The Mighty Blog

Covering your Assets: Assessing your HR Systems

Posted by Stacey Dailey Roussin on Mar 28, 2019 8:45:00 AM

 When it comes to Human Resources, are you covered? At a recent networking event, a colleague mentioned that because her organization functions with a small staff, she was unsure what formal Human Resources systems were necessary. I shared with her that having a basic system is critical to the effective function of any nonprofit organization, even those with an all-volunteer staff.

Four areas of focus can each play a key role when addressing the Human Resources function in your organization. After reviewing each area, you can gain a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of your current Human Resources system and where improvements are needed. A checklist resource that you an access through a link at the conclusion of this post can help you make a quick assessment; while not a comprehensive list, it provides you with the minimum an organization should have in place.


When you are hiring new employees or engaging new volunteers, following distinct protocols can ensure that both the organization and employee remain clear on expectations and the opportunity offered.

It all starts with the application. A basic application will give the organization all the details about the new employee or volunteer, including not only contact information but prior experience and employment that provide insight into the potential employee’s or volunteer’s skill set.

After the application, the next step is ensuring you are fairly selecting and vetting candidates and confirming positive references. Following a planned system for hiring all positions allows the organization to thoughtfully grow resources and reduce turnover.  The hiring system could include multiple interviews with the potential employee, review of previous work such as writing samples, and speaking with references. Following these protocols can offer invaluable insight into the candidate’s character, skills, and more.

After the candidate for the job or volunteer opportunity is selected, a standard offer letter or employment agreement should be utilized to ensure that both the candidate and organization have a mutual understanding about the expectations for the position, compensation, and benefits.bigstock--218259841

Employee Handbooks and Core Policies:

For all organizations, even those with only one employee, an Employee Handbook is essential. Employees should have guidelines to address basic concerns such as the number of vacation days or sick hours and other applicable benefits. Written policies communicated to employees and volunteers can protect both the organization and those serving it. An Employee Handbook communicates to the employee that the organization is treating all employees fairly and that there are rules that apply to everyone. A written Employee Handbook can prove instrumental to an organization in the event it handles any legal issues that may arise by clearly defining employee expectations and workplace guidelines. Upon your organization's review, a Whistleblower Policy should also be considered and included in the Employee Handbook if determined it is applicable.

In addition to the Employee Handbook, a formal job description for each organizational position ensures that both the employee and leadership have a clear understanding of the scope of the employee's role. A detailed job description can prove vital for all parties’ accountability but still should allow for growth and advancement.

All entities should develop an organizational chart, which can be a simple one. The chart’s purpose is to show both employees and leadership exactly who in the organization has ownership and responsibilities of departments, tasks, projects, and events.

Employee Engagement

Once an employee is hired and the organization has communicated the details of employment, benefits, the job description, and how the organization functions, many considerations for the Human Resources role should still be reviewed and applied.

If your organization does not have a dedicated Human Resources department, a designated person should still handle Human Resources considerations and be available to employees. It is important that employees and volunteers understand with whom they can and should share their questions and concerns.

Payroll and Reimbursement systems do not have to be complicated but are considered good sense for any organization. An accurate system ensures that all employees receive compensation in a timely and consistent manner. In the event that employees are spending funds on the organization's behalf, Reimbursement Policies will avoid confusion concerning what funds are reimbursed and give guidance for the procedures required to document and receive those funds.

Very importantly, employees want to know how they are doing! Performance measurement allows the opportunity for employers to set milestones and benchmarks to ensure that employees are contributing to the organization’s growth and sustainability. The defined method and policies the organization applies to measure success should be communicated to all staff. A big contribution to the organization’ vitality and morale occurs when employees understand they are meeting and even exceeding leadership expectations. 

Employee development programs allow employees to grow professionally and enhance their skill set, increasing their contributions to the organization. A written policy of development programs benefits both employee and the organization by clarifying expectations for both sides. The employer should formalize the types of development programs it intends to provide and be clear on how it is willing to contribute to outside professional development an employee may seek.

In any organization, both positive and negative issues should be addressed. In the arena of discipline, a stated process for progressive discipline avoids confusion for both employer and employee regarding how such issues will be handled. Documenting any discipline actions given also proves important; documentation gives the employer and employee a record of all concerns, issues, and expectations to resolve the matter. This also assists in any legal matters that may occur. Employers should have standard forms and a leadership approved process to ensure they can take prompt action should the need for discipline arise.

Exits, Succession Plans, and Terminations

A plan for the organization in the event that leadership exits under unexpected circumstances can ensure the organization continues to move forward without disruption of services. A formal plan, even a simple one, will lend a sense of calm and confidence to employees, ensuring continued impact of the mission.

Organizations find that having an employee exit-strategy, for both the unexpected and planned, proves advantageous. A staff-departure process can give the organization consistent and accurate documentation and records in the event legal issues arise. The documentation from departing employees and exit interviews can also offer an opportunity to review and learn valuable insights about the organization's functionality and areas for improvement.

Now that you have an enhanced understanding of the scope for Human Resources, it is the perfect time to review the checklist to see if you might want to address any areas.  Click here for our Human Resource Assessment Resource and Checklist.  

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the blog post, please reach out to talk to our President and CEO Gary Romano.

Set Up a Time To Talk to Gary Romano


A solid Human Resources system works to keep staff engaged, offers clear guidelines, and reduces organizational friction and conflict. It also decreases your organization’s legal liabilities.

Topics: talent, Coaching, nonprofit, What every CEO and ED should know, strategy

Stacey Dailey Roussin

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