The Talent Development Pipeline: Putting People First in Social Change Organizations | Beth's Blog

The Talent Development Pipeline: Putting People First in Social Change Organizations

Leadership, Workplace Culture

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Heather Carpenter and Tera Wozniak Qualls, along with Alexis S. Terry and Rusty Stahl have just published a new book, “The Talent Development Platform,” that provides strategic and practical information to help nonprofits guide, nurture, and strengthen the next generation of nonprofit leaders.

Talent Development is all about guiding those rock star staff members who are able to contribute to the organization’s impact and success.   This may be a foreign concept in our sector.  Trish Tchume, executive director of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) writes in the book’s foreword, that YNPN’s research revealed that fewer 60% of nonprofits were implementing Talent Development strategies.    And, of concern, of the younger professionals working the nonprofit sector survey, only 34% said they were committed to staying in the sector for the long haul.

Last week, I read and reviewed, Maddie Grant’s excellent new book, “When Millennials Take Over,” a beautifully written manifesto calling for change in the workplace due to the rise of connectivity and younger professionals coming of age.   “The Talent Development Pipeline” is more of a workbook, and offers up a step-by-step guide about how to develop a results-driven system to keep talent at your nonprofit.

This book is one of the central resources for the emerging leadership development project I’m currently working on.  What I absolutely love, is that the book has a companion web site with worksheets and checklists from every chapter.    As someone who designs and facilitates professional development projects for nonprofits, this is a trainer’s dream!

It begins with making the case for talent development that is specific to nonprofits, followed by organizational and individual approaches.  There is a robust chapter on how to conduct an organizational learning assessment that helps staff, volunteers, and board gauge their need and readiness for professional development and some organizational cultural indicators.   It also includes an individual professional development assessment.

You combine the two in order to map professional development needs to organizational goals and then customize learning activities based on learning style.   I love that the training activities go beyond the traditional webinars and workshops, and incorporate mentoring and on the job learning activities.

For many nonprofits and staff, “one the job learning,” is often“ throw them into the deep end of the swimming pool and YOYO (you are on your own).  A more formalized approach is far more effective.   The learning may include new roles to teams working together on learning a new task or a new task for a few weeks or month.   In addition to a plan and freezing other non-priority project work, reflection is a critical aspect so staff can make adjustments and also share their experience with others in the organization.

According to the book, on-the-job learning is successful when:

-Staff member has worked with the organization for more than 3 months
-Trained mentors who can support on the job learning
-Agreed upon plan
-Structured, but flexible schedule and plan

Source: Talent Development Platform

I’m working on a peer learning project for emerging leaders, but the participants also include the emerging leader’s mentor, taking a cross-generational approach.   So, I’ve been on the prowl for resources that help the mentor and mentee relationship.    The book devotes an entire chapter to this topic.   There are also some great practical tips ,  sample mentor/mentee agreement, and plan.

Perhaps at this point you may thinking, wow this is a lot of time and work.  Is it worth it?   The book includes an important chapter on evaluating your talent development strategy as well as linking it to performance assessments.   The book also includes a method for calculating the ROI of investing talent development in your nonprofit.

I’ve been working the nonprofit for 35 years.   When I was just starting, my nonprofit work was fueled by passion, not professional development.    But, as the social change field continues to mature, nonprofits need to look at how to nurture, guide, and strengthen people in their organizations, avoid staff burnout and turnover, and ultimately solve the big challenges that face our world.     Go get your copy of The Talent Development Pipeline now!

One Response

  1. An interesting read in light of another article published yesterday: Although Mr. Wheeler is specifically referring to millennials and Silicon Valley, we’re seeing an ever-shrinking pool of good paying jobs in the private sector, and that’s a troubling trend that impacts everyone. Nonprofits could benefit from this by upping their game when it comes to staff development and salaries. People who come from the for-profit sector don’t think of nonprofits as a viable means to earning a living. It’s a perception that needs to change.