Five 'Baby Steps' to Ramp up your Nonprofit's Employee & Volunteer Training in 2014

April 02, 2014Bob Nutting

The start of the 2nd quarter is a great time to assess your nonprofit’s training strategy and to make sure you are on track to meet your 2014 employee and volunteer development goals. Nonprofit HR Leaders often find themselves trying to balance limited resources with the need to develop effective training programs. Many leaders I work with have sought our advice on three primary areas around employee and volunteer training:

  • Where do we start?
  • What can we do with limited resources/time/staffing/dollars?
  • How do we engage our employees and volunteers?

All great questions—a sign that nonprofit leaders are trying to make the best decisions with the resources they have. Instantly, I am reminded of Richard Dreyfus’ advice to Bill Murray in the classic comedy, “What About Bob?”: Baby Steps.

Although Bill Murray’s character (Bob Wiley) exaggerates this concept because of his fears, it is a smart approach for nonprofit leaders to achieve their training goals.

So in the spirit of “setting small, reasonable goals for yourself one day at a time,” here are 5 baby steps to take the fear out of planning your learning strategy:

 Baby Step #1:  Review Your Feedback and Gaps

  1. Conduct Performance Reviews: Capture comments and gaps identified
  2. Evaluate your exit interviews:  lack of development opportunities is one of the reasons employees leave
  3. Look for examples of unmet goals or objectives where more training may have produced a better outcome
  4. Consider your future leadership transition and review your succession planning needs

Baby Step #2:  Do a Training Inventory

  1. Onboarding activities
  2. Instructor-led classes
  3. Online Courses – any computer-based training from the Internet or a CD-ROM
  4. Documents:  job aids and manuals, white papers, and quick reference guides

Baby Step #3:  Start On-the-job training

  1. Ask employees and volunteers to document what training they need to do their job
  2. Determine what job aids, coaching, or training “nuggets” would help improve productivity
  3. Capture the knowledge of your experienced employees for future on-the-job training needs

Baby Step #4:  Leverage Free Resources (Who can resist free help?)

  1. Use the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation’s HR Pro Bono Corps to help you develop your training strategy
  2. New sites such as SkilledUp, Noodle, and Knollop can be helpful for accessing and navigating e-learning content.  In a recent interview on our blog, Katie Paris cites a number of other great nonprofit e-learning resources.

Baby Step #5:  Structure your Training Around The 5 Moments of Need

  1. Developed by training experts Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher
  2. Every employee and volunteer follows a “learning journey” -- align your training with each moment of need
  3. The 5 Moments of Need:
    • Need #1:  When learning for the first time 
    • Need #2:  When wanting to learn more
    • Need #3:  When trying to remember and/or apply
    • Need #4:  When things change (I would add, when things change in a minor way.)
    • Need #5:  When something goes wrong

Your First Baby Step:

Join us for an upcoming live session with Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson. These recognized international training experts are popular guest speakers at learning conferences around the globe. Their webinar, Reduce Training Costs and Increase Productivity, will guide us deeper into this topic and emphasize practical ways to develop an effective training plan for your employees and volunteers. Follow us on Twitter @csodfoundation to know when registration opens.  

About Bob Nutting

As Director of Learning Strategy and Design, Bob is responsible for leading the content development efforts associated with the Foundation’s signature program,, and overseeing the Foundation’s other learning initiatives by engaging key stakeholders... more


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