Learning Management Systems Bridging Distance When To Comes To Training

NPOs want staff to have ‘skin in the game’ when it comes to advancement

When Public Health Institute (PHI) conducted its annual staff survey a few years ago, leaders at the Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit focused on health and wellness found that employees wanted more professional development opportunities.

In response to that feedback, PHI launched a management training certificate program because people didn’t have the opportunity to go back to school to get a degree but wanted to improve their skills. The program started in 2017, both on-site and online for staff, no matter where they are located. PHI has staff all over the world and was included in the 2019 NPT Best Nonprofits To Work For.

The challenge is how to provide professional development opportunities for an organization that has some 600 to 700 employees at any time in various locations, said Valerie McCann Woodson, director of human resources.

PHI identified 10 core management skill programs toward the managing training certificate. Monthly management workshops are available for all employees eight months out of the year, which can be combined with online courses. Some are required while some are electives, McCann Woodson said. The combination can meet the requirements for the management certificate program. So far, 18 employees have completed the program and another 80 are participating.

A learning management system that PHI bought several years ago makes a catalog of more than 300 classes available to employees and managers at any time.

Average training hours per employee at the American Arbitration Association (AAA) usually tops 30 hours, and last year eclipsed 34 hours, according to Eric Dill, vice president of human resources. The AAA also was included in the 2019 NPT Best Nonprofits To Work For.

The organization this year launched a student loan repayment assistance program, which Dill believes is more effective than tuition reimbursement. “The idea is that people have some skin in the game,” he said. “We’ve done surveys, asked people about their student loan debt and where they’d be interested,” Dill said. About half of the organization’s staff are Millennials, the generation in which the oldest are approaching 40 years old.

Repayment assistance helps people pay down debt faster, which translates to higher savings and early repayment, all of which have a positive impact on their credit. Dill anticipates about 150 to 200 of the organization’s 600 employees will benefit from the student loan repayment assistance program.

“The challenge for any nonprofit is you don’t know where your dollars are going to come from,” Dill said. Nonprofit leaders tend to be a lot more fiscally conservative, and for a good reason, around benefits, he added. “You don’t want to offer something and have to take it back in a year or two. During austere times, one of the first things you see cut back is tuition assistance. Get into loan repayment assistance, there’s a factor there you can speak to employee retention and recruiting — there’s a trade off,” Dill said.