I recently supported a client through a pivotal senior people and culture appointment. It reminded me about the stark challenges, stresses and strains of people working on the front line in charities.

Working in the charity sector is demanding. It requires enormous amounts of resilience as you navigate work that can be distressing, emotional and, at times, traumatic.

It’s no secret that employee well-being in our post-pandemic world is suffering. More and more, we see charities struggling to meet increasing needs with fewer resources.

Hybrid working has brought many benefits. But equally, we can see a decrease in connection and an increase in loneliness. Working remotely can increase stress and anxiety, having negative impacts on mental health.

These factors, plus so many more, are disrupting the ability of charities to deliver outcomes for their beneficiaries.

How does well-being fit in?

As the environment becomes more challenging, leaders need to place well-being at the heart of their people and culture agenda. The executive and board must support each other and their staff and volunteers to foster greater workforce well-being.

There is no “one size fits all” approach, but putting your people at the heart of your efforts is a good start. Centring your people aids retention, eases stress, reduces burnout, and attracts potential employees.

Prioritising employee recognition and ensuring regular check-ins is your first step.

The benefits of gratitude are emotional, physical and social.

Gratitude fosters positivity, which encourages people to feel more helpful, generous and compassionate.

A recent study has shown that thanking employees for their recent work leads to increased trust in their leadership team.  Further, it states that recognised employees will go on to recognise others. As recognition increases, so do retention rates.

Being both the giver and recipient of appreciation has huge benefits. This ‘recognition ripple effect’ makes us feel good, appreciated and valued.

Check-in before they check out.

Weekly check-ins can reduce disengagement by up to 5 times.

Clear, consistent communication is more critical since we’ve seen a shift in where and how work gets done.

Regular check-ins help develop connections and keep us focused. Discussing progress, priorities and feedback is integral in achieving organisational and personal goals.

There are, of course, many other elements to well-being support, including mental health first aiders, employee assistance programmes and encouraging social interaction. But the importance of recognition and acknowledgement is absolutely fundamental. And leaders need to champion this.

A culture of recognition is one of the most effective tools in improving engagement, productivity, retention and most importantly, coping with increasing workload and stress.

Leaders who embed recognition into their culture, provide it in an authentic, personalised and equitable way, and role model this approach will see the benefits in boosting employee well-being and helping people feel capable, motivated and valued.


Philippa Fabry is the Director of our Not for Profit Practice. She has been recruiting transformational leaders to third sector organisations for over 17 years, which has focused on arts and culture, social justice, start up, social enterprises and social care. To learn more about recruiting leaders who create a culture of well-being and recognition, you can email Philippa or connect with her on Linkedin.