Managing Marketplace Tensions By Maximizing Agency Intelligence

Uncertainty is a constant in any industry.

At The Fedcap Group, our collective focus is on ensuring sustainability and relevance and creating impact.

Every day, to accomplish these three mandates, we balance the tension between being smart and prepared for emerging market trends while at the same time meeting the day-to-day demands and “keeping the lights on.”

During our quarterly leadership meetings—our Corporate Weeks—we deliberate and struggle through this tension.  We examine “what’s next” questions, that require research, data/information and a deep understanding of the trends in service to vulnerable populations.  We explore how our investments in innovation, technology and talent and our attention to risk management and structure position us to succeed. We thoughtfully consider how the exponential increase in information generated by technology is or should be impacting our thinking and our decisions.

In order to thrive as a company and effectively manage the tensions described above, we must ensure that we are maximizing the intelligence of our agency— advancing our ability to be adaptive–even in our complexity. This is our competitive edge. 

Significant organizational enhancements are gained from the use of information generated by technology.  Leveraging technology to know what we know about our work, the environment, future trends, risks, historical impact and quality, allows us to manage the critical tension between emerging trends and day to day demands.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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Strategic Considerations for Leading a Family of Companies

Growth is an essential part of our strategy here at The Fedcap Group.  Growth occurs through organic expansion of existing programs, acquiring new programs by responding to Requests for Proposals, and by combining with organizations with synergistic missions.   Our growth and expansion enable us to broaden and deepen our impact to individuals and enhance the capacity of systems that serve those with barriers to economic well-being.

Leaders from across our many and growing companies must consider the work from a 30,000-foot high lens, understanding market trends, shifts in government funding, ways technology impacts the competitive environment, while at the same time seeing our work from all stakeholder perspectives and keep in mind near and far-term goals. At the same time, they need always to maintain the essential on-the-ground work and tactical work that needs to be done. This duality of roles is no easy task.

Clear corporate goals, strategy and structure are critical components of a foundation that can sustain the kind of growth we are experiencing and expect to continue. Ensuring clarity around our goals, strategy and structure is a major component of our Corporate Weeks—where each quarter, leaders from across the country come together to strategize around issues that impact the future of our organization. These weeks provide an opportunity to continue honing a multi-enterprise approach to our work as we listen to perspectives from our diverse geographic, stakeholder, practice, and program areas.

It isn’t always easy to unravel the complexities of a multi-agency organization, but by being deliberate in the vision and manifestation of understood and agreed upon goals, strategy and our structure, and by communicating them—a lot—through multiple channels, we are building a team of staff who are continually working together to create relevance, sustainability and impact.

Recruitment vs Talent Acquisition—The Strategic Difference

Last week, I discussed the case for a year-long onboarding experience. Onboarding represents an investment in our new hires, a commitment to their training and development, and a promise of a fulfilling and ongoing relationship between a new employee and their new organization.

But before we bring on new talent, we must consider the acquisition of that talent at least as well-planned and strategic a process as the first-year experience.

Until the last decade or so, businesses used basic recruiting as a means to fill vacant positions. Recruitment meant waiting until an incumbent left and then, all too often, frantically searching for someone to fill the role. It meant finding a candidate who matched as closely as possible the qualifications, certifications, and experience to fit the position. Recruitment was a wholly reactive process. Recruiters I have known have told me that this process can be frustrating and painstaking when it is launched with the departure of an employee. It can take too long, especially when someone leaves a position in a hurry, and when there is a dearth in the marketplace for qualified candidates. And a vacancy left too long in the team, practice area, or organization poses a financial and cultural risk to the organization. (It costs 150% of an employee’s base salary to replace them.)

Today, in the smartest organizations—for profit and not-for-profit—companies use the process of Talent Acquisition as a robust strategy for finding, hiring, promoting, and nurturing top-notch and well-prepared employees. Yes, recruitment is embedded in Talent Acquisition, but it is only one part of the acquisition process.

Where recruitment is mostly tactical and reactionary, Talent Acquisition is wholly strategic.

Talent Acquisition requires a long view of industry trends and specifically, an understanding of an organization’s long-term planning and future needs.

Talent Acquisition includes the following elements:

  • Workforce planning. Workforce planning means analyzing the current workforce and identifying strength and gaps, as well as looking at the future needs of the organization. It also includes an internal process of ongoing assessment of skills, attributes, potential, and development of internal candidates as successors to current positions. Utilizing internal candidates to fill vacancies is much more cost-effective, given existing employee engagement and loyalty and investment in their growth.
  • Building employer brand. According to SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management), 62% of candidates rank employer brand as the key factor in applying for a job. These days, social media is the number one mechanism for building brand. People want to work for employee-friendly organizations with a strong mission. The brand must reflect the true mission and culture of the organization, and the organization must live up to the promises it propagates in its advertising.
  • Sourcing and recruiting candidates. Rather than using ad placement as the sole tool in sourcing candidates, it is essential to establish relationships with colleges, universities, and other institutions with like missions to connect with potential candidates. Internships and externships are also great mechanisms for sourcing candidates.
  • Analytics and Technology. Technology can and should be used in a number of ways. Data analysis of dynamics such as turnover rates, job performance, employee engagement, and even cultural fit can fold into a dashboard that monitors the employee talent pool. In addition to organizational branding, technology can also be used for basic recruitment through mobile apps and various social media.
  • Onboarding. As I discussed last week, onboarding plays a key role in the bigger picture of talent acquisition. The employee experience is key in attracting and retaining top talent.

While the initial creation of a talent acquisition process takes planning and strategy, once a structure is in place, the entire workforce can incorporate it into their day-to-day work—from being an ambassador for the organization through social media and professional affiliations to internal training and professional development, and the articulation and manifestation of a culture that is reflective of the mission and character of the organization. Talent acquisition is cost effective and ultimately results in a more productive, committed, and loyal workforce.

I am curious about your talent acquisition process. What works?

The Case for Strong Onboarding

According to a recent Gallup study on employee engagement, 50% of Americans in the workforce would change jobs were they to find something more compelling. This is a challenging statistic given the cost of replacing an employee.

One solution—of many—to the turnover problem is the implementation of a strong and robust process of onboarding.

Many organizations assume that once an employee has gone through a day-long orientation, they are “onboarded.”  At Fedcap, we disagree, and are currently working to design and implement a comprehensive year-long process of integration and acclimation to the mission, strategy, structure, and culture of our organization.  To design this process, we asked a group of employees new to the agency to meet for 3 months in our virtual Innovation Garage.

Innovation Garage Logo

This group of young talent researched, studied, conducted surveys, interviewed for-profit company leaders and eventually laid out the elements of a “Cadillac” onboarding process.  They presented their work to our Executive Team with rave reviews; we are leveraging all of their work in our design process.

We know that strong onboarding will lead to better retention, motivation, and job satisfaction, which results in a committed, engaged, and loyal employee.

Just as Talent Acquisition is different from recruitment so is onboarding is different than orientation.

Onboarding is the process of bringing someone thoroughly into the agency, building their knowledge of the company and creating a sense of real connection to people and to mission. 

Because we want to support employees in serving as ambassadors in the community, they must be fully oriented and understand their responsibility for risk management, and to bring their creativity in the name of continuous improvement, innovation, and engagement.

As employees, we want our voices to matter, we want to know what is expected of us, and we want to feel engaged. We want access to information and we want strong two-way communication throughout the organization. The groundwork for this kind of employee engagement rests in a strong onboarding process where our employees are inspired, supported, and compelled to create relevant, sustainable impact, and where they understand their role in creating the power of possible.

What are your onboarding practices that work?

I welcome your thoughts.

Leading Digital Transformation

Digitalization is changing the way non-profits strategize, structure, communicate, and conduct business in the non-profit arena. What was once a simple process of converting manual systems into digitized processes has now become a business imperative. The effect and outcome of digitalization is digital transformation, which affects our consumer base, our operating infrastructure, and our overarching business strategy. Innovation, creativity, and impact can certainly happen without digitalization. But those of us in the non-profit sector will be quickly left behind in our ability to fulfill our mission if we are not immersed in the digital world and if we are not clear about how to lead in a digital environment.  At Fedcap we are taking this very seriously.  During our last Corporate Week—when organizational leaders from throughout the country came to New York to analyze our current performance against established benchmarks, evaluate our strategy, and plan for the future—we spent the entire week in discussions and training about digital transformation in all of our company’s processes.

Leading digital transformation requires a special set of skills. Randstad, a multi-billion-dollar global Human Resources services provider, asked hundreds of C-suite executives immersed in digital transformation what they thought were the key skills required to lead in a digital environment.

According to their Workplace 2025 Study, Randstad’s findings cited as the most important leadership characteristic the ability to communicate and keep staff engaged and connected. Communication and engagement engender trust, so that when employees balk at change and at the unknown that digitalization creates, they trust the vision laid out by leaders that their work and the organization’s mission will be better served through technology.

A close second is the ability for leaders to have a fluent ability to understand and use digital tools. This ability means dedicating resources to training upon onboarding and ensuring ongoing education as technology evolves.

Third, is the ability to prepare the ground for a culture that is driven by a hunger to learn new technologies and to experiment with integrating new technology in the workplace. This ability means constantly looking forward out the front window and anticipating what is coming next in the digital environment.

In addition, it has been our experience that leaders spearheading digital transformation also need the ability to build and sustain teams who are unafraid of courageous conversations and ongoing challenge.

What are other nonprofit leaders doing in their organizations to drive digital transformation?

I look forward to your responses!

Sharing Stewardship: Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

The Fedcap Group is committed to growth and to expanding our geographic and mission footprint. Each of our 4,000 employees knows that what they do matters and helps to create relevant, sustainable impact.

Our work is not siloed: we are all responsible and we are all equally empowered.

Our philosophy here is that all of us—no matter what our position—are responsible for the tenets that undergird our culture.

Each one of our employees understands that they play a role in analyzing, managing, and mitigating risk.

They know that innovation can come from any individual within the organization.

They know that marketing and sharing our mission regularly is part of their role.

And, they know that fundraising and cultivating new donors to support the work of the agency is an important part of their role.

There are many ways to inspire a culture of philanthropy.

We can ask those we know to give to the work of the Fedcap Group.   We can spread the word of our own commitment in a variety of ways—through networking, inviting colleagues and friends to events, by using social media as a way to make others aware of the impact of our work.

We are consistently looking for ways to make contribution part of the fabric of the organization.  We are transparent—ensuring that our employees know where and how their contributions are changing lives.

By feeling and seeing the fruits of their engagement, our employees know that their involvement and commitment contributes to a sustainable impact to the individuals we serve.

Independence: Living a Life of Choices

This week we celebrate Independence Day, a day hard-won in our nation’s history. As we learned then, independence never comes easy. Those who fought for the independence of the United States were brave souls who had a dream and refused to give up until it became a reality. It took tremendous courage and the willingness to take a stand.

Every day people walk through our doors exhibiting their own kind of courage, their own kind of willingness to take a stand for their future.  And we respond by learning what they need and helping them take the next step – through education, behavioral health services, job training or employment supports to be able to achieve their dream and ultimately, their independence.

When you look up the word independence in the dictionary, you see terms like self-determination, autonomy, liberty. For me, these words get to the core of living an independent life—a life where we have options, where because of our hard work, we can make choices.

Generational poverty, incarceration, growing up in the “system,” having a disability, growing older, coming home from war with seen and unseen injuries—can seem to take away choices and present barriers.  At Fedcap, we believe that education and employment translate into a life with choices and a life of economic well-being.

This week, as I reflect on the original independence day, I am celebrating the accomplishments, the courage, the resilience, and the perseverance of all of those individuals who pushed through fear, doubt, and stigma to forge a better future and a legacy of hope, possibility, and better choices.

Optimism: A Driver of Progress

Optimism:

  1. A disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.
  2. The belief that goodness pervades reality.

At the Fedcap Group, it is optimism that unites us—at every level. We believe that we can change the world and come to work every day driving toward that goal.  Our tag line—the power of possible—highlights our optimism. We set bold goals and we simply refuse to settle.

Optimism is an undergirding piece of our culture and it is a characteristic we intentionally seek in candidates for employment.  We want people who believe that change, impact, and progress are by-products of hard work.  We want employees who are students of making a difference, not driven by a mindless optimism, but a data-driven “can do” way of approaching problem solving.

We invest time and resources in creating smart, innovative and precise interventions that impact the very real issues facing people with barriers to economic well-being. We believe that the right mix and match of interventions, precisely delivered and sequenced properly can lift people out of poverty—for generations.  We test new ideas, refine those ideas based on evidence–in a continuous cycle of quality improvement.

We strive each day to turn our optimism into reality.

It is not easy to maintain a culture of “can do.”  There are external realities over which we have no control that can have a significant impact. But that is the secret sauce of optimism—even in the face of challenges, we are confident that we still can be the change we need.

I invite you to consider what lies beneath your work in the world. What do you believe is possible? Are you optimistic? And if not, what would it take to deliberately cultivate optimism as a driver of your business and strategic and structural goals?

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Graduation: The Embodiment of the Power of Possible

Next week, we will celebrate the graduates of our Career Design School as they walk across the stage at the John Jay College auditorium in Manhattan. This event is among my favorite days of the year. It is a shiny culmination of the work we exist to do. Many of our graduates have had to overcome life-threatening odds to walk across that stage. They are an example of what relevant, sustainable impact looks like.

Our graduates come from all walks of life. They represent a full roster of the people we exist to serve—those with barriers to employment—individuals with physical or mental disabilities, youth aging out of foster care, veterans, the previously incarcerated, recovering addicts, and older workers who have been nudged out of the workplace.  Each graduate harbors a story of triumph in personal courage and determination.  Each story is an example of resilience and hardiness and strength. And each moment among cheering parents, relatives, children, grandchildren, and friends inspires me, our staff, and our board of directors to keep on doing the work we are doing to make possible what was, for many, once inconceivable.

Graduation opens the door to job placement, some in our own businesses, but the majority with our over 6500 business partners throughout New York City and New Jersey.  Jobs in high growth sectors with significant opportunity for career advancement.

Graduation day reminds me of the power of one person to make a difference. One graduate, through perseverance, gumption, will, and passion can alter the course of her or his family history. Where there may have been hopelessness about a bright future, there is now resolve. Where some focused only on the outcome, they now understand the journey is where the action is. These are lessons learned only through taking a goal one day at a time, one step at a time, showing up day after day until this day—graduation day is upon us. And now, commencement begins—commencement to the next step, the next journey—it is thrilling to imagine what that could and will be.

I am inspired by the success and the will of our graduates.  Congratulations to our graduates—and to graduates everywhere whose past, present, and future point to new beginnings and to the power of possible.