“There’s too much for everyone to do! We don’t have time for training!”
“Our budgets are stretched to the max. We can’t afford training!”
“These jobs are easy. We don’t need training!”
And of course, there’s… “If we train people, they’ll just leave!”
Do any of these excuses sound familiar?
Chances are, if you’ve worked in a nonprofit, you’ve heard at least one of them before. And if not these, others like them that justify why training isn’t part of your culture.
So sad. So shortsighted. So costly!
Anytime, but especially today, when the labor market is tight, current employees are evaluating their options, and potential hires are evaluating you, training programs are essential. They save time, save money, reduce risk, and boost morale. Let’s look at six key reasons why your nonprofit needs a training program now.
1. The world has changed… and it will keep changing.
Although you may not be in the medical field, here’s a startling look at how fast professional practices can change:
In a 2011 National Institutes of Health article, Peter Densen, MD told us that “the doubling time of medical knowledge in 1950 was 50 years; in 1980, 7 years; and in 2010, 3.5 years. In 2020 it is projected to be 0.2 years—just 73 days.”
Regardless of whether his prediction for 2020 came true or not, that’s just stunning!
Medicine is a highly research-driven profession that accounts for its high rate of change, but there isn’t a profession out there that hasn’t experienced a substantial transformation over a career lifetime.
Layered onto that is the Great Pandemic of 2020. How much change did the pandemic bring to your nonprofit? Chances are, quite a lot—in communications, management, service delivery, and more. Don’t think that once things settle down, you’re going back to the same as you were in 2019.
Remember that speaker at your graduation who said, “nothing is constant but change”? They were right. Let’s also hope they reminded you of the value of lifelong learning, too!
2. Jobs change.
If the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results, then the definition of a crazy job is to do it the same way year after year and expect to succeed, even as the world changes around you.
Let’s take the pandemic for example. Everyone’s concern about the safety of close social interactions put just about all the fundraising galas, dinner parties, and what-ever-a-thons on hold. Unless you quickly embraced a virtual or hybrid event format, you could zero out that income line of your budget. The job of the event planner had to hastily morph into a computer and studio entertainment expert. It was a steep, steep learning curve, but one that paid off immensely when done well.
Here’s a more subtle example. Remember the newspaper? It used to be the place to advertise that upcoming fundraising event. It took a few years, but now that quarter of a page announcing the entertainment and ticket prices really won’t make much of a difference. What will? Your donors’ favorite social media channels and paid digital ad placements.
3. It’s risky to not train.
What if you asked an untrained staff member to take a patient’s blood in your clinic? What if you sent an uneducated person into someone’s home to evaluate child safety conditions? What if you gave all your receipts to an untrained accountant to watch your budget?
Absurd, right? But not implausible. Untrained people do things that they really shouldn’t all of the time in nonprofits. It’s often the combination of good intentions and low budgets.
The result? Risk enough to make an insurance executive shiver—and run!
4. Trained staff stay longer.
Too many nonprofit employers tell themselves, “Why spend money on training? They’ll use it to find a new job and someone else will benefit.” If people are leaving after they get trained, there’s likely an underlying issue you should look at.
In fact, the training may have given them a glimmer of hope and a reason to stay. LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report found that “94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career.” In doing so, you can decrease hiring and onboarding costs that can be reinvested into professional development resources.
5. Training increases morale.
Study after study shows that training increases job satisfaction and boosts employee morale. Business writer Daniel Pink sums it up nicely in his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” when he cites mastery (or the urge to get better and better at something that matters) as one of his three core workplace motivators (along with autonomy and purpose).
Put simply: people want to grow.
And you want people who want to grow! Chances are, you want curious people who can see more than the problem in front of them. Creating a “learning environment” boosts morale and retains workers.
6. Training who you have is cheaper than hiring new.
The cost of hiring is remarkably high. Some put it as much as 30% of the job’s salary. What does that include? A lot of costs are hidden in the process, such as interview time, onboarding time, lower initial productivity, and more. It can also take about six months for a new hire to reach their full productivity, despite any admonition to “hit the ground running.”
Compare that to the cost of training. Training Magazine’s 2019 Industry Report shows that “on average, companies spent $1,286 per learner”. Unless you’re paying a worker less than $5,000 per year, training is a huge bargain at even double the price!
Oh, and don’t think that lets you off the hook with volunteers. You may not pay them, but the “hiring” costs are still high. Plus, consider that your return on investment (ROI) for training is huge because you could get professional-grade work at no salary cost at all.
Sure, you don’t have to train anyone. They should come ready to work, and other things they need they can pick up by learning their job. If you want unmotivated, short-term employees that put your nonprofit at risk while your budget groans with hiring costs, that’s certainly one choice.
But your mission deserves better—so get professional development on the agenda today!
Matt Hugg is an author and instructor in nonprofit management in the US and abroad. He is president and founder of Nonprofit.Courses, an on-demand, eLearning educational resource for nonprofit leaders, staff, board members, and volunteers, with thousands of courses in nearly every aspect of nonprofit work.