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5 low-cost ways to support your finance employees’ professional development

Posted on 13/11/2018 by Bita Heffernan

PD Finance

The results of TPP Recruitment’s 2018 Salary Survey are in and show that support for professional development is the work benefit most finance employees would like. However, only 36% of finance employees have any training booked in for the next 12 months.

Professional development is an essential part of keeping your workforce motivated and productive and without it, staff retention can really suffer. Employees are looking for a mutually beneficial relationship, where they can improve their skills and career prospects while also contributing more towards the organisation.

However, most charities struggle to find the budget to fund external training and education, especially in times when funding is hard to come by and demand for services is high. Following are a few ways in which you can help your staff continue their professional development, while keeping costs low.

1. Set individual growth plans

This is common sense - development isn’t going to happen without a plan in place – but professional development plans (PDP) are still far from standard in the charity sector. Employees need to meet with their line managers, agree achievable goals and the steps they’ll take to achieve them and then regularly follow up on the plan to make sure the goals are met.

PDP goals need to be tailored to both the needs of the individual and the goals of the organisation. A one-size-fits-all approach to goal setting is doomed to fail; plans need to be driven by the individual and their interests.

Another common way in which PDPs fail is forgetting to allot any time for development. You need to allow employees to take time off to learn, whether it’s a couple of hours a week or a few days, or it will always be trumped by other duties.

2. Embrace learning opportunities

It’s easy to forget that the majority of professional development actually comes from an employee doing their day to day job. Experimenting and making mistakes are the most valuable learning experiences, but they need to be framed as such. Charities can traditionally be very risk-averse, and employees hate to admit they have made a mistake for fear of being told off. Mistakes do happen but having a work environment where they are seen as purely negative hinders any benefit that might come from those mistakes.

Instead, employees need to be given as much autonomy as possible in their role. Having the freedom to experiment and occasionally fail, then learn from that failure, can really accelerate the rate at which they develop their abilities.

3. Share learning

One of the best and most cost-effective ways of teaching staff new skills and ways of working is to assign them to cross-functional projects, where they are working with other teams. These are great opportunities to work outside of their area of expertise and learn from experts in those fields. They are also great ways to improve ‘soft’ skills like communication, collaboration and emotional intelligence.

Other ideas for sharing knowledge across an organisation include setting up peer learning groups, holding lunch clubs where employees teach each other a skill or using internal social networks like Slack to facilitate learning.

If you do have the budget to send one member of staff on a training course, why not ask them to teach other employees afterwards. Teaching is a great way to cement your own training while helping others.

4. Use other organisations

The charity sector is generally very willing to share learning and resources, so make the most of the opportunities this openness presents. Your employees could look for mentors in larger organisations to help them grow their skills, or they could apply to be trustees of smaller charities to gain a greater understanding of governance. You could also approach other organisations about skills swaps, where both parties trade knowledge and teach each other. It’s worth seeing if you could arrange joint training sessions with other organisations and share the cost involved.

Don’t forget about your private sector partners or suppliers. Do they offer any free training or events, or could you piggyback on in-house training they offer to their own employees? Lots of the big audit and consultancy firms offer charities pro-bono help with various training.

5. Look for free training

There is a wealth of free training and resources available to not for profit organisations. Just googling “free finance training for charities” can bring up lots of possibilities, but here are some suggestions to get you started.

TPP Recruitment offer free seminars, round tables and networking events – keep an eye on our events calendar to see what’s coming up.
Lots of training courses for charities are listed on Eventbrite – you can filter these to only show free events
The Charity Finance Group (CFG) run a wide range of events and training courses.
Knowhow NonProfit from the NCVO is a great source of tips, tools and how-to guides
The Small Charities Coalition runs lots of webinars and training sessions that are specially designed for small charities and either free or low cost
The Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) has a lot of free webinars and cost-effective e-learning and training courses
CharityJob lists sector training courses and you can search for free courses