Four ways to support staff to flourish
Learning new skills and ways of looking at the world keeps us engaged and alert. Humans are wired to learn. Remember that old saying, ‘Use it or lose it’? Turns out that applies to neural pathways too.
The old-fashioned way of learning as an adult is to pay money to an expert and go off site to learn. Or maybe go to a community-run night class. These are still great options but today we have more choice. We’re going to look at four different models of learning that support staff to flourish.
It is unusual for not-for-profits, especially the small to medium sized ones, to have professional development or staff learning support factored into the budget. Combine this with the fact that many in the sector juggle higher workloads than their hours can contain – and for some of us, who work part time – it can be difficult to take time out of the actual work to go to a course, workshop or conference. This is to our loss. Tackle this sad trend by adding a budget line and factor in learning new things, like outlined below, into the work plans for the year.
1. Go and away and learn
The ‘go away to learn’ model of learning (think conferences and workshops) is most common in the not-for-profit sector. These are content based and the actual learning is what happens when you go back and apply what you’ve learnt. Which may or may not happen if staff have to hit the ground running on return to work. A friend of mine supports her staff to have a follow-up day scheduled the week after a conference or class, to encourage follow up calls and emails to connections made, and make sure there is time to reflect, integrate and action new learning.
2. Customised learning
There are a gazillion ways to learn online these days. Whether it’s not-for-profit specific, creative or dog grooming (or whatever floats your boat), it’s available online as a course, class or webinar. Udemy, Masterclass, Lynda.com are just a few of the providers. You could give each staff member a learning budget (hours and/or money) annually and ask folks to report back (however they’re comfortable, some might like to address a staff gathering, others will prefer to email a casual report) what they learnt, share inspiration and put forward any new ideas or systems they’ve learnt to the team.
3. Integrated learning time
Learning something new doesn’t have to mean a large chunk of time invested, or money. In a busy work week, it’s hard to prioritise research and keeping up with developments in your field, or news from the sector. You can encourage this by introducing a 10-15 minute a day learning time.
If your staff who is responsible for the organisations weekly or monthly newsletter has done the job for years, it might be good to research recent info on what works to keep people’s attention, perhaps research a new design tool, or check out other not-for-profits e-newsletters for inspiration.
Try it for 10-15 minutes a day or two hours a week? Then review in a month and see what you and your staff think?
4. Sharing skills within your staff pool
There will be all sorts of skills within your organisation. You could try asking your staff what they’d like to learn and see what skills and experience there is in the room. There’s a practical element in having Sue learn how to use Mailchimp, so if Bob is ever sick at newsletter time Sue can jump in, but Sue is also learning something new that she can use in other areas of her life, and take into her next role too.
Don’t limit it to work related things either, someone could run a kombucha workshop at lunchtime, a weekly yoga class, staff might want to learn to knit, or someone might be a pro at tax returns and be willing to share knowledge on that. These are all potentially life enriching skills and sharing them helps to build stronger relationships and a positive work culture.
That time will give staff a break from ‘work as usual’ and you’ll find they bring new ideas, energy and skills into their work as a result.
We polled the Do Good Jobs community a few years back and 50% of people said the thing they most wanted in their work life was to learn something new. It’s a safe bet that remains the same in 2019. Bring your employees into the conversation and find out what they’d like.
You’re building or maintaining a positive work culture, one that values its people, is actively supporting staff to learn and grow. I’m betting that’s an organisation people will want to work hard for. The kind of organisation that attracts great people. One with a low staff turnover rate, whose productivity is off the charts and whose staff are flourishing.