Closing the Leadership Gap by Improving Millennial Recruitment Strategies

Let’s capture mission-driven millennials by showing them the value of working within the Jewish community, and not outside of it.

leadership gapBy Sarah Waldbott

How is your nonprofit organization developing millennial leaders for senior-level opportunities in the Jewish sector?

With C-suite vacancies on the rise and the recent news that millennials have now surpassed Gen-Xers as the largest generation in the American workforce, the impending leadership gap is something that no organization can afford to ignore.

One of our recent placements Gali Cooks, executive director of Leading Edge, said it best in a recent op-ed in eJewish Philanthropy, “We have to create workplaces that attract the many talented young Jews who consider a career in our sector, but ultimately choose a different path because they perceive a lack of value in working at Jewish nonprofits.”

By recruiting talented millennials into entry and mid-level positions that allows them to grow and make meaningful contributions to the Jewish community, the sector can one day expand the pool of potential high-impact leaders who are ready and prepared to close the leadership gap.

Organizations fall short in recruiting tomorrow’s leaders when they assume that the same strategies that they used to attract and retain Gen-Xers and baby boomers will also work for millennials. As a millennial myself, I believe that nonprofits need to first understand the needs, values, and experiences that shape what we are looking for in the workplace. Some of these things have been revealed through recent research focused on the millennial generation.

Here are five findings about millennials that can help to improve your approach for developing, attracting and retaining the next generation of Jewish leaders.

1. Millennials seek work that is purpose-driven.

According to a 2015 Deloitte survey, six out of 10 millennials said that a “sense of purpose” or meaning is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employers. Findings from a Brookings report also revealed that 63 percent of millennials want their employers to contribute to important social or ethical causes, and are interested in social responsibility. In addition, there are a handful of nonprofit management programs, many of which prepare emerging leaders for careers in the Jewish community at universities such as Brandeis, NYU, Columbia, Jewish Theological Seminary and the Hebrew Union College. The expansion of these programs and the findings about the work values of millennials suggests that there is a large pool of millennials who are interested in making the world a better place. Jewish nonprofits can bring more talented young professionals to the sector by showing them how their contributions can have an impact the community while adding meaning and purpose to their personal and professional lives.

2. Millennials seek competitive compensation and thoughtful employee perks.

While budgets may constrain high salaries in some areas of the nonprofit sector, there is still a lot that Jewish organizations can do to make opportunities appealing to millennial leaders, from a strong parental leave policy to tailored benefits. Still, the rising costs of living and increases in student debt make competitive salaries a necessary incentive. In fact, 56 percent of Americans with student loans, between 18 and 29, have put off a major life event because of the burden of that debt. If Jewish organizations can meet the financial needs of its millennial employees, perhaps through student debt or financial planning assistance, leadership opportunities within the sector might appeal to more young talent.

3. Millennials seek more flexibility and variety in the workplace.

Work-life balance is embraced by generations all across the board, but it is especially important to millennials. Millennials want to be able to change the world, but we also want to maintain a personal life outside of our mission-driven careers. We are mobile, social, adaptable and virtually-connected employees yet a 2015 Ernst & Young study found that 71 percent of full-time workers quit their positions because of excessive overtime hours; 69 percent quit because of a boss who doesn’t allow them to work flexibly. An organization that provides flexible schedules and allows young leaders to achieve a better work-life balance will not only widen its talent pool, but also give high-potentials a reason to stay.

4. Millennials seek career advancement.

On average, workers aged 25 to 34 expect to stay at a single organization for about three years before making a career move. It’s not surprising that a LinkedIn survey conducted last year found that career advancement was the number one reason why people switched jobs. Some young leaders leave the Jewish communal sector because there may not be room for the kinds of advancement and leadership development that they are seeking. Millennials want to feel like they’re growing in their roles. That is why it’s important that organizations consider opportunities for advancement for these newcomers.

5. Millennials seek meaningful connections and mentorships.

Millennials are changing corporate culture. We value individualized feedback and meaningful connections and engagement. If we can make improvements in our work, we want to know about it now and not later in an annual review. Regular feedback and mentorship opportunities are investments in the professional development of millennials. They also show young leaders that they are valuable members of the organizations that they serve.

Let’s capture mission-driven millennials by showing them the value of working within the Jewish community, and not outside of it. Some organizations have taken notice, and are beginning to do something about it. The Talent Alliance is a partnership pilot program run by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation supporting BBYO, Hillel and Moishe House, to recruit, train, and retain top talent within their organizations and to ultimately impact the sector as a whole. It is my hope that their efforts will influence other Jewish organizations to adopt new practices as priorities for recruiting and retaining young talent.

By providing and addressing the needs of millennials in the workplace, working in the Jewish community could become a more desirable and viable option.

Sarah Waldbott is an associate recruiter with a background in the Jewish communal sector at DRG Executive Search. She is a graduate of the NYU Wagner/Skirball dual degree program.

Subscribe now to
Your Daily Phil

The philanthropy news you need to stay up to date, delivered daily in a must-read newsletter.