Assessing Your Burnout Risk Factors


Employee burnout is one of the greatest risks posed to a nonprofit’s success. ESC consultant Sue Ogle teaches leaders to assess the following factors when reviewing their organization’s risks:

When assessing employee workload, nonprofit leaders should reflect on influences that may make the employees they manage unable to perform to their highest capacity. First, they should be sure the job is defined correctly. When a position is ill-defined, it can cause strife, confusion and a general sense that there is never enough work being covered. Secondly, managers should assess their expectations. Are they fair under the constraints of the position in question? And lastly, nonprofit leaders should check to see if a position, or the organization in general, is under-resourced. This last point is common among nonprofits, so leaders should be diligent in demonstrating and teaching efficiency when resources are tight.

Is the employee given autonomy and an open forum to share influential opinions? This is ideal in preventing burnout, as micromanagement or restriction of decision power can greatly affect the passions of a previously enthusiastic employee.

Reward and Recognition
If an employee is underpaid or generally unfulfilled in his or her work, don’t expect energy levels to stay high for long. This burnout factor can be intensified if the employee is also not recognized for doing good work. Managers should be careful to keep praise genuine—dig deep to find something regularly, whether that is every day or every week, that your employees do well and voice that to them.

Nonprofit leaders also must be aware of tendencies to play favorites or to participate in office politics. Blurring the lines between professionalism and cliqueiness is a sure way to make employee energy levels drop hard and fast.

Keep check of how your employees relate to your mission. It’s important for nonprofit leaders to remind their staff of why they do what they do in the first place, and what drew them to the organization; in the nonprofit sector, it is inevitable that at least part of the draw for any employee is the mission.

Work Team
Stay in touch with how individual employees mesh with other staff members and the organization’s board. If there is disconnection, burnout can happen easily. Work daily to keep employees on the same page with one another and your nonprofit’s culture overall.

If your nonprofit could benefit from affordable management consulting, please contact ESC’s Director of Consulting, Ulea Lago, at or call 617-357-5550. We serve nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and we offer a complimentary 2-hour assessment visit for all interested area nonprofits.


Hiring nonprofit employees: Creating a competency-based interviewing process


All nonprofits go through the employee and volunteer hiring process, but has your organization formerly focused on competency-based interviewing? Read on for an overview of how this tactic can improve the caliber and longevity of new hires in any field.

What is competency?

Competency is an underlying characteristic of an employee (for example, a motive, a trait, a skill, a body of knowledge) which results in behavior leading to effective job performance. For purposes of employee selection, competency is defined in terms of effective performance. For purposes of management development, competency is defined in terms of exceptional performance.

Competencies in Practice

Competency models are developed for specific positions. They may be custom made or adapted from previous studies.

Types of Competency Model Uses

  • Employee selection: people are selected for positions based on their competency (initial hire or promotion)
  • Employee development: competencies can be the focus of training programs
  • Performance review: employees can be evaluated based on their demonstrated competency
  •  Strategic planning: competence can also be assessed at the organizational level in strategic planning studies

Developing a Competency Model

Competency models are an extension of job analysis. The focus in job analysis is on tasks performed whereas the focus in competency modeling is on the behavior of job incumbents. There is a shift from qualifications to actual performance.

Techniques used in competency modeling studies can be focus groups, surveys, and panels of subject matter experts. There are many competency dictionaries that may be used to define specific job behaviors sought in applicants.

Jeff Berman Competency Model

 Example of a Competency Model (Photo)

Job Title: Manager

Interpersonal Skills

  •        Building positive working relationships
  •        Building trust
  •        Communication skills

Collaboration Skills

  •        Working together as a team
  •        Customer service skills
  •        Partnering with supervisor

Self-Management Skills

  •        Quality focus
  •        Adaptability
  •        Decision making
  •        Planning and organizing
  •        Continuous learning
  •        Professional knowledge/expertise

Developing a competency model for interviewing new hires and volunteers can save your organization time, funds and energy. If your nonprofit is interested in learning how ESC of New England can assist a hiring process or other management matters through a consulting engagement, contact Ulea Lago at or call 617-357-5550 today.