Building a strong sense of purpose in workplaces can help combat negative stress and lower staff turnover, according to the 2018 Pro Bono Australia Salary Survey.
Now in its sixth year, Pro Bono Australia’s annual not-for-profit salary survey is the largest survey of salaries in the social sector in Australia. It provides reliable salary benchmarking data for key roles across the not-for-profit sector, which employs one in eight Australians.
Whilst the survey was conducted solely in the not-for-profit sector it has concrete implications for the wider workforce, particularly with regards to job satisfaction.
It found that while negative stress was a significant challenge for many employees, the factors that motivated and engaged people at work could also protect them against negative stress.
This is crucial as report author, Andrew Beveridge from Beveridge Consulting, said the findings highlighted a risk that where stress was not addressed employees would start voting with their feet.
“We see 82 per cent of leaders who feel their work is demanding and stretching them. We have almost half, 46 per cent, who feel like they often experience negative work related stress. And coming off the back of that we also see 17 per cent who aren’t sure whether they would like to stay with their organisation for the next 12 months,” Beveridge said.
“If you bring all of it together there’s a risk that if we don’t address the pressure and demands that are being placed on people in a constructive way, we could see even greater staff turnover.”
According to the survey, those who felt they often experienced negative work-related stress had 16 per cent lower levels of engagement.
Negative stress was also associated with lower job satisfaction, a decreased likelihood of staying with the organisation, less willingness to recommend the organisation as a place to work and less willingness to recommend the organisation’s services.
However, the research showed some people were able to remain positive and effective even when work demands were high, due to a range of motivational factors including purpose, development, connection and autonomy.
The analysis looked specifically at those with the highest ratings of work demands (39 per cent of those who responded). It found positive ratings for these motivational factors were not only associated with lower negative work-related stress, but also increased engagement levels and increased likelihood of staying with the organisation.
Beveridge said it appeared that the factors that motivated and engaged people at work also protected them against the negative stress typical in demanding jobs.
“When these motivational conditions are present, the high work demands don’t appear to be as negative in their impact,” Beveridge said.
“You see dramatic shifts for those who have a sense of purpose about the organisation’s direction and their role within that, versus those who aren’t sure or who are negative when they think about the purpose of the organisation. The first group demonstrate much higher levels of engagement, are much more likely to stay, and also experience significantly less negative stress.
“It’s an intriguing picture where the factors that are motivating for people, those things that really hook them in with the organisation, actually lead to less negative stress, despite those people experiencing high job demands.”
Based on the findings, the report provided five ways to increase retention and engagement, while reducing negative stress: build a sense of purpose, encourage and support ongoing development, encourage connections, provide greater autonomy, and benchmark and structure pay.
Beveridge said not for profits had an advantage here.
“Not for profits usually have a great story to tell about how they were formed, the nature of the work that they do and the impact this work has in the community. I think by clearly connecting people with the mission and vision, and helping them to understand what their role is in that, they can have a huge impact on engagement and well-being,” he said.
The 2018 Pro Bono Salary Survey, completed in partnership with chartered accounting group HLB Mann Judd, industry super fund HESTA and Beveridge Consulting, included responses covering 1,264 cases across 21 positions that are common to most not-for-profit organisations.
Of the respondents 74 per cent were female, 72 per cent worked five days or more and 42 per cent respondents to the survey had a Bachelor degree/Bachelor degree (Honours).
HLB Mann Judd head of not-for-profit Darryl Swindells said that the report was key in attracting and retaining quality staff.
“Successful boards and CEOs spend considerable resources on getting the right people, and keeping them. A big part of that is knowing what to pay them, to attract and retain high quality people that your organisation needs to succeed. The information in the Pro Bono Australia Salary Survey is an essential element in the quest of having the best organisation,” Swindells said.
HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said the survey was essential in creating better results for the social sector.
“We’re proud to help support the not-for-profit and community sector attract and reward the right talent, which is critical to the future of organisations on the frontlines of caring for our community. This survey provides valuable insights and is a tool that will help ensure better outcomes for this life-changing sector,” Blakey said.
Pro Bono Australia founder and CEO Karen Mahlab AM said the survey offered unique insights into how the sector operated.
“Working for purpose is what the social sector is all about: making a difference and helping others. We all know intuitively that when we work ‘for meaning and connection’ we feel good. This survey brings a factual evidence base to the intuition,” Mahlab said.
“This is the largest social sector salary survey of its kind in Australia and therefore an indispensable decision-making tool on remuneration for all C-suite executives, boards and individuals of not for profits and enhances the Pro Bono Australia Jobs board where people can find jobs in the sector.”
The 2018 report is available here.