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leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

People who are drawn to the charitable sector share similar goals. They are looking for like-minded people, meaningful work toward the greater good and a high level of passion, perseverance and commitment to the cause.

To keep staff engaged in a charitable environment, management needs to accept and embrace these ideals. Giving employees an experience that meets their expectations will go a long way toward fostering a culture where they can achieve them.

One area that many charities struggle with is establishing strong human resources and organizational development strategies. With budget cuts, government clawbacks and rising donor expectations, we need to scrutinize our spending while maintaining a motivated and inspired work force. With that in mind, here are four ways to keep employees happy that won't break the bank.

1. Tackle the tough problems. Don't ignore gossip. It plagues many workplaces, even in the charitable sector. It isn't harmless water-cooler talk. Identify it, name it and work with staff to eliminate it. Practical and free: We came to an agreement as a team to stop gossip and hold each other accountable. We decided that nothing should be said about another staff person without that person in the room. We coached senior leadership and staff and gave them tactics to use if they were continuously approached with gossip.

2. Increase staff autonomy. It doesn't cost a cent, and the return to your charity or business in increased productivity and creativity will be huge. It requires strong leaders who understand how to ask the right questions, trust their staff and focus on ownership, not buy-in. Practical and free: We formed a senior leadership team, a group of individuals who can have an impact on the entire organization, not just their department. This group can provide an immense amount of support, from writing the strategic plan to reinforcing the culture of the organization to keeping the leader in tune with the day-to-day happenings in the office.

3. Increase collaboration. Working together is not the same as collaborating. True collaboration transcends departments and even job descriptions. It happens when people are tapping into their strongest skill sets, valuing diversity and allowing creativity to flow. Staff are working toward a common purpose for the greater good. Practical and free: Allow employees to test their leadership skills. We've asked our staff to help set our policies about working from home and flex time. Staff had to put aside their personal opinions and really work as a team to come up with a solution that was acceptable for the business and their colleagues.

4. Make a tough call. It's harder to let someone go than it is to hire the right person in the first place. Avoid hiring anyone unless they fit with your organization's culture. The culture of a workplace influences everything you do, how you make decisions and how you prioritize what you chose to work on and let go. Practical and free: We adjusted the interview process to really test prospective candidates' fit with the organization. We ask questions about their communication styles, how they deal with conflict and we really press people for answers. If the fit isn't quite right, I always ask myself: Do I have the time to ensure they can adjust and fit with the culture of the organization? If the answer is no, then I won't hire them.

Josey Kitson is the executive director of World Animal Protection Canada (@MoveTheWorldCA).