My association gets consistently high ratings for member satisfaction. Internally, however, things are not so good. Turnover rates at every staff level are alarmingly high, and exit interviews and staff surveys don't tell a clear story. What do you suggest?
In the absence of hard information, speculate: Are we paying competitive wages? Do employees feel supported by their managers? Are we making reasonable demands? Are we providing clear, consistent vision and solid leadership?
While you're asking yourself those questions—and benchmarking the answers against peer organizations—make a point of demonstrating that investing in a productive culture is a top priority for leadership. Remind staff that you can only be successful with their help. Invite an organization-wide task force to define the problems and identify solutions or consider using an outside consultant.
Respond promptly and publicly to what you learn. Beef up your human resources department to monitor the culture. Share your research on the competitiveness of salaries (and what you will do to address disparities). Design potential career tracks inside the organization and strive to promote from within. Address as many of staff's concerns as you can. Major changes to attract and retain talent may require a significant investment, but it will be a great savings over the in-depth cost of high turnover.
Published in Associations Now, May 2007.