Hiring staff for mission or experience: The Triple Bottom Line Conundrum

By Drew Tulchin

Best of the summer to you colleagues. I'd very much like to hear your opinion on the following. I recently read that one of our social enterprise leader's top 10 suggestions was to hire people for mission passion as the leading motivator. I believe the thinking is that while many people can do accounting, for example, not everyone can do accounting and be super psyched about helping indigenous plants (as just one for instance).

I am not convinced of this strategy, but suppose that my interest in the level of mission passion may depend on where in the organization I am hiring. I see some of our organizations hiring many of the same types and thinkers. This often preserves culture and may facilitate decision-making. However, I would argue this limits an organization if everyone has the same viewpoint. Even worse, an organization is likely to be limited if everyone is a ‘yes man' to the boss or blindly following the cause.

Certainly with program staff, understanding of the issues is imperative, which is while, although it may be great that private sector folks are increasingly checking out the non-profit, social enterprise, microfinance and other triple bottom line spaces, their doing so can be met with resistance.

We all want passionate, dedicated staff. We also want smart people who have experience in the things we are hiring for. But, you can't have everything, as the comedian Stephen Wright said, where would you put it? I remember a job description years ago for a non-profit seeking someone with 8 plus years in management experience in investing in microfinance. 10 years ago, this wasn't really a reality, and an NGO was not likely to be able to afford them.

So, which would you rather have more of for your mission driven enterprise - technical skills, professional experience, or industry knowledge?


Drew Tulchin is Managing Partner of Social Enterprise Associates, a triple bottom line consulting company specializing in financial performance, social impact, and environmental sustainability. Information available at www.SocialEnterprise.NET. He can be emailed at drew@SocialEnterprise.NET and welcomes comments.

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