Great Place to Work

The best workplaces allow employees to focus on things that matter, make a difference,
and develop as people.
Mark Royal, Korn Ferry Hay Group

Last week, an organization called Leading Edge released a major survey titled, Are Jewish Organizations Great Places to Work.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland was one of 10 federations across North America and among 55 organizations including federations, JCCs, foundations, religious movements, educational institutions, youth organizations, social justice groups, and social welfare organizations selected to participate. Leading Edge partnered with Korn Ferry Hay Group to pilot this groundbreaking employee engagement survey in February 2016. A total of 3,422 employees (66% identified as female, 29% identified as male, and 5% “other” or “preferred not to answer”) responded to questions about their workplace culture, the critical factors that drive their levels of engagement at work, and what motivates the likelihood that they will stay in or leave their organizations, and the Jewish nonprofit sector as a whole. An interesting point is that 54% of the potential respondents were between ages 20-39 since larger organizations like Hillel and BBYO employ younger professionals.

What we do know is great places to work actively support staff members to do their very best. Employees want to be respected as individuals and receive positive recognition for a job well done. They want to feel their input is heard and taken into consideration. Plus, people want the authority to effectively do their jobs. Studies show that a strategic approach to talent management and an overall commitment to workplace culture have clear benefits, namely a greater level of employee engagement, significantly lower turnover, and higher productivity that better enables organizations to achieve their goals.

Studies identify multiple core factors that create a leading place to work: trusted leaders in the organization, a clear vision and common purpose among the team, employees who are valued and respected, opportunities for growth and development, and salary and benefits.

Here are several key findings from the survey (courtesy JTA):

  1. Employees in Jewish Organizations are Motivated by Mission -- A whopping 86 percent of respondents – far more than in the general industry benchmark – feel connected to their workplace mission and understand how their work directly contributes to advancing this mission.

  2. Need Better Management Practices -- Overall, many of the organizations in the pilot survey “function like a family, rather than as an effective organization.” It seems we are good at saying yasher koach for a job well done but struggle with having honest, often difficult conversations when employees are not performing well.

  3. Employees are Stretched Thin -- People felt more strongly about having insufficient staff resources to accomplish their work than they did about their compensation. A desire to keep overhead low is an obvious culprit, but this may also be a management issue. After all, effective managers help their teams prioritize and focus their efforts.

  4. Lack Clear Career Advancement Opportunities -- Only 52 percent of respondents see themselves staying in the Jewish nonprofit sector beyond five years. One-third do not plan to work for their organization for more than two years. Over 60 percent surveyed cite insufficient opportunities for career advancement as the cause of their wanderlust.

  5. Confidence in Leadership is Key to Retention -- A great place to work is one in which you trust the people you work for. Leadership matters. A lot.

I am delighted to share that our Jewish Federation ranked above all benchmarks and had the highest overall satisfaction scores among Jewish Federations in the study. I am also proud that my colleagues at the Jewish Federation feel so positively about the work they do, as well as the collegiality in our office – it shows! I am also excited that the Jewish Federation was again named one of the 100 Best Non-Profits (to work for) in OregonAnd, most importantly, I know we are not alone with all of our incredible Jewish organizations throughout Greater Portland.


Welcome back to the women who represented Portland at the International Lion of Judah Conference in Washington, DC earlier this week. The program was filled with an incredible array of speakers on a variety of topics. Plus, Portland was proud to recognize Carolyn Weinstein for her years of leadership with the Kipnis-Wilson Friedland Award. At the end of the conference, the 1,200 women in attendance raised over $31 million towards their local Jewish Federation campaigns.

The more you read about the flood-related devastation in the little towns and parishes of Louisiana, the more I am stunned that it has received so little attention around the country. After initially receiving contributions, a local donor stepped forward with a matching grant of up to $2,500 towards Louisiana Flood Relief. Help us maximize this opportunity and continue to support those families deeply impacted by the floods in Louisiana.

With the High Holidays only a few short weeks away, each of us, personally and communally, are asked to search our souls to reflect on what we have accomplished and what we can do better; to rejoice in our relationships with family, friends and colleagues; make reparations to those we have hurt by our words, actions or deeds; and re-dedicate ourselves to beginning 5777 as more caring and compassionate people. This is our opportunity and obligation.

Click here for a listing of the various High Holiday services throughout Portland. I encourage everyone to find their own synagogue, space and community in which to observe the holidays. And young adults in our community ages 22-30 should check out the new Passport to Jewish Portland program.

Shabbat shalom.



Add Comment