Capacity Building in 2021

Posted by | February 16, 2021 | Employers, Recruiting tips, Retention

Capacity Building in 2021 blog header

By Carolyn Brown

Last month fellow Do Good blogger Anissa Ljanta forecast the key skills job seekers needed to add to their repertoire in 2021. I consider it recommended reading for employers too as 2021 looks set to follow on from its predecessor with unpredictably and shifting fortunes. For those short on reading time, here is a quick summary.

In 2021, skills that will be invaluable in the not for profit sector and beyond include:

  • Creative problem solving – these days, you have to think outside of the box and the circle, hexagon, dodecahedron, and every other wicked scenario to survive.
  • Communication skills – knowing how to get the best out of video meetings, written communication and mitigating stress-related conflict are highly desirable skills in a covid world.
  • Data collection and analysis – data impact statements carry more weight than ever before in a tight funding pool.
  • Care for one’s self and others – well-being being the current term for being resilient.
  • Technodexterity – able to assimilate and utilise new technology quickly.

If job seekers require these skills, it stands to reason that employees and management will also require them. Now I know increasing staff capacity might seem like a difficult task when you are still recovering from the shock of 2020. No one knows if 2021 will be as bad as its predecessor, but the buzz on the internet indicates that there is still a long way to go with this virus. Business analysts across the board are advising investing in human capacity instead of cutting back on training and asking staff to “make do” with skills they already have. Here are their top five tips for fostering and building human capacity in your organisation.


1. Create a space in which to learn

It is almost impossible to learn something new when you are already stacked with jobs to do, deadlines to meet and targets to reach.  Can you spread the load amongst other staff so that the one who needs to upskill has the time and space to do so? Is it possible to bring in a temp or use volunteers to help reduce some of the employee’s workload?

Micro-training became a thing in the mid-2010s and should be considered again this year. Finding 15 minutes to study every day is easier to manage than a one day or week-long course.

Consider creating an actual space to engage in study in your workplace. A quiet room where employees can study while in “work mode” rather than after work when their brain has already switched off on the commute home.

Do your targets have to increase every year? Instead of pushing for greater achievement levels, perhaps this year settle for maintaining or reducing targets, so employees have time to upskill.


2. Know the role

When was the last time the role description received some attention? 2020 changed how we worked from adapting to working from home to being physically isolated from clients, customers and suppliers. Are there areas of the role that have become irrelevant or require a new way of doing things? Consider ditching the one on one performance reviews this year and concentrate on a collaborative review of the entire department or business structure instead.


3. Well-being matters

Stressed-out employees make mistakes, so what can you do as an employer to make life easier for them. For example, is it possible to stagger start and finish times so that stress doesn’t begin with rush hour traffic? Including well-being in your organisation’s business plan will help improve productivity, retain staff and the performance of the entire organisation. Check out the Mental Health Organisations free tool kit for including well-being in your workplace.


4. Foster creativity

Nobody knows the job better than the person doing it, and often the catalyst for innovation occurs at ground level, not in management planning sessions or Board meetings. Employees are also more likely to be passionate about their work and learning new skills when they become partners in the solution instead of being dictated to.


5. It is ok to ask for help

I have known many managers over the years who felt that “it was just easier to do things themselves” rather than invest in training someone else to help or delegate! Unfortunately having a stressed out boss does nothing for the productivity of the workforce. If you recognise yourself in this description, then I shamelessly recommend signing up for Do Good founder, Julia Capon’s upcoming workshop on learning how to delegate. By letting others help you in your role, you will then be free to help others in your organisation identify and realise their training needs. A win, win situation.

In larger organisations, building human capacity in the workplace is primarily the domain of the HR department. For smaller NPO’s capacity building is relegated to the wish list, which is why the NFP tool book has been created with the help of the Rata Foundation. It is primarily a Canterbury-based directory and resource database but does include information on where to seek help with capacity building nationwide. The Rata Foundation also has its own list of where to seek help with capacity building.

2020 was a shock to the system for sure but instead of hunkering down and hoping the situation improves, why not heed the business analysts’ advice and invest in upskilling and retraining your employees to meet the challenges of 2021 head-on instead. The age-old saying of “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” can apply to NPO’s as well.



About Carolyn Brown

Carolyn enjoys writing stuff that engages readers, makes them feel like they are in a conversation with the screen, and doesn’t require a dictionary on standby to make sense of what she has written.

When she is not creating content, she likes to keep busy volunteering for various not for profits; throwing sticks to her step-dog as they walk along North Beach in Christchurch, and enjoying the company of friends. If you would like to know more, head on over to her website or email her at [email protected]

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