You can’t overestimate the importance of having the right people on your team. 

Way more important than the mission statement on your wall is the team who will carry out your mission statement. 

I have never yet met a mission statement that actually did any of the work—they are notoriously lazy when it comes to execution. 

At the end of the day, your mission is carried out by people. Your vision advances on the backs of men and women. You can’t overestimate the importance of having the right people on your team. 

And every time your organization loses a volunteer or key leader or staff member there are significant costs. Some of those costs are hidden, but they are very real. In a study conducted by the Center for America Progress, the cost of losing an employee can cost anywhere from 16% of their annual pay for hourly, unsalaried employees, to 213% of the salary for a highly trained position!

church staff

There are the actual hard costs of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and training the new person, but there are also soft costs to turnover:

Lowered Productivity

There is certainly lower productivity while the position is vacant, but even after the position is filled it can often take a full year before the new team member is as productive as the employee who left.

Way more important than the mission statement on your wall is the team who will carry out your mission statement. Click To Tweet

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Extra Load on the Remaining Staff

When a position is vacated, that work always migrates to other people on the team. While it won’t cost the church more financially, it does have impact in other ways. 

The staff member who now has to take on the extra workload won’t be able to give the same focus and energy to their existing priorities. Taking on extra workload can be deflating to people and leave them feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, which is not helpful to team morale.

Lost Organizational Knowledge

The person who just walked out the door took a lot of institutional knowledge with them. They knew your systems and how to get things done. They not only knew the official processes, but they also had knowledge of the unofficial processes and landmines, which are often more significant than anything written in a manual. And when that team member walks out the door, their knowledge walks out the door with them.

Onboarding the New Person

Bringing a new person onto the team successfully takes a lot of work and attention. So there is a cost to other team members to help the new staff person get up to speed on the systems, processes, relationships and culture. 

Joining a team is somewhat like becoming a member of a blended family. Getting a new family can be fun, but it is wrought with potential landmines. There are family dynamics that can never be anticipated until you get into the family and start experiencing those dynamics. 

In a church situation, it could be an unclear job description, turf issues with another team, how the team deals with conflict, or a leader with a challenging personality. 

I remember when I joined the staff at Saddleback Church in California. I had gone from being the lead pastor of a medium sized church to joining this massive organization with a huge staff team. To say I felt overwhelmed and insecure would be a huge understatement. I wanted to be proactive in my onboarding process. 

So, after I had been there a couple of months, I made the rounds to various pastors on the team and asked each of them this question… “What is it that nobody told me in the interview process that I need to know in order to survive and thrive here?

I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And there was a lot I didn’t know. I wanted to be proactive to learn as much as I could during that onboarding process. But there is a definite cost to bringing new people into the family.

At the end of the day, your mission is carried out by people. Your vision advances on the backs of men and women. You can’t overestimate the importance of having the right people on your team. Click To Tweet

Lowered Morale and Gossip Mill

When somebody leaves the team, it will always spark conversation among the existing team. They will ask “why did they leave” and “is there more to the story that we don’t know.” 

At a minimum, when someone leaves there is sideways energy given to conversations that are not mission critical. But it can also have more serious consequences—it can diminish morale and cause people to wonder if there is a deeper problem.

And here is what makes turnover especially hard and risky—you can do a great job finding a potential replacement, interviewing them, hiring them, training them, and onboarding them, and still discover (for a variety of reasons) that this person isn’t a good fit. You can have the best process possible and there is still no guarantee that it is going to work.

We are not going to end turnover… transition is just a part of life. And people leave businesses, organizations and churches for a variety of reasons. Often those reasons are good, noble, and right. 

Some people will leave because of God’s call to a different assignment. Some people will leave because of a change in life circumstances, but people can also leave because of a problem or dysfunction. And sometimes, when it comes to turnover, the issue isn’t the organization, it is the person. 

Sometimes when a person leaves it is a good thing and everyone on the team is relieved. If you listen carefully, every now and then you can actually hear the Hallelujah Chorus when somebody transitions off the team.

Here’s the point—

No matter what the reasons are for someone leaving, there is still a cost to the organization.

So, while turnover can’t be completely avoided, a critical question for every church and business is…

How do we lower turnover?

The best way I know to lower turnover is to get the right people on the bus and in the right seat to begin with. I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to be intentional and thorough when bringing people onto your team. 

The best way I know to lower turnover is to get the right people on the bus and in the right seat to begin with. I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to be intentional and thorough when bringing people onto your team. Click To Tweet

Churches and non-profits are notorious for hiring fast and firing slow. Appropriate due diligence can save you a ton of pain. That statement is not theoretical—it has been painfully experiential in my life. In the past, I have hired too quickly. I have brought people onto the team carelessly. I have hired people that we didn’t interview thoroughly, and each time there was a huge cost.

So, how do we do this well? 

Prior to thinking about the “who,” I think it begins with defining the “what” of the role or job. 

To get people on the bus and in the right seat, you have to put the seats on the bus. Each seat represents a job and a role. Each seat represents a certain place on the team and in the organization’s structure.

Prior to thinking about the “who,” I think it begins with defining the “what” of the role or job. To get people on the bus and in the right seat, you have to put the seats on the bus. Click To Tweet

So, before you go out and start recruiting and interviewing people, you need to be clear about what you are recruiting them to. When it comes to hiring or getting new people on your team, clarity is always a friend. Don’t underestimate people’s ability to misunderstand.

A well-written position description can actually help attract the right individuals to your team and can help in filtering out those who wouldn’t be a good fit.

Once you have a role description, you are now ready to begin the search for the right person. My experience is that usually the search process for a new staff member or key leader is not relaxed and unhurried. Typically, the search for the new person is motivated from pain and urgency.

I was talking with a staff member whose church has been looking for a lead pastor for about a year. The staff was getting weary and everyone was tired of guest speakers week after week. They felt like they were drifting aimlessly without much direction. In that situation, it is easy to feel like “we need to hurry up and get this position filled.”

When you are looking for a person for your team, you MUST resist the temptation to hire out of pain or urgency. Don’t rush. There is too much at stake. When I have moved too quickly, I have always regretted it.

If possible, I think it is always best to hire from within. 

In other words, is there somebody who is already at your church or already on your team? There are so many advantages to hiring from within. They know culture, they most likely have your DNA, and you have probably had a chance to observe some of their gifts and competencies in action. 

It might be that one of the long term solutions for adding people to your team is having a kind of “farm system” or leadership pipeline where you can be intentional about raising up future leaders for your church.

The New York Yankees have 10 minor league farm teams. It is costly for them, but it is the only system that insures the right kind of talent that can some day take the field in Yankee Stadium and contribute to a winning pennant.

But for many of us, when you are looking for that next staff member, you just don’t have any good options within the church. 

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of interviewing potential candidates, I want to give you a warning about the difference between recruiting and interviewing—

To me, recruiting is about attracting interest. Recruiting is about filling the pipeline with candidates. But once they are in the pipeline, they need to go through a rigorous interview process. And my experience is that good recruiters usually aren’t good interviewers.

When my wife and I flew to Southern California to interview for a position, on the 2nd day I was there we had a group lunch that included Rick Warren and his wife Kay. 

At the end of the hour and a half lunch, Rick said “Well, I’ve heard enough, I’m ready to offer you the position.” 

And then he stuck out his hand as though to indicate we were making an agreement. I chuckled, shook his hand and wondered if he was actually serious. As I was walking out of the restaurant with the executive pastor, he said to me, “Don’t pay any attention to what just happened. We don’t let him hire anyone. If he didn’t like you or want you to come, the process would be over. But, just because he wants you to come doesn’t mean you’re coming.” 

What he was saying to me was, “Rick is a great recruiter but now that you are in the pipeline, you have to go through the interview process,” and I did. I had 9 different interviews before I was hired.

So, I want to give you my top 5 steps to getting the right people on the bus.

  • Count the cost of a bad hire (i.e. turnover).
  • Develop a robust hiring process.
  • Get clear about what you are hiring them for. Define the “what” before you pursue the “who.”
  • Slow down. Don’t short circuit the hiring process because of pain or desperation.
  • Get the recruiters out of the interview process.

We would all agree that the number one asset in our organization is our people. It’s crucial that we get this right. 

We are still going to make bad hires occasionally. Turnover is going to happen. But if we can do this well, we can lower turnover, decrease pain and dysfunction, and increase productivity.

 


If you’re interested in building a healthy and high-performing team, our team at The Unstuck Group is building a great resource. We can’t announce it yet, but when we do, you’ll be the first to know.  

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