Advice From Leaders - Retention in Non-Profit Organizations with Jen Panteluk

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SNR is excited to launch the fourth interview in the series Advice From Leaders (AFL) where we chat with industry leaders on workplace themes and topics.  This month we chatted with Junior Achievement’s Jen Panteluk.

Name of Organization:  Junior Achievement of Northern Alberta and Northwest Territories

President & CEO: Jen Panteluk

While Junior Achievement is located in Edmonton, and this charter serves youth across northern Alberta. Junior Achievement of Northern Alberta and Northwest Territories is a non-profit organization that engages youth in topics around financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship to help prepare them for whatever their future holds. 


Jen Panteluk has been involved with not for profit organizations for over a decade. Jen has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Commerce and a Masters in Business Administration. Not for profit organizations have motivated her in many ways and she loves working for a great cause that she truly believes in.

Junior Achievement is one of the largest international organizations that inspires and prepares young kids to succeed in our global economy. Their charter works with kids from grade 3-12. Junior Achievement incorporates a lot of hands-on experiential learning, developing soft skills, teamwork, conflict resolution, and communication. Providing hands on learning opportunities to help others succeed is their main goal.

How do you motivate your employees in a not for profit environment?

Get creative. Mainly people are intrinsically motivated, Jen explains, which means you need to provide them with meaningful work to satisfy and push them to excel. “When we hire it is focused on culture fit and finding people who are passionate about the work we are doing.” Jen stresses the importance of believing in the cause you are working for. People who want to impact others’ lives and are motivated by that kind of satisfaction thrive in not for profit organizations.

At not for profit organizations it is vital to offer meaningful work opportunities in order to retain top talent.

How do you recognize the efforts of your employees when you are financially limited?

Junior Achievement recognizes the hard work of their employees by having a work hard play hard mentality. In a small organization it is important to recognize and retain your employees. A little recognition goes a long way with individuals and teams. Like many organizations, not for profits face financial constraints when it comes to employee compensation, so alternative ‘benefits’ need to be considered. Listening to your employees input can give you insight about what they really want. Sometimes letting people out early on a Friday of a long weekend can change the whole mood and enhance productivity the following week. Jen ensures everyone’s birthday gets recognized, she will personally bake a cake or cupcakes to bring in for the birthday. When talking with Jen we discussed that recognition is often forgotten by employees and it can be the easiest small gesture.

One way Jen likes to recognize her team is by celebrating everyone’s successes. “Recognition can be easy; a simple email to the team celebrating the success of an event or project can go a long way.” Jen says. Words can go so far to appreciate someone and their contributions. Jen likes to kick off her staff meetings by starting with kudos. She likes to let the team recognize individuals who are working hard and accomplishing goals.


How do you attract good people? Then once they’re in how do you retain those great people?

Building a good culture goes a long way in attracting the right people. You have to reflect what you want to attract. Attracting the right people is important in not-for-profits, because caring about the cause they are working for will keep them motivated to work for the greater good.

When you want to focus on retaining those great employees you attracted you have to do a lot of listening to employees and be open to suggestions and new views. Sometimes this can include trying new things. This summer they encouraged everyone to explore something outside of their normal job and get creative with something they were interested in. “We have a small team, which means we have flexibility to adapt rather quickly and make sure we are providing fulfilling opportunities,” Jen says.

How big of a role does workplace satisfaction take in a non profit?

“I think you need to believe in the cause and the work you do. You need to go into an environment you enjoy every day to feel workplace satisfaction. ” Jen says. “Building a culture that everyone feels like they have contributed to and is a part of and they see themselves in.” In not for profit organizations Jen believes that it is vital to experience workplace satisfaction. In most organizations they can’t compete with the compensation of large corporations so they need to focus on satisfying their employees in other ways. Lots of people go to their job because they have to, not because they love the work they do. In not for profit organizations workplace satisfaction is a key element. “You have to believe in the work that your organization is doing to feel motivated and feel job satisfaction when you don’t have the glamour and glitz of other positions,” Jen explains.