Comprised of 200 food banks and 60,000 meal programs and pantries, Feeding America serves 4 billion meals to hungry Americans every year. With 40 million Americans facing hunger every day, including 12 million children, working at Feeding America is its own reward for many staff members, but CHRO Matt Hayes knows that successfully moving the nonprofit's mission forward includes keeping employee well-being front and center.
We spoke with Hayes to discuss how Feeding America keep engagement top of mind and how the organization's recruitment efforts reflect its focus on meeting the needs of employees and clients alike.
Engagement goes hand-in-hand with company mission
"For us, keeping employee well-being front of mind goes hand in hand with advancing our mission," Hayes said. "When the team is engaged and happy with their work environment, they are doing their best to fight hunger." One of his primary focuses is keeping workers tied to the mission in the everyday work that they do: "It's what brought most of us through the door. It's important to keep them realizing the incredible good that they do."
Understanding that its team members want to work toward a larger mission, Feeding America offers volunteer opportunities to staff. They're allowed one day per month of volunteering, whether at one of the organization's food banks or in another area. The nonprofit also creates planned engagements throughout the year staffers can participate in. Feeding America builds on these to encourage teamwork, Hayes said. "We bring in people from different depths together on a project," demonstrating how each contributes in different ways.
Several times per year, all staff attend meetings that help them connect more profoundly to the work they do. The meetings include speakers from networks and agencies who share their stories and transformations. The presentations reinforce the importance of the work and the change they're helping effect.
How do you promote your employee value proposition?
On its LinkedIn career page, Feeding America promotes that everyone can have a role in ending food insecurity across the country: "Together we can end hunger," it exclaims. That can be a powerful motivator for applicants. "But it's more than our work that matters," Hayes said. "We stay focused on our employee value proposition. Our mission is important, but it's not the only thing that's important for staff." Their career growth and work/life balance are just a few components on which the nonprofit stays focused.
Volunteerism is part of Feeding America's recruitment discussions: the organization looks for candidates who are self-motivated, but it's also important to underscore how the Feeding America will support them. Employee engagement surveys help monitor priorities: what's important to them in the work they do, and what's important to them personally?
Staff members rank their satisfaction in seven categories revolving around their individual goals and development. "We use these as a conversation starter," said Hayes, "looking for ways to support what's a priority for them and how to help them grow." The tool gives the nonprofit a starting point to facilitate meaningful conversations between employees and managers. Reviews at Feeding America are more about goal setting and development planning, Hayes explained.
Nonprofit status as a talent attraction tool
Like many nonprofits, attracting talent for open positions is not very difficult at Feeding America. Whether a candidate's entire career plan is focused on working for the greater good, or whether they've decided to jump ship from the for-profit world to make a more meaningful contribution with their work, Hayes said the organization never has a problem getting resumes into the pipeline. "Rarely have we ever had to use an outside source to hire," he said. "We always have a consistent candidate flow, which is great."
For those candidates whose work doesn't directly impact the organization's mission, like HR, finance or information technology, Hayes notes it's a priority to translate how those roles fit into the organization’s strategy and goals. "From when they join the organization to transitioning into their part, we help them understand the impact of what they're doing with the mission, even if they're not connected on a daily basis."
While its HR team focuses primarily on national organization staff, Feeding America works with 200 food banks throughout its network, and those food banks hire for themselves. The national team helps with best practices for recruitment and other employee issues; some of the banks have an HR team of one, so Feeding America's team is a valuable resource.
How advocacy impacts recruitment
"Being able to advocate and influence is an important part of our culture," said Hayes. "To do the work we do at scale, providing food for about 40 million people per year throughout our 60,000 agencies and a million volunteers, depends on being able to work together."
The nonprofit talks to recruits about their potential to advocate for the hungry and affect change. It also looks for skill sets that can support its cause, and for people who are passionate about what they do.
The mission promotes itself
When hiring in the for-profit world, it's important to emphasize the difference employees will make within the context of the company's primary objectives. But the mission often is front and center for employers in the non-profit sector.
"Translating the work as a recruitment tool to a large degree leverages itself," Hayes said. "Our reputation and employment brand is strong: if they're interested in the challenges of the job, the impact of our work closes the deal."