Case Study 8

Strategy Implementation and Talent Management

The challenge

A large nonprofit agency employing hundreds of social workers was experiencing high turnover and difficulty in recruitment leading to service continuity and quality problems, and a challenge in executing the organization’s strategy. The organization engaged me to help improve performance by improving field management effectiveness, reducing the turnover and improving hiring effectiveness without increasing compensation levels.

What I did

Through a series of workshops, I guided the management team in assessing the economic impact of social worker turnover, identifying the important functions of the social worker positions, and likely reasons for the turnover. Field interviews with social workers and their managers provided a more in-depth understanding of the job challenges and the causes. The team developed a highly-targeted sourcing strategy for the agency focused on the people most likely to succeed in those positions, and redesigned the selection process to improve both efficiency and effectiveness of selection. The team also created a compelling value proposition positioning the agency as the right place to work for exactly the kind of social workers they wanted. Finally, we identified specific ways for managers and supervisors to increase retention, and created a measurement system to maintain a high-level and ongoing focus on retention.


A reduction in turnover of 74% in the first year. Annual savings exceeding $600,000 in turnover related costs. Improved results in operating performance due to better continuity in field staffing, and much greater confidence of the field managers on how to retain high performers and select new high-performers. The agency was able to attract higher qualified people well suited to the agency’s challenges. The measurement system provides them with monthly visibility on retention results and trends so that they can act on the information in a timely manner. The value proposition has increased affiliation and engagement as social workers can clearly understand the agency’s mission and the belief that their roles are both important to and appreciated by the agency.