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A blog for those interested in what affects, motivates and drives the New York City Nonprofit Sector — written by CRE’s crackerjack consulting team. We hope you use this space to share your thoughts, ask questions and engage in conversations about our city, social justice and the nonprofit sector.

HR Without HR, Part 3: Putting the Right People in the Right Place Doing the Right Things

By Pavitra Menon, Senior Consultant - One very important aspect of a nonprofit leader’s job is to align the organization’s resources in service of the mission. And critical resources in this regard are the people, the staff. When staff’s professional needs are met in meeting the organizations mission, it’s a perfect fit! When an organization is structured to accommodate people, it often spells disaster! This is not to say that people don’t matter – in fact because they matter so much, it’s important to place them within the organization doing the things they are most capable of and motivated to do.

This is so much easier said than done because, in reality, no job is perfect – most jobs have some aspects to them that the people performing them have gripes about. The challenge is in matching a person’s skills, knowledge, and experience to the requirements of the job as closely as possible. Once that is done, it’s about sustaining the person’s commitment and challenging them to do the job as well as they possibly can. 

All jobs, though, are not created equal. Some jobs are inherently
more valuable to the organization meeting its mission than others. So once the organizational strategy is focused and well communicated, attention must turn toward finding and placing the right people in the right roles, specifically, in those jobs with the greatest potential impact on results. This should, however, be done without producing a core team of “elite” employees but rather a team of staff who collaborate with one another and leverage each other’s expertise to effectively meet the mission.

In theory this all sounds right, but how does one put this into practice? You first start by identifying the roles that are critical to the organization’s success. Please note, not people but roles. Organizational roles typically fall in one of the four boxes below. 


Strategic and Core Roles are where you want to invest most on talent with Requisite roles serving more in a support capacity. Your Requisite roles could be filled by part-time staff, consultants, and, in some instances, interns and volunteers with staff in the Core and Strategic roles backing them up. Non-core roles should be dispensed with as much as possible.

You are now ready to turn your focus to what kind of people you need in each of these roles:
  • Specify the key accountabilities or “deliverables” that the person in the role needs to produce
  • Identify the competencies, skills, and experience requirements of the role
  • Define the behavioral traits and characteristics required for successful job execution
This information will give you all that you need to create a detailed job description for each role. You can now assess your existing talent to see where they fit in and where there are gaps. Some gaps can be addressed by training and developing existing staff. Others will be met by hiring new talent and, in some instances, you may find yourself needing to manage staff out because the role is not relevant to the organization. 

Previous blog posts in the HR Without HR Series:
HR Without HR
HR Without HR, Part 2: Tips For Recruiting and Retaining Qualified Staff

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