mis-information. We also need to monitor third party websites such as GuideStar, the National Center for Charitable Statistics, and the Better Business Bureau to verify that their information about us is accurate and thorough. It is helpful to create forums for board members, staff, consumers and our community partners to tell us what they are hearing about our organization.

Possibly most important, we need to develop a culture and organizational values that drive how employees comport themselves: a culture where staff at all levels of the organization hold one another accountable for ethical behavior, creating an environment of “see something, say something.”

We must own our reputation and actively pursue strategies to communicate who we are to the broader stakeholder community. This requires development of a communication and social media strategy that is smart, conveys our message, and is consistently pushed out over a long period of time. And, we have to live up to this message.

According to Nonprofit Accounting Basics, a growing number of organizations are appointing individuals or creating executive-level committees to lead risk management endeavors. At The Fedcap Group we have not centralized this function, but have actively communicated the importance of risk management–including reputational risk—being the job of every employee. It is a topic of significant importance to executives across The Fedcap Group and discussed during every Corporate Week. We also have an agency-wide Brown Bag Lunch on this topic that I lead annually. It is a major component of our Leadership Academy and our Executive Institute. It permeates the conversations of our organization.

This threat is real. A 2016 investigation by The Washington Post found that over a four-year period, more than 1,000 major US nonprofits disclosed in federal filings that they had suffered a “significant diversion” of assets from internal wrongdoing.”

As Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you’ll do things differently.”

I welcome your thoughts.