OPINION: Retain staff through rewards

PETER STANFORD, a writer and broadcaster. He chaired the trustees of the national disability charity Aspire and now sits on various trustee boards

Making an effort as a trustee to get to know the staff can have its drawbacks. One Christmas I was invited to the staff party as a special mark of favour, but ended up being drafted in to explain to the father of a 17-year-old trainee why his son had passed out drunk in the ladies.

"Someone of your age,

the father told me, quite reasonably, "should have put a stop to it.

I felt like Methuselah.

The main problem, though, with trying to keep in touch with the staff is that they change so often. The turn-over rate in the third sector is as high as 30 per cent and our trustees' meetings always seem to involve a long list of departees to whose names I have only just put faces. Our temptation is always to think that our organisation is flawed or that we haven't tried hard enough to make the leavers feel wanted. On sober reflection, the latter is more persuasive. The Reward Group, the pay and benefits adviser, highlighted that pay rises at charities are failing to keep pace with the rest of the market (Third Sector, 12 June).

This statistical evidence is to be welcomed because there are now many - including a very distinguished chief executive of a top 50 charity - who doubt that the problem with retention is to do with rates of pay.

He quoted instead the linked issue of career structure. This is certainly part of the conundrum. Even when charities beat off the banks, the media and industry to attract good graduates, too many keen new recruits feel that the promotion prospects within the organisation are too slight. So they move from charity to charity for minor increases in pay and to take on bigger challenges at the same level, or make the next step up at a smaller player.

It's a merry-go-round that grinds to a halt when it comes to senior jobs because too many trustees have an almost blind faith that recruiting from the "commercial world

is the New Jerusalem. At this stage, and indeed all the way down the ladder, we simply do not have enough faith in those we have nurtured either to pay them properly or to promote them accordingly.

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