In almost every social enterprise that has made it to the hiring stage you will find three basic types of employees: the non for profit sector veteran, the recent college graduate and the “I just want to something meaningful for once” for profit employee. These three types of people do not have a lot in common, except the fact that they truly believe in your cause and are eager to put their skills at your disposal. However, what they want to get out of their social enterprise experience is completely different.
The first kind of social enterprise employee, the non for profit sector veteran, has been in the game for a long time. They have most likely worked for at least one NGO you have heard of and a couple you haven’t. They know their stuff inside and out and they know what is wrong with the system. The good news is they believe social enterprise is the way of fixing the system. The bad news is you have a lot of proving yourself to do. It does not matter how long you as a social entrepreneur have been around, chances are the veteran has been around for a lot longer. They bring invaluable experience to the table combined with the energy and eagerness that only people who have dedicated their lives to creating social change can posses. However, they do not take shortcuts and they will most certainly not work for a company that does. If you are planning on cutting corners, paying yourself more than the market rate, partnering with corrupt companies and governments, do yourself a favor and do not hire a veteran. Even if you, like most social entrepreneurs, do not plan on doing any of the things mentioned above, you still might find the veteran to be the most difficult of your employees. But you know they are worth it.
The recent college graduate is becoming more and more interested in social entrepreneurship as a viable career option. The new breed of MBAs thinks beyond investment banking and trading, at least in the short run. All of the social enterprises I work with report a rise in the number of applications from recent graduates from top business schools. The rule seems to be get them while they’re young. Social enterprises love working with college graduates because of their energy and will to learn. What they lack in on ground experience they make up for in enthusiasm and willingness to work long hours. You might need to invest extra time and money into training but you can be sure you will have an employee that fits your company perfectly. The risk of them leaving after a few years is worth taking- you will have left a mark on their way of thinking they will take with them wherever their career takes them.
Many big consultancies report on an influx of staff that have taken a break from their careers in the for profit sector and went to work for a social enterprise at one point of their career. They report those staff usually have much better communications skills and other soft skills as opposed to those that have never worked in the social enterprise sector. The question is, why did they leave the social enterprise sector and went back into the traditional for profit sector? And why is social enterprise still seen as a career break rather than a career change for some business professionals? I believe the answer lies in the hands of the social entrepreneurs. Social enterprise is a business and needs to be positioned as such. While a lot of social entrepreneurs might lack the business knowledge and skills, hiring recent for profit dropouts can help them polish their business model and manage their businesses more efficiently. The trick is in making them stay long enough and that can only be achieved with a balanced approach to both the social mission and the business side of your enterprise. It is time to move away from the hippy image of social enterprises and establish ourselves as a force to be reckoned with. That is the only way to make people who are willing to accept a lower paycheque in return for making a difference stay.
By Tena Pick