Investing in employees solves retention and succession planning challenges

What do you do when your non-profit is unable to pay staff what they deserve…plus you want to ensure a solid pool of potential talent to choose from at any time?

If you’re the Boys & Girls Club of Charlotte County, you invest in the training and professional development not only of staff, but prospective employees as well.

Free education improves retention, engagement

A few years ago, the province of New Brunswick instituted a “play-based learning” curriculum. Employees working in licensed centres were required to attend various workshops, forums and cluster groups to learn how to implement the curriculum in their facilities.    

“Since this was a provincial initiative, we knew that at some point it would be mandatory for all staff to have this knowledge, and we wanted to be ahead of the curve,” says Lisa Murphy, Human Resource and Operations Manager of the Boys and Girls Club of Charlotte County (BGCCC). “The challenge was that our staff would have had to do workshops throughout the year to achieve those hours. So we thought, why not give them the opportunity to get a certificate instead, so they can keep working here and we can have the best staff for their prospective jobs?”

Using funds from a grant, BGCCC was able in 2014 to offer 14 employees the opportunity to earn Early Childhood Education certificates. For nine months, the group spent three nights each week at the Academy of Learning — eventually finishing up their studies with a practicum at BGCCC. All employees who graduated in 2015 with the title of Early Childhood Educator continue to work at the organization today.

“I do believe the best way to retain employees is to train them,” says Lisa. “This group pursued their certification because they wanted to be the best in their jobs. Now, they have the knowledge they need. And we can offer the best possible programs and services facilitated by trained staff, who are invested in ensuring the programs succeed.”

One such trained staff member is Kayleigh Burkholder.

“Having the opportunity to do this kind of paid training makes people want to stay here more,” Kayleigh continues. “A lot of people who were working at BGCCC didn’t have that kind of schooling — and having this course under their belt has really changed their thoughts from this being a short-term thing into ‘this will be my long-term job and I’m going to stay here at Boys and Girls Club.’”

Moreover, says Kayleigh, if employees had not been offered the certification program, they may have had to leave. “It was such a great opportunity to do the program and work at my job at the same time,” she says. “I think if employees hadn’t had this opportunity, they might have had to eventually go away to school and leave the Boys & Girls Club.”

Kayleigh believes this type of training has helped with employee engagement and long-term retention. “I think it’s definitely changed the morale of the staff.” In addition, graduates qualify for the province’s Quality Improvement Fund, giving them a wage top-up of $5 per hour.

Planning for succession through youth recruitment

BGCCC has recently adopted two strategies integral to recruitment and succession planning.

First, it partnered with the local high school and community college to offer students enrolled in Child Studies, Early Childhood Education and Human Services courses the opportunity to observe daily classroom routines at BGCCC.

“This partnership has become an important recruitment tool for our organization, because it enables us to identify prospective employees,” says Lisa. Already, BGCCC has hired five individuals using this method.

Potential employees also exist within the organization’s own after-school and youth programs — people who have, essentially, grown up at the Boys & Girls Club and already are familiar with the organization’s mission statement and goals.

The organization has hired several “club kids” over the years — their executive director being one of them — and they foresee growth as membership increases.

Tanner Anderson is one of those club members. He joined the Leaders in Training (LIT) program when he was a high school student. The program, geared toward 13- to 18-year-olds, offers skill building activities, enabling participants to be better prepared for the workforce. They receive First Aid training, have resume building sessions and mock interviews, learn healthy eating and living habits, go on experiential field trips, and have guest speakers. They also learn the importance of community by volunteering at various businesses and local events.

Today, Tanner is 17 years old, on his way to university, and has a summer job with the organization as a summer camp counsellor — working with the children, reading books to them, and overseeing the facilities.

Tanner hopes to be a lawyer or a politician one day, but believes that helping young people can have more of an impact on the future than helping adults.

“By making kids better leaders today, such as through programs offered by the Boys & Girls Club, this will create more positive things in the world,” he says. “And if we inspire youth to move forward in a positive direction, our whole life span may generally increase and help us become better people in general.”

Tanner hopes to continue being involved with the club, even as he moves forward with his post-secondary education.

True value for the investment

Ultimately, having well-trained staff seems to be working for the Boys and Girls Club of Charlotte County. “It’s important to invest in both current and prospective employees to ensure organizational success,” says Lisa Murphy. “When you look at it like that, you really can’t put a dollar amount on it.”

This nonprofit HR innovation story series is made possible thanks to a partnership between Community Foundations of Canada, HRcouncil.ca and family foundation Ignite NPS. Together we are supporting Canada’s nonprofit sector by highlighting stories of HR innovation and promising practices taking place in community organizations across the country.

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