Hiring Practices & Catalytic Thinking: Summary of Meeting #1

Last month, Creating the Future’s Integrity Board began tackling a critical conversation for any social change organization: Hiring and contracting processes and practices.

During 2023, a big part of our work was to determine the plan for accomplishing our mission in the remaining 3 years of our 10-year mission. That process gave us the opportunity to slowly think things through, to consider alternatives, to talk with our community members and have their thoughts guide our direction.

That plan is now done, and we are taking the steps to turn “planning” into “reality.”

Some of those steps include hiring and contracting with folks to get the work done. Before we can do that, though, we will need to design a process for doing so. A process that fits with our values. A process that is guided by Catalytic Thinking. A process that is not only equitable and inclusive, but joyful!

We began that discussion at our February meeting, where we talked about everyone who might be affected by our devising that process, and then talked about what is important about the conversation overall. The following is a summary of that conversation. We are deeply grateful to this month’s documentarian, Shadoe Stone, for capturing these notes. If you want to watch or listen to the meeting in full, head to this link. 

Last meeting recap: Last year was a chance to slow down and pull together a plan for the final three years of the mission. This year we’ll have monthly meetings to make progress on our plan.

Who will be affected by hiring practices at Creating the Future?

  • Existing Staff and Volunteers: People actively engaged in the mission, including integrity board members. Particularly who will make the decision to hire (the individual)
  • Users of Catalytic Thinking: Consultants, teachers, participants in classes, and members of a community of practice who apply Catalytic Thinking principles in their work.
  • New and Prospective Employees and Contractors: Those seeking as well as those newly hired or contracted.
  • Network of Connectors: People who facilitate connections between various stakeholders, such as partners, funders, and community members.
  • Funders: Entities providing financial support or resources.
  • Other organizations seeking to hire: Other organizations seeking similar talent or resources in the job market.
  • Partners and potential partners: Organizations or entities collaborating with the organization on projects, initiatives, or shared goals.
  • Community Members: Individuals residing in or directly impacted by the community served by the organization.
  • Hiring decision-makers: Whoever is making the hiring decisions at Creating the Future.
  • Wider Public: The broader audience who may have an interest in or be affected by Catalytic Thinking.

What is important about this topic? 

  • Impact of hiring practices on Existing Staff and Volunteers: Transitioning from a volunteer-driven organization to one that employs paid staff could create a shift in dynamics that will affect everyone involved. While hiring paid staff can help address certain challenges and propel the organization forward, it may also introduce new issues that need to be addressed.
  • Impact of hiring practices on the Organization’s reputation: Employee/contractor actions reflect back on the organization and may require directors to expand their control while also relinquishing some authority. This shift not only impacts the organization internally but also affects its outward-facing image as agents make decisions perceived by the outside world, highlighting the complexity of managing these dynamics and perceptions. Several years ago the board realized that the people closest to the decision are the ones to make the decision.
  • Impact of hiring practices on the Wider Public (including other organizations in the Talent Market): Our practices can set standards, such as transparent wages and competitive benefits. While setting high standards can attract attention and set organizations apart, it may also lead to pushback from those who perceive the practices as either too bold or not bold enough.
  • How do we navigate values within a larger economic system that may not always prioritize the same values? Language differences is one area which can be both meaningful and potentially confusing.
  • Internal practices manifest organizational values. Advertising salaries is an example of this. “’We don’t want to reveal salaries because what if everybody knows what everybody else makes?’ In which case your problem is not a salary problem. You have a different problem.”
  • Many organisations claim to have values like integrity and respect, true alignment with these values requires implementation into organizational practices, starting from the interview process.
  • It’s important to ensure a mutual fit between the organization and potential employees to avoid cultural mismatches. The quickest way to see if there’s a cultural mismatch within an organization is observing how much time is spent on employment-related issues compared to tasks related to the organization’s mission. When there is a misalignment between these two areas, employers often find themselves dedicating most or all of their time to managing employee happiness, well-being, and performance, rather than focusing on advancing the organization’s mission.
  • A common trap – a focus on aligning the organization with the vision of incoming leaders rather than maintaining consistency with the organization’s established vision. Hildy speaks about instances where organizational direction shifted with each new leader, leading to inconsistency and potentially negating previous efforts. It’s important to maintain a clear organizational vision and ensure alignment with it during the hiring process.
  • It’s important that we frame values as a performance system, not a “belief” system. Values stand independent from the people, and the question is not what do you believe but can you behave this way?
  • Acknowledging the pain and trauma that previous workplace power inequality has created. Can we be aware that while this way of behaving may be really clear for us as an organisation, because of all the history, this may be very novel because folks have maybe never had an employment relationship like what we’re wanting to offer.
  • Talent shortage – rise of the belief that employers don’t value employees so why should employees value their employers? Far less turnover when employees feel like the org is loyal to them. Flexible working is one solution to meet working parents and other people who have different needs outside of work, where they are. Not for profit sector are doing work noone else is doing, and the value system isn’t the same as the for profit system, which means they aren’t getting paid as much. Leading to burnout, etc. Paid less because it’s ‘women’s work’ and we have a responsibility to change that narrative. We’re the moms of the world. The whole sector is at a thought-junction, there are an overwhelming number of groups dedicated to changing the way we do things (e.g. trust-based philanthropy).
  • Deconstructing the whole notion of progressive employment. What’s the relationship to work? What role does that play in people’s lives? And is it meeting them in terms of what they need in their life at their, whatever life stage they’re at?
  • Intergenerational values and worldviews are different in regards to what change should look like. Younger generations are looking at non profit sector as not delivering the change they want to see, and instead looking at other sectors.
  • Titles and responsibilities – handing out titles to acknowledge their value and make the job much more attractive. Questions can arise such as “Is it just that you are doing more work than you think you should be doing? Are you doing the same work that the supervisor is doing and therefore you think that there’s a misalignment there? What is the nature of the misalignment?”
  • Onboarding – challenging the norms around onboarding (which usually involves an offer letter, employment agreement and maybe an hour, day or week of training) to managing and meeting expectations around training and performance. Other people within the team may feel disgruntled if they are continually asked to mentor new members of the team, and that wasn’t part of their job description.

What would call to you as someone who may or may not currently be looking for a work opportunity?

  • Agency and control in the job. Helping influence why and how we do it.
  • Ecosystem approach. Because cooperative effort is symbiotic. The idea that the work gets done like an organism, without my part it’s not going to make it. “What if my job was to take care of you, and your job was to take care of me?”

Reflections: What is standing out to you from our conversation?

  • First principle approach
  • Transitioning from problem-discovery to solution-making. Figuring out the next steps.
  • It’s unusual to be in a place that’s nurturing. How do we call that out, inhabit it, make it more usual in practical ways.
  • We value people, we value their experience . If more companies sat down to do this work, people would be happier on mass. The work that is happening here should be done everywhere. Organisations wouldn’t need interventions in the way that they currently do, for bad behaviour and practices.
  • Grounding these practical and structural things in values. People’s humanity is honoured through employment process. This work only happens because of people, and this is the only legal place where we contractually define the relationship.
  • Pearl Island and the UK – people are having these conversations in different spaces. Intergenerational values is an important conversation.
  • This is an opportunity to look at things from a very different lens that is human humane, positive and potentially revolutionary for this movement. I want to say sector, but it’s really a movement of people.
  • One of Creating the Future’s core tenet is values, and this discussion around hiring practices has highlighted that so much of the standard practice is about the thing not the people. If we set practices to bring out the best in people, then we don’t need most of what HR does. And the ecosystem approach is really standing out.

Join us for the next stage of this conversation on March 12th. Meeting info is here.



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