Leading charity makes an impact with L&D

by Brett Henebery17 Jan 2017
While Not-For-Profit (NFP) organisations look out for others, they must also ensure their business models are prepared to address organisational challenges.

Ruzika Soldo, people development manager at Mission Australia, recently spoke at the Learning & Development Masterclass held in Sydney on 30 November 2016.

Using Mission Australia’s strategies as an example, she pointed out that “to do more good, ‘make more impact’ requires commitment, improved systems and enhanced capability”.

She said generous L&D budgets are a pipedream for many of the field’s practitioners – especially those in the NFP sector who need to justify every dollar they spend.

In order to get the best bang for buck, Soldo encouraged organisations to allow their learners to work “in a complex system requiring distinct leadership approaches and agility to embrace change”.

“Employees operating in the not-for-profit sector work within a complex system requiring distinct management and leadership approaches and the willingness to embrace change,” she said.

She added that people leadership skills have become even more critical to mission success and that self-directed learning is essential.

Soldo outlined the five stages of maturity for an organisation, which she says can result in a more adaptive HR strategy and stronger business performance.

Soldo said that while organisations would like to be at stage 3 they are really between 2 and 3.
“To move beyond 2 requires the core to be right – so we are definitely moving in the right direction,” she said.
Big budget doesn’t mean big learning
Soldo points out that a decentralised structure and budget can reap benefits for a NFP organisation as systems and process owners own the change and associated learning needs.
Moreover, local leaders retain a percentage of the learning and development budget, while the leadership development budget is centralised.

“Core learning offerings and compliance are also centralised,” she said, adding that by focusing on what is important, such as strategy, feedback and understand levers for change, organisations can streamline an otherwise complex budgeting process.
Reflective practice as the norm
Soldo said reflective practice requires reflection and learning combined with application on the job.
“Learning opportunities will arise from the reflection [this includes feedback from direct manager, peers and direct reports] through formal learning, coaching, mentoring or other ways,” she said.
Soldo said leaders should be:
  • Continually working on, reflecting and improving our knowledge and skills so that we make a positive impact on our teams and on the organisation.
  • Seeking feedback from others.
  • Addressing difficult issues as they happen and being proactive where possible.
  • Seeking support and guidance, taking advice and carefully evaluating before making decisions.
She pointed to another significant area of work by Mission Australia – the development of its People Leader Portal.

Soldo said Mission Australia utilised unspent HR/IT funds due to a delay in a larger scale project, so they allocated one full time employee – one of them from Soldo’s team.

“The People Leader Portal is based on an employee lifecycle,” Soldo explained.

“The idea behind concept was that most HR interactions happen within an employee lifecycle, at the start before hiring, while with us, and if and when they depart and how.”

And the results have been impressive.

Below is an overview showing how over the last two years, learning and development scores have jumped by 16% while career opportunities have grown by 12%.

Learning and Development Scores
2014 – 49%
2015 – 55% (L&D reduced to 4 FTE national office)
2016 – 65%

Career Opportunities
2014 – 50%
2015 – 54%
2016 – 62%
The next steps
Soldo said Mission Australia has since set out to maximise the use of what’s been implemented by putting more focus on targeted development for key talent groups and continuing core leadership skill development.

Other steps include using improved technology, building links between operational teams to maximise learning opportunities and working with current and new partner organisations to create more opportunities.