LinkedIn Live with BSP: Building a Winning Team in the Current Labor Market

Recently, Blair Search Partners CEO Trevor Blair sat down with Jules Taggart, Founder of Wayward Kind marketing for the first of our LinkedIn Live interview series. 

In this series, Trevor will be conducting biweekly interviews with experts and leaders in the nonprofit and recruiting sectors about how they’re building winning teams—what’s working and what’s not working to help them fuel their mission and find and retain top talent.

For episode one we turn the tables – Jules kicks us off interviewing Trevor on the evolution of today’s workplace culture and talent market, with a deep dive on attracting and retaining high performers.

Join us for the highlights below, as we explore the tip of the iceberg on these pressing topics. 

Building Winning Teams in the Current Labor Market

One thing we know in nonprofit organizations is that our people are the crux of absolutely everything that we do. Success as a sector really depends on our people. At the same time, it’s a challenging labor market and increasingly difficult to hire and retain great people.

Trying to hire in a labor market like the one we’re currently in has nonprofit  leaders mulling over big questions like:

  • What does it take to navigate such a tough labor market?
  • What are some things that make it a bit easier?
  • How do leaders step in and really guide their organizations in the current environment we’re in?
  • How can nonprofit organizations compete with the higher paying corporate sector?

Introducing Trevor and Blair Search Partners

Trevor literally grew up in the staffing and recruitment industry, following in the footsteps of his father, Phil Blair and godfather Mel Katz, founders of the Manpower San Diego franchise. During his 15 years with Manpower, Trevor worked in just about every client facing role imaginable, including a 5-year stint based in Sydney, Australia working for Manpower’s corporate parent. 

In 2006 Trevor transferred back to San Diego to lead the workforce development practice for Manpower, specifically focused on raising money to run training and job placement programs for nonprofit organizations. It wasn’t long before those nonprofit leaders began asking Trevor to help them with recruiting, and the idea for Blair Search Partners was born.

Blair Search Partners

Blair Search Partners is a recruiting firm founded in 2016 that provides executive search and recruiting exclusively for nonprofits and mission driven organizations. We work with clients and individuals across the nation to connect talent to the right career opportunities at the right time. 

Blair Search Partners was born out of the need for a very specific, intentional, and laser-focused talent recruitment agency specifically for nonprofit organizations. By narrowly focusing on this targeted sector, BSP is able to go deeper, build trust with clients, and become top experts in our sector. We serve organizations primarily on the west coast in California and Arizona, though BSP is also creating impact and recruiting individuals from all across the United States—clear across the country to Portland, Maine.

The Current Labor Market Landscape

As we move into the interview, Trevor makes a clear and important point – that while their discussion is mainly through the lens of nonprofit recruitment and nonprofit organizations, the topics at hand – aka  the current labor market landscape and strategies for employee retention – are relevant across ALL economic sectors.

“No matter what sector or industry you’re in, we are all facing the same exact challenges,” says Trevor. 

So what are they? What is the workplace landscape like right now? What challenges are nonprofits and other businesses facing when it comes to their employees?

Current Trends in the Labor Market

“What is going on in the sector right now as it relates to recruiting?”

“Right now,” explains Trevor, “ There are a few macroeconomic and societal/social forces at play.” 

First off is technology. Coming out of the pandemic, we just have so many better tools and technology than we did before.

“The pandemic really uprooted the way we think about work, but also the way we do work through technology,” he said. 

Gone are the days of painful Skype meetings. With all of the new tools we have at our disposal, we can work in a completely different way than before. Harnessing technology allows us to build teams in ways that weren’t really seen prior to the pandemic.

The second force at play in the current workplace market is culture.

“The workplace culture has changed in that work is not necessarily a 9-5 thing anymore,” says Trevor. “That’s something we really learned through parents in the pandemic.”

Parents who had young children at home were all of the sudden homeschooling their children, essentially throwing their career into disarray because they now had to juggle so many competing things at once. Meetings began to be scheduled later, children and pets showed up in Zoom screens, and life shifted. The pandemic taught us that you can’t really decouple life from career…that things don’t always fall into convenient little buckets like we thought. 

Trevor and Jules discuss how we used to live in a world where people had two personas: the “work me” and the “personal me,” and those two never overlapped. Pre-pandemic, when workplaces told their employees to “Bring their full selves to work,” they didn’t really want to see your cat running across your keyboard or your kids head bobbing past your chair. 

In contrast, after the pandemic,  we’ve all become a little more human. When organizations say to bring your full self to work now, it’s much more genuine.

The real takeaway here is that we all have to be a bit more flexible if we want to get the best people and keep the best people in our workplaces. 

“Organizations that have found a way to weave [flexibility] into their workplace culture and their operations have a distinct advantage in recruiting.”

Challenges and Opportunities for Nonprofits vs. For Profit Companies

“Other than working from home and flexibility, what else can nonprofits and public agencies do to put them at a competitive advantage when they are competing with for profit organizations with bigger budgets?”

There’s many things nonprofits can do to stay competitive in the labor marketplace and help great employees stick around for the long haul.

The first thing everyone thinks about is money. And  it’s true. It can be tough to compete with private companies when it comes to monetary compensation, but that is not where the conversation ends. It’s not all about the money.

Trevor explains that what he’s found is that once you’ve met a certain degree of needs for a candidate (taking into account costs of living and expensive metropolitan areas), that the additional value of every extra dollar of salary you present them with actually diminishes significantly. Once a candidate’s  basic needs are met, they’re often receptive to many other ways of your organization being the right fit for them, separate from salary.

Performance Incentives

One way that organizations can make themselves competitive without breaking the bank with high salaries is by offering incentives. These are one-time offers to employees and don’t really constitute a continued fixed cost on your budget. The nonprofit sector used to shy away from performance based incentives entirely, but what we are seeing now is that they can actually be an effective way to encourage employees to perform well and to deeply engage with their work. The best news is that it doesn’t always have to be dollars, either.

The question to ask yourself if you want to effectively use performance incentives to be competitive in the job market is first, what level of the organization is this person at, and second, what kind of performance incentive can be wrapped around this person’s position to not only reward them, but really thank them for going above and beyond. Some kinds of incentives may be individually based while others will be organizationally based – play around with it and see what makes sense for your organization.

Aside from financial perks, Trevor also shares some ways nonprofits can be competitive while spending almost no money at all.

Workplace Flexibility

Candidates are really looking for that hybrid-remote flexibility in our post pandemic world. 

You can’t really hire a fundraiser, and then expect them to sit in the office all day. Employees need to have the flexibility and trust to work in a way that makes the most sense for them and their individual role, or you won’t be able to find great people to fill your roles in the first place. 

Workplace Culture

Another opportunity for nonprofits to remain competitive against private companies is by focusing on their  workplace culture. Really investing in your culture often means simply being present and accessible to your team.

Don’t hide in your office or behind your computer screen. Instead, take the time to walk around your office and be in the same space as the people you work with. 

As you improve your workplace culture, your reputation within the candidate market will grow. 

Another way to impact culture, Trevor discusses, is to  try offering your staff time to volunteer every month or give back on a regular basis in a way that is supported by you and the organization. While building culture doesn’t have to cost an organization anything at all, it REALLY does matter and can drive a ton of value in terms of talent acquisition and talent retention.

Professional Development

Another avenue that Trevor and Jules discuss for nonprofits to stand out in a competitive market is professional development, and likely not in the way you’ve typically thought.

Trevor suggests a new way to consider offering professional development for employees. He suggests trying out the idea of creating a lump sum of money to be used by employees however they see fit to improve their skills and make themselves feel more ready and excited about their work. Whether it’s one larger budget provided to Directors who then  choose how to split it up amongst their team, or something offered across the board to all employees in smaller chunks – allowing employees to have agency over how they go about professional development can be a great way for them to feel fulfilled and have control over the direction and satisfaction of their career path.


Finally, the opportunity for nonprofits to really set themselves apart in a competitive market that really fires Trevor up the most, is offering mentorship to your employees. 

It’s as simple as giving them your time. 

Trevor says, “The number one determinant of your satisfaction in your career is  your relationship with your immediate successor. Or if you’re a CEO, it’s your relationship with the board.”

Maintaining strong relationships with your employees and being in the same space with them regularly, checking on them, and allowing them to shadow your work, will have a HUGE impact on their satisfaction in your organization. 

Many younger folks who entered into the workforce during the pandemic missed critical opportunities to be in the same room with their managers and learn through osmosis, which is something that workers from an older generation have taken for granted.

And if your team is remote – it’s still possible to be present with them! Try picking up the phone and calling your team members just because, or checking in on them when you don’t need anything from them. Doing this lets them know you care and are there to support them beyond only what they can provide for you.

Creating opportunities for mentorship and regular touch points managers and employees by throwing in your  personal touch, will absolutely help your organization stand out in a saturated market. 

Coming up on LinkedIn Live 

As you may notice, this is just the first of our Building a Winning Team series on LinkedIn Live. There are so many topics to cover, and we are excited to continue this conversation in the coming months!

Join us as we continue to chat with experts on a biweekly basis to discuss all kinds of pressing issues facing the labor market today.

Tune in next time for our interview with Rob Podlogar on Navigating Career Transitions.

If your organization is looking to build a winning team, we’re here to help. Connect with us and let’s see what we can do together!