A large-scale generational demographic shift in American society is impacting leadership and talent assets in workplaces across all sectors, as baby boomers begin to contemplate retirement and new leaders and leadership opportunities begin to emerge. In the late 1990s, the War for Talent study by McKinsey and Co. helped the private sector awake to the importance of talent as a critical business challenge and a critical driver of organizational performance.
The public sector took on the challenge in 2001 when philanthropist Samuel Heyman launched the Partnership for Public Service. The goal is to restore prestige to government service and reestablish the federal government as an attractive employer. Heyman’s actions were motivated by the looming retirement of his generation; he viewed this unprecedented loss of talent from federal service and the increasing inability of government to attract and retain top workers as one of the greatest threats to our national prosperity.
The nonprofit world became widely cognizant of our sector’s current workforce and generational issues only in 2006 when Bridgespan released its report, The Nonprofit Sector’s Leadership Deficit. Rather than resulting in a large-scale mobilization for solutions, the new awareness caused a panic. Years later, most foundations have yet to comprehensively address nonprofit workforce and generational challenges. McKinsey’s book aimed to inculcate a “talent mindset” in corporate America. The Partnership for Public Service works to build political will, recruit talent to the government sector, and fuel innovation and cultural change in federal agencies. Foundations have yet to make a concerted effort along similar lines.
Funders who are supporting leadership and talent in the nonprofit sector will tell you that they feel isolated — and that they are trying to shift from making the case that there is a problem to identifying and spreading solutions. But with limited knowledge about funder interventions in this area, too little has been known or shared about innovative solutions and promising practices.
Generating Change aims to educate the funding community about this issue, offering knowledge about what is being done and what can be done by funders, and spark increased levels of action and investment in nonprofit leadership and talent. Thank you for helping to generate change!