Value our People More or Social Enterprise will be Lost

This is the title of an interesting post by Adrian Ashton over at Social Enterprise.

Adrian cites major problems with both pay and prospects with 60% of those working in the sector expecting to leave it within the next 5 years.

there are various strategies and policies around how social enterprise is going to save the world, but in all the hype and excitement we must be careful to remember that it can only do so if our people feel valued in doing so and we can retain them for the journey.

So social enterprises must join the ‘War for Talent‘.

At the heart of talent acquisition and retention is a single, simple question.  What is our winning Employee Value Proposition (EVP)?  What value can we offer employees that means they will join us, stay and develop their impact?

And this is where the social enterprise sector has a potential significant advantage over many for profits.  But an advantage that many social enterprises squander.

A social enterprise can offer meaning, purpose, authenticity (the chance to do what I am ‘meant’ to be doing, to express who I really am through my contribution – to do ‘good’ work) and impact.  It is not about pursuing profits but pursuing social justice.  About building a better world.  Make sure that you build this into your EVP and there will be no problem retaining top people – even if you are not paying top dollar.

But I see many social enterprises lose sight of their purpose.  They become more interested in writing finding applications than in the pursuit of social justice.  They will do whatever the funders ask them to – even if this makes them dependent and compliant.   Working in the best interests of the funder rather than in the best interests of those whom they are meant to serve.

If social enterprise is to have a future then managers and leaders in the sector must learn how to:

  • put the mission above managerialism
  • establish a balance between the demands of funders and the best interests of those whom they serve
  • give EVERY employee the chance to talk openly, honestly and regularly about what matters to them and how their role can be made more fulfilling

They need to become Progressive Managers.

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2 Responses

  1. To me this seems “on the ball”.

    How exactly is “Social Justice” achieved if your create injustice amongst your own team?

    I’m looking at Social Enterprise at the moment, but I have to say stories like this scare me. From what I gather Triple bottom line is either “people, profit, planet” OR later, “social, environmental, and economic”.

    Has “People” been replaced with “Social”? If so, it would seem that the Social Enterprise’s are creating their own injustices.

    Having the right people and paying them appropriately is surely the key to a healthy organisation and a healthy sustainable profit .

  2. Extremely interesting post highlighting a distinct danger with social enterprise. Also highlights one of the main reasons I moved away from the idea of charity because most charities I have worked for have actually compromised their mission to please funders. The danger exists twofold for social enteprises, 1 that the same issue arises through funding and 2 the issue arises through the search for profit. Social Enterprise is not easy work and we have to be very very aware of how we treat our people. That is the whole point surely!

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