Written by Lisa Assenmacher, Communications & Training Specialist

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CEDAM’s Lisa Assenmacher leading a training on communication planning at Destination: Vibrant Communities in November 2015.

Training is an investment by both management and the participant. If done effectively, everybody wins, including the organization and the broader mission. The nonprofit world certainly understands that resources for programing, much less training, can be difficult to secure. Moreover, this investment quickly adds up when you add up the time and resources required to travel, along with the lost hours in the office, on top of the training fees.

Further, who is to say that the return on the investment is worth it? Was the participant fully engaged, or constantly thinking about other projects and checking email? Was the training high-quality? Was it a requirement or was there also an interest in the topic? Merely attending a training doesn’t guarantee that it will benefit the employee or the organization.

It is estimated that only about 10% of all training experiences are transferred from the training environment to the job. (Baldwin & Ford, 1988)

What Drives Training Engagement and Does it Foster Organizational Commitment?

research-390297_640Last winter, I took a Business Research Methodology class for my M.B.A. curriculum at Eastern Michigan University. With a group, we used the scientific research method to try and understand an identified organization problem and determine potential conclusions using data, thereby helping us become better decision-makers. My group wanted to understand the drivers of training engagement, and in turn, whether engagement fostered organizational citizenship behavior (or a committed employee willing to go above and beyond). We each had different professional experiences related to that question, and I wanted to understand how to best serve CEDAM’s membership and encourage participation.

Contributing Factors

We analyzed many factors that were assumed to contribute to training engagement and organizational citizenship behavior.

Research on leader-member exchange has shown that positive leader-follower work  relationships are predictive of  work-related outcomes such as job performance, satisfaction with supervisor, commitment, and turnover intentions (Gerstner and Day, 1997).

We assumed that managerial support is an important consideration, with questions related to whether or not they make offerings available along with the level of encouragement or incentives. This goes hand in hand with qualities managers seek in an employee during the hiring process, among the highest, includes commitment and dedication to their job. Beyond the obvious preferences of wanting high-quality performers, turnover is expensive and time-consuming for an organization.

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We also assumed employee perception to be an important consideration, a factor that goes beyond whether or not they find the training valuable. Primarily, while it can be a person’s nature to be driven or one who simply gets by, there are motivating factors that can influence their perception of their workplace. In part related to manager support, the mere nature of the nonprofit industry which can include high rates of burnout, lack of capacity, inadequate initial training, unavailability for increased compensation and lack of mobility can, frankly, disincentivize and discourage engagement.

Further, depending on position or funding allocation, some employees are left out or overlooked when determining who is sent to training and for what purposes. These policies or procedures may turn an employee off from feeling committed to an organization or driven to find alternative opportunities because they don’t feel invested in or valued.

It is found that education and training have a positive influence on employees’ work attitudes, which can prompt them to actively exhibit in their work what they have learned. (Liang, Kao, Tu, Chin & Chung, 2013)

We also studied the the drivers of participation and engagement, including the availability of a range of formats, self-efficacy (the feeling of confidence and ability to do their job) and the relevance of their own personal need to advance and develop their human capital.

online-trainingManagement Support + Range + Satisfaction 

We surveyed more than 100 participants from different backgrounds. Of the responses, 87% were female, with an average age of 37 and median annual income of $25,000-50,000.

Several conclusions were made with important implications. Primarily, management seeks to hire people who are confident and are motivated self-starters, however, even those who fit that description are less likely to participate in a training unless an accessible range of opportunities is made available and supported by management. With technology growing so quickly, there are exceptional platforms that have diversified accessibility, requiring less resource investment. A range provides accessibility and accommodation to different learning styles and schedules.

classroom-trainingBeyond this, satisfaction of the training experience is the key complement to that employee who, by nature, is committed and driven, irrespective of their confidence level. The investment and support of high-quality, diversified training is more likely to encourage this employee to not only stay with the organization, but truly invest and care in its success because they will feel valued and motivated to grow further.

Basically, when an employee is in a supportive environment and has several options that can be customized to fit their schedule, they are more likely to engage, find it satisfying and transfer that knowledge to their workplace.

Learning Comes in Many Forms

Education and learning can take place in a variety of formats that venture beyond the traditional classroom setting. Each has purpose and, if appropriately used, can be effective. Reading (blogs, articles and other information sources) are easy ways to learn industry trends and discover new methods and best practices. Webinars, online classes, tutorials and toolkits are on-demand ways to engage with others and learn by doing. Traditional classroom settings offer networking opportunities and is still a preferred method by many. Peer groups and other associations offer a network of people with similar workplace functions and can be a supportive environment for new ideas and growth.

Invest in Your Employees, Your Future

As organizations plan their budgets for the next year and beyond, I encourage you to find ways to invest in staff. Moreover, identify ways to articulate the potential value and share your findings.  Thoughtfully and strategically assess the organization needs with respect to resources, goals and the potential of the people doing the work, and support it by pairing different formats. Thinking creatively and articulating policies and prioritizing can remove questions of doubt faced by employees and provide a system for accountability.

These efforts will save money and resources in the long-run, but more importantly, you may find a happier workplace with a committed staff working together to effectively serve the mission of the organization.

Nonprofit work is honorable, and we should do our best to recall our personal reasons for why we are in it to begin with. We need to devise solutions for our human capital to develop and thrive. Investing in training, for all employees, is one possibility and a great start.

Opportunities Available at CEDAM

CEDAM offers a range of training opportunities, with significant discounts for members. Coming in the Fall of 2016, we will host our fourth Destination: Vibrant Communities professional development day, and Real Estate Development Boot Camp. We have a few online classes available in Real Estate Development and Organizational Development, and from there, link to our partner Occupancy Solutions, L.L.C., who provides a range of on-demand online classes. You can participate for free in Connect & Share, CEDAM’s monthly lunchtime webinar series, and access past recordings. There is a wide variety of toolkits, videos and reports available on our resource library. We also share other partner resources through social media and e-newsletters. Finally, we always want to hear from you about topics that you would find useful.

Additional Reading:

Drivers of Training Engagement and the Implications For Organizational Commitment (full paper)

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