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Offer Development to Groom Current (and Future) Leaders

Leadership development is an attractive benefit that is becoming commonplace in the current job market. About half of Millennials expect their company to help pay for leadership training, and 60% say they'd prefer a job that provides professional development over one that provides regular pay raises.

How Know-How Helps

First, employees want to gain mastery over current job and life challenges. But then, one in five will leave their current position in search of a job that provides additional professional development opportunities. Nearly a third of workers say education would help them feel more engaged and loyal. Yet fewer than half of businesses offer leadership training. Even fewer offer mentoring or career counseling. Think about offering all that with these four levels of staff development.

  • On-the-job training. Hands-on, informal and unstructured, make use of available resources.
  • Training and Development. Professional, expert and targeted instruction.
  • Capability development. Organizational focus to benefit your workplace culture.
  • Talent and performance training. Offered as part of a benefit program in career development.

Try to make education an ongoing process with multiple built-in opportunities. On-the-job training can be the most cost-effective approach for smaller organizations. Coaching fosters teamwork and saves funds by working internally. Leadership education is important to succession planning as well as retention. Whatever their path, give employees the opportunity to practice and implement the skills and knowledge they have gained.

Leadership Realities

In the past, businesses had two ways of moving people up to leadership levels: Climbing the ladder through promotions or following a career path that included educational leadership development. Today's post-recession workers feel the need to protect their careers from further economic downturns by staying employed where they can receive training and development. In a tight market, you should expect to include some training in their benefits package. The best practice for this situation is to make an effort to align their leadership development with the anticipated needs of your nonprofit.

Your nonprofit might be overdue in training new leaders. Baby Boomers who started organizations decades ago are retiring or preparing to retire from their leadership positions. Add to that, about half of current young professionals will leave the nonprofit sector. If you're facing an upcoming leadership crisis, by all means focus on leadership training. Your workforce will enjoy a successful career path, and your nonprofit will benefit from well-trained leaders who know how to take your organization forward.

Development 101: Begin Simply

One of the best ways to offer career development is to build leadership skills through practical hands-on experience. It will help your managerial staff to know their organization well so encourage managers to delegate and coach where needed in order to build a list of success stories. Some cost-effective ideas to start you in the process include:

  • Team leadership. Team members organize and run a meeting or event.
  • Communication. Employees present verbal reports at a monthly meeting or create material for an internal newsletter.
  • Volunteer leadership. They're in charge of coaching volunteers to assist with a fundraiser or other campaign.
  • Project ownership. Employees manage projects, such as appreciation events or redesigning your website.

A Sensible Approach

While you're considering how to best juggle all the possible educational benefits, take a pragmatic look at the costs. There's a simple formula you can use to maximize educational effectiveness without breaking the budget. The Center for Creative Leadership promotes a cost-effective model for leadership development that you should consider:

  • Begin with 70% on-the-job learning
  • Add 20% coaching and mentoring
  • Round it out with 10% formal training

Many nonprofits fail to follow this guiding principle and the result is often an unfocused, unsuccessful training program that does little more than pay lip service to the idea of leadership development.

Make Mentoring Happen

Do your managers notice emerging leaders in their teams? You can design a formal mentoring program or keep it informal, as you see fit. Make sure they have a safe space to learn so that they can accelerate learning. Allow time during work for mentoring sessions. If your nonprofit cannot support an internal mentoring program, you may be able to partner with other local organizations and businesses for potential mentors. Resources include the Aspire Foundation, which provides global, free online mentoring to women working in nonprofits. Search online to find the numerous mentor-training resources available.

Affording Formal Training

As you know, finding adequate funds for your training initiatives can be a challenge. There are ways to leap past those hurdles. Here are some possible means of funding formal leadership development in your nonprofit:

  • Nontraditional grants. Check online for the specific kind of training you want funded. Taproot Foundation provides service grants in some cities.
  • Free and Low-Cost Online Classes. Some valuable opportunities await online, such as the SBA's and SCORE's free online training on business topics and other online courses offered through organizations such as FutureLearn, Coursera and +Acumen.
  • Local colleges or universities. Some schools still allow people to audit classes.
  • Connect with Corporations. Your corporate partners might be willing to invite your staff to join their development trainings for free or low cost.
  • Pull from your board of directors. Form a board committee to focus on leadership development training.

Funds spent on leadership training provide high returns on investment (ROI). And this ROI isn't just fiscal. It's a great way to increase your mission impact, bring in higher revenues, control costs and provide for greater stability as you build employee loyalty. Strengthen your training programs to focus on success in achieving leadership roles, and employees will stay as they reach for the heights of leadership succession.

Logic Dictates

A recent study showed that only a third of nonprofit executives rose through the ranks of their organization. If two-thirds of nonprofits are having to hire executives from outside, that suggests they lack appropriate leadership development. They may even be neglecting larger strategic issues. The results of this lack of focused strategy means that nonprofits are not rising to meet the challenge of diversifying their leadership in race, ethnicity, or educational background. It's critical that they improve their ability to groom talent from within.

You may experience push-back from an executive who doesn't want to dedicate resources to leadership development. The truth is, some leaders dislike the idea of training their replacements. It makes them feel that their time is coming to an end. If that's true in your nonprofit's case, you will need to explain that a strong leader is someone who prepares for the inevitable, which includes future changes. It will likely help if your organization's board of directors makes succession planning a part of the job description for all executives. A legacy can be ruined by leadership succession that is ill-planned. Instead, your executive has the opportunity to make an enduring mark on your organization by leaving it in capable hands.

And, often, the best way to do this is to promote from within.

This is an excerpt from UST’s eBook, “Innovative Strategies That Overcome Nonprofit Retention Barriers” in collaboration with Beth Black, Writer and Editor.

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