Focus: People Management - Coaching session with Stephen Bubb

Stephen Bubb

Q: Staff are leaving for what they say are better paid jobs in the sector. Should I review salary structures?

A: Aim for a transparent process for salary allocation and advancement.

But be warned: don't end up bogged down in bureaucracy and systems that can't adapt to the needs of the business. Your system must be flexible and should empower you and your managers.

Ensure reward goes to those who you want to retain and develop - to those who excel in delivering to the bottom line.

Staff satisfaction is important, but so is financial strength. Changes must be related to your budget and have to be affordable. If salary increases are not sustainable, be honest with staff about this. Consider sharing the full budget and salary implications with them.

One large organisation I know provided directorates with a lump sum for pay increases one year. Of course, there were more recommendations for pay increases. So I led a problem-solving exercise. The managers gained insight, bought into the solution and could champion the outcomes with their teams. Transparency can be better for all.

Is your attitude future-proof? How would your new pay scales and processes cope if you doubled or halved in size, if funding was reduced or if need for your support increased?

When considering the pay levels, benchmark with similar organisations. Remuneration surveys are a good resource.

Variables to consider are organisation income, employees, type, activity and location.

An independent consultant can take the steam out of internal wrangling over pay. With experience in this work, they bring knowledge and best practice to the party.

Consider other benefits and ways of working that might compensate for pay that is lower than the market rate. Flexible working, day release for courses, pension contributions and interest-free loans for season tickets are all options.

You must run a tight ship. Requests for increased pay should not automatically be met. Stand by your business strategy and budgets.

Are you sure that pay is the reason for the turnover? Check before setting off down this path. Exit interviews are a good starting point, and consider your benefits package outside direct salary payments.

You also need to have an early consultation with your chair and treasurer.

Do they agree there is a need for change? Their support and strategic input are critical.

Don't be afraid to remunerate strongly. The third sector needs to be proud of its strengths and reward professional jobs with professional pay.

- Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to

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