April 22, 2018

Three Actions You Can Take to Prevent the Turnover Treadmill


Time and time again, we’ve seen that organizations—even those that understand the importance of cultivating and retaining talent—struggle with finding the time and resources to prioritize talent development. We’ve also learned—both from our research and through working with dozens of clients on this topic—that executive teams can take a few simple, yet powerful, actions to put powerful, practical development planning systems into place in their organizations.

But first, a little more about why this is important. Bridgespan research shows that one in four nonprofit C-suite leaders left her position in the previous 2 years. This attrition is costly—both in terms of actual dollars and lost productivity. A top reason for this attrition is the lack of development opportunities for senior staff. While tackling this challenge may seem daunting, there are steps organizations can take to create these opportunities—without breaking the bank. What it does take is commitment from the CEO/ED and leadership team to be more intentional about development planning.

Nonprofit leaders can be more intentional by doing three things:

  • Aligning on what it looks like to be an effective leader in their organization. This means reflecting on what competencies leaders need to have and agreeing on a shared set of these competencies as an executive team. For example, you might agree that communications, external relationship building, and strategic thinking are critical leadership competencies. And because these competencies aren’t binary (you have them or you don’t), an important next step that leaders need to take is to outline what it looks like to get better at these competencies over time. This becomes a roadmap for development.
  • Developing a shared understanding of where their leaders currently are—how they are (or aren't) demonstrating these competencies, and
  • Based on this understanding, crafting development activities that give leaders a chance to grow and learn while on the job. This is called the 70/20/10 approach to development planning, and it’s a powerful way to move away from the notion that costly training sessions or conferences are the only way to develop staff

Putting these actions into place is possible in nearly any organizational context—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It requires the participation of the full leadership team and the commitment of the CEO/ED. It’s an investment in the future talent of your organization—one that is sure to pay dividends in terms of the impact you can achieve with that talent.

To help even more organizations take these steps, Bridgespan is pleased to announce Investing in Future Leaders, a self-paced online- and project-based program to help executive teams anywhere in the world build strong processes to develop their promising future leaders.

We signed up for this as a leadership [program]. I feel that this is much more than that. This is overall team development that also helps identify and pull out future leaders.

CEO participant in Investing in Future Leader program

Investing in Future Leaders

What is it? An online- and project-based program for nonprofit executive teams to develop powerful, job-embedded development plans and development planning processes.

Who should participate? Ambitious executive teams (CEO/executive director and direct reports); ideal team size is 4–8 team members

How long will it take? The self-paced programs take participating organizations 12 to 16 weeks to complete

How can I learn more? Visit the Investing in Future Leaders page or email LeadershipAccelerator@Bridgespan.org

What will we get? At the end of the program, each participant will have draft development plans for direct reports, and teams will have a powerful new leadership development process that they can use for years to come.

If you and your executive team care deeply about talent development and want to redesign the way your organization develops its future leaders, Investing and Future Leaders provides an engaging, practical way to create a development planning process for your organization.

We're accepting applicants right now, but space is limited. Click here to learn more, or email us at LeadershipAccelerator@Bridgespan.org.


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