Many organizations find it difficult to justify investing in professional development for their employees. When budgets are tight, or you’re bound by donor or grant restrictions to use your money a certain way, it may be difficult to allocate funds to a training initiative. However, professional development benefits your employees and your organization as a whole.
Professional development is a powerful employee retention strategy. LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report highlights the crucial role of learning and development in keeping employees engaged and fulfilled.
Training your employees helps them be better at their current job. It also makes it possible to advance within the organization, which translates into keeping talent for longer, decreasing recruitment and hiring costs.
Beyond these aspects, there are practical benefits of investing in training and education for your employees. To start, your team will have a more complete set of skills and be able to handle greater responsibilities, removing the need to outsource projects to third parties. In addition, depending on your field, your team may need to comply with industry regulations or have technical knowledge. Many employers prioritize candidates who already have this background, but finding talent is easier when you’re willing to provide these foundational skills.
Incorporating Professional Development in Your Organization
There are many ways to make career development and professional training a part of your nonprofit. To start, you can decide whether you’d like to partner with another institution to provide the training or develop your own programs. You can also encourage your employees to find third-party events or resources they’d like to access.
Additionally, there are different modalities, depending on your needs — remote, hybrid, and in-person training have unique advantages.
Next, consider the format. Not every professional development has to look the same. Instead, you can offer the following:
Lunch & Learn: Lunch & Learn sessions are short (usually an hour long), informative meetings to discuss a specific topic or concept with a small group of people. The whole purpose of a Lunch & Learn session is to make it fold into a regular workday and not be too disruptive.
Webinars became popular during the pandemic. They are typically 60 to 90 minutes long and are usually hosted by industry experts who discuss a specific topic.
Workshops are usually longer than webinars, lasting between four hours and a full business day. The goal of a workshop is to cover a topic in-depth and come out with a tangible result.
Internships are the perfect alternative to offer hands-on experience to recent graduates or junior employees, and many times, they have the potential to become full-time roles.
Foundational training is job-specific and teaches your employees the core skills they need for their role.
Industry certifications or technical training revolve around the software or tools your team needs to achieve a specific objective. It helps increase efficiency and decreases operational costs by removing the need to hire vendors or contractors.
Continuing education is an incentive many organizations offer employees by offering a stipend for courses or learning resources like memberships to encourage personal development.
Mentorships are a helpful tool for junior employees to learn and develop a bond with more senior employees or leaders. It doesn’t have to be a formal program, either. There may already be mentor-mentee relationships developing in your team.
Signs That Your Employee Is Ready to Advance
A comprehensive approach to career development means more than training programs or courses. It’s also taking your employees’ goals and aspirations into account and planning for them to enable your employee to grow with you instead of having to search for opportunities elsewhere.
One way to stay attuned to your employee’s needs is by encouraging management to have regular check-ins with team members to gauge their satisfaction, responsibilities, and trajectory. Regular check-ins are a helpful tool to ensure that employees feel fulfilled, challenged, and supported in their role and that they’re going in a direction that aligns with their professional aspirations. They’re also an excellent time to identify if an employee is ready to advance in their career.
Even before your check-in, you may realize that they’re ready to step up if you notice any of the following:
- Taking on additional responsibilities on a regular basis.
- Peers are coming to them for answers.
- Inadvertently (or perhaps purposefully) take the lead on projects.
- Developed a track record of consistently hitting their performance goals and the role’s responsibilities.
These signs point to someone who has mastered their role and may soon start to feel stagnant. So once you notice these, it’s time to consider your options in terms of titles, responsibilities, and compensation for this employee. It’s also time to open a line of communication with them to know where they are and create a plan forward together.
Professional Development Looks Different for Everyone
Implementing career development plans that suit your team’s individual needs, existing skill sets, and your nonprofit’s mission is the key to a successful venture.
Whether you choose the traditional path of training programs or integrate modern alternatives like the ones outlined above, investing in professional development is a powerful tool to increase employee engagement and foster your existing talent for more successful work. Book a consultation now to evaluate professional development possibilities in your nonprofit.