Like other multinational organizations, NGOs working in multiple countries face a major challenge to their productivity and success: the language divide between staff in various national offices. Take ChildFund for instance, which works to support vulnerable children worldwide: “English is the great unifying language of our business,” says Leslie Crudele, ChildFund’s International HR Business Partner. “We have staff around the world that are non-native English speakers, and they’re asked to use English in their business communications.”
Guest author: Tim Boyes-Watson, Executive Director, Mango
I’ve taken a couple of days to reflect on what I heard at the WHS and what I didn’t hear. My first reflection is that local voices were not prominent enough and that the WHS process did not listen to them enough. My second reflection was that those with most power chose either not to come, or not to use their powerful voices to call for the kind of revolutionary change that is needed. I hope, but am not yet sure, that the future echoes of the summit will create an opportunity for deeper and more equal partnerships between international and local organisations, as well as greater diversity of collaborations which will promote innovation.
- Wow! 8000 people came to Istanbul for three days to, at least attempt, to create a new Agenda for Humanity. In our age of cynicism, political retreats to nationalism, and hyper-capitalism, this is, itself, remarkable–and we should celebrate it.
- Rome was not built in a day and we did not get to the (still imperfect) Paris climate accord in one try. For real reform, it will take more than one World Humanitarian Summit to get to the real change that so many at the Summit wanted to see. Maybe the bar was set too high. Let’s consolidate our small victories and look ahead with solidarity.
- We talk about “reforming the sector” or how, as a sector, “we can become more innovative.” These are perhaps the wrong questions. The “sector” can’t innovate—it is simply a compilation of our collective individual and organizational actions. It is up to each of us to drive our own innovation. Waiting for others (donors, governments, northern INGOs, southern INGOs, local NGOs—it’s all based on your perspective) to create the right environment, is a recipe for the same-as-usual results. Innovation does not happen by committee and certainly not by a UN forum; it happens because brave leaders drive it and nurture it—and then—others in the sector will follow, imitate, adapt, etc. (Stay tuned! We are working on curating some learning in the innovation space to help your organizations take the lead.)
Guest post by Chris Proulx, CEO, LINGOs
Earlier this week, the LINGOs European team and I attended the BOND conference in London where over 900 members of the UK international NGO community gathered and networked. In the spirit of BOND’s new Futures and Innovation agenda, the conference focused heavily on the external and internal forces that are shaping the future of the international NGO. Many of the panels and speakers focused on a wide range of topics from agile humanitarian response to changing donor strategies to the impacts of climate change to role of youth-led social movements. The overarching question was what should be the future role of the international NGO. A few insights jumped out to me.
Where were the learning professionals? We had lots of rich conversations with heads of programs and fundraising, CEOs and COOs, and many technical leads. We enjoyed networking with our colleagues from partners such as the Humanitarian Leadership Academy, Inside NGO, Mango, the CHS Alliance, and the Cornerstone On Demand Foundation. However, there was a distinct absence of HR and Learning professionals from the NGOs at the conference. If any of the NGOs in the room are going to transform as they many hope they will, it will only happen because people are able to change what they do or how they do it.
Capabilities, culture, staffing and partnering models are all likely to change and they all will require innovative approaches from HR and Learning. In our busy, hectic, and cost-constrained worlds, we often retreat to networking within our professional circles. That’s great for sharing best practice but it is a huge missed opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas—which is exactly what is needed in high doses during dynamic or even turbulent times. I am motivated to make sure we have speakers from diverse roles and perspectives at our Global Learning Forum, so here’s an early hint—invite a colleague from your programs team to join you in Seattle.
Partnership and collaboration, but how? Many speakers advocated for more collaboration: North-South, Public-Private, Local-International, Small-Big, Cross-Sector, and more. What was less clear is exactly how to do it. I was chatting with the CEO of a large corporate foundation later in the week who expressed her concern that INGOs are not particularly good at partnering. She went out to give examples of innovative ideas emerging at smaller NGOs that could benefit from the scale of a large INGO, but there are no proven models for how to identify, adapt, and scale those ideas.
One of the panel chairs at BOND, Gillian Caldwell of Global Witness outlined 10 principles of a good partnership, which included typical things such as shared vision, communication, trust, clear expectations—all things that are ample supply in many of our learning programs. But some less so—awareness of differentiated power dynamics, willing to subordinate your identity, and love! Here in our LINGOs community, we know how to partner—you have often come together to work on shared deliverables, and we know have access to resources that enable internal partnering. So, we have something to offer here. We could work together across organizational boundaries in real partnership to take many of the key competencies we embed in our learning programs to foster internal cohesion and team effectiveness and re-orient them outwardly as the competency model and training for effective organizational partnering. Are you up to the challenge?
The Art of Transformation. The opening speakers on Monday were Danny Sriskandarajah, CEO of Civicus, and Aya Chebbi, a blogger and social activist who was part of the Tunisian revolution is now leads the African Youth Movement. Together, they made a strong case for radical change within the international development community. Danny highlighted concerns about the big NGOs getting bigger, an eroding of trust in NGOs by the public as many have prioritized branding over advocacy, and he worried that donors now only see INGOs as implementers. Aya talked about the speed of new social movements, the urgency of youth and their need to be drivers of development not the objects of it, and need to create transnational solidarity across borders for civil society. At the end of his remarks, Danny lamented the conflict between the “science of delivery” and the “art of transformation.” This comment has stuck with me because so much organizational learning focuses on the “science of delivery” as we strive for competency maps, performance management, learning metrics all layered on top of courses designed to improve technical, managerial, or professional skills. All are important!
A cross between the founding principles of eCornell, Cornell University’s online-learning arm, and LINGOs, a global development capacity-building consortium, might sound something like “All the world is a classroom.” For NGO staff working around the world, however, learning can be impacted by issues of internet accessibility and dangerous working environments, not to mention distance between offices. As LINGOs’ longtime partner, eCornell is changing the stakes by affordably delivering eCornell courses to NGO learners wherever they work. In the last five years, over 2,200 NGO staff in 120 countries have furthered their professional educations through eCornell, and their numbers are only growing.
eCornell’s generous partnership gives LINGOs’ 80+ Members – all development, humanitarian, or conservation organizations – access to eCornell courses at highly discounted rates. With courses in topics ranging from management to accounting, human resources to plant-based nutrition, eCornell has spurred an enthusiastic response from LINGOs Members, whose staff have taken over 10,800 courses since 2010, at a combined retail savings to their non-profits of over $6,000,000. For Paul Krause, eCornell’s CEO, the partnership “has been a great way for us to provide premium Cornell courses and professional certificate programs to those engaged in the important work of NGOs.”
Learning for a Stronger Sector
TechnoServe, a new member of the LINGOs community, began offering eCornell courses to its staff in May 2015. Since then, enrollment has accelerated. “It’s a combination of a huge demand for learning and just the right type of courses,” says Agnieszka Zieminska Yank, Vice President of Human Resources at TechnoServe. By the end of 2015, more than one hundred TechnoServe staffers had already enrolled in over 460 courses, in topics like “Project Teams: Mining Collective Intelligence” and “Dealing with Difference.” In all, over 90% of TechnoServe staffers surveyed reported that the courses met their expectations “very” or “extremely” well.
“It’s the design of the courses that sells them,” says Libba Ingram, Senior Learning Specialist at Management Sciences for Health. eCornell courses are rigorous and short (most take just two weeks to complete), with no fixed class times, so learners can easily jump into discussions and submit project work from any time zone. Katie Taylor, a Talent Development Specialist at MSH, adds that eCornell is covered as a benefit in employee onboarding, but says word-of-mouth has been a major driver of its success at the organization. Case in point? “Nigeria,” she says. As it turns out, although MSH works in over 65 countries, approximately half of its eCornell enrollments in 2015 came from staff in Nigeria – the result, Ingram and Taylor surmise, of a communication line between colleagues.
For staff looking to deepen their perspective or shift to new roles, eCornell’s certificate programs have proven to be a popular – and global – credential. Certificate programs, usually comprised of five or six courses in a given subject (although master certificates can require twice as many courses, or more) culminate in most disciplines in a certificate from Cornell University. In the past five years, the University has awarded over 700 certificates to the staff of LINGOs Member organizations.
For Francis Rogers, a capacity building coordinator at ACDI/VOCA who recently earned a certificate in HR, eCornell bridged the distance between Ithaca and Liberia, where he’s based. “I do not know whether I would have had the opportunity to attend an Ivy League university had ACDI/VOCA not provided that means,” he writes. To Ross Coxon, Director of LINGOs’ Learning Collaborative, eCornell’s generosity gives LINGOs Member NGOs another way to invest in their own top talent, and more: “The effects of high-quality learning reach not only the staff of LINGOs Members, but also the communities they serve,” he says.
Sergey Hayrapetyan, Senior Advisor (Operational Excellence) at Catholic Relief Services, has completed ten certificates and master certificates through eCornell. In many cases, he says, his coursework has been a lens for approaching his concurrent work with CRS. In a course on scenario planning, for example, he used the homework exercise to develop and apply real strategic objectives for his country program at CRS. “So I was not making anything up,” he says. “I was doing the real thing.” Not only that, but his class discussions and projects incorporated the new perspectives of classmates who came mainly, he says, from the for-profit world.
The Global Classroom
In addition to developing individuals, eCornell is also impacting NGO learning at an organizational level. While the skills training offered by eCornell might not be specific to the non-profit sector, “we’re still an organization. We still have to have people well-versed in skills like HR, management, and accounting, whether they’re HR professionals, or senior leaders, or project staff,” says Bridgett Horn, Learning Manager at The Nature Conservancy.
For NGOs operating between far-flung offices, eCornell can provide a creative means of fusing teambuilding with learning. Catholic Relief Services offers its staff some dedicated eCornell sessions – courses just for CRS learners. Jean Marie Adrian, Senior Advisor (Leadership and Career Development) at CRS, notes that for LINGOs Members facing the cost of gathering staff for trainings in Nairobi or Dubai, eCornell is a clear alternative: “For the price of one airfare, you can train everyone in-depth [through a dedicated session] for two weeks.” Adrian also notes that the cross-section of CRS learners is larger and richer in the eCornell sessions than is often feasible in an onsite: “You have mid-level managers taking a course with country representatives, or higher-level managers,” he says. “The mix is very, very interesting.”
Chris Proulx, LINGOs’ CEO (and formerly of eCornell), is not surprised by the positives that CRS and other LINGOs Members are seeing. He says that “eCornell has had a model for now 15 years that has always been social in its construction, yet it’s not what people normally think about when they think about social learning.”
And although the type of social learning happening with eCornell “isn’t taking place in 140 characters,” Proulx continues, “it’s helping people to exchange knowledge with peers and colleagues who they may not otherwise have had an opportunity to connect with.”
A guest post from LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx
“We need to build the 21st century workforce.”
Co-creation among networks and collaborators
The task of creating the new workforce is larger than any one entity can take on alone. Increasingly networks of organizations and in some cases, networks of networks are coming togteher to create new programs and frameworks. The models vary depending on the sector, but the theme of collaboration is the same. In some cases, these may be content-development and program delivery initiatives, and in other cases they may be an effort to agree on future competencies and credentials for which any employer or training provider may align their programing to ensure a workforce with the appropriate skills.
The Africa Skills Initiative, a project of the World Economic Forum Africa, is bringing together several multi-national corporations as well as government and education providers to build the workforce to sustain the economic growth of Africa. The large multi-nationals that are involved all have come to realize that they alone cannot solve the complex challenges that contributing to the lack of skilled workers that are slowing their economic growth.
Several organizations in the humanitarian and relief sector are about to embark on the creation of a Humanitarian Passport. The goal is to define the set of competencies for tomorrow’s humanitarian worker and emergency responder. With the size, number, and frequency of disaster (natural and man-made) increasing, the availability and skills of existing responders can’t keep up—and is outstretching what any one NGO or governmental agency can train on their own. The Humanitarian Passport will provide a map to employers, employees, and training providers for where to put their emphasis in terms of future skill development.
Micro-sized and skills-based credential formats
Another, and well-documented, trend is the move toward newer credentials that are designed around specific skill sets and most often provide recognition upon completion of shorter programs of learning. Employers are looking for more concrete evidence that an employee will be able to perform a specific skill on-the-job rather than having completed a come comprehensive course of study. The trend toward more micro credentials is growing despite continued evidence that completion of at least one college degree is still critical for career advancement and upward income mobility. There is not yet enough evidence of the impact of these micro credentials on employability and incomes.
The “nanodegree” from Udacity provides targeted training and credentials around specific software development skills. The program acknowledges that employers in the tech industry needed more people with skills in specific and emerging development languages and frameworks. The program combined content expertise from many different employers, who like the examples above recognized the need to to pool their efforts at training the next workforce while acknowledging that traditional universities were not always getting the job done.
The TechBac project by City and Guilds in the UK is another example where a new approach to credentials and qualifications is blending traditional training with proven skills, all backed by new digital technologies. It uses Digital Badges, provides for an online CV of skills and qualifications, and uses rich analytics to track performance and effectiveness.
Certifications like PMD Pro are an example of an example of the aligning of targeted functional skills (in this case project management) with development and humanitarian sector-specific concepts, language, and tools (in this case, development and humanitarian work.) By aligning these two, the result is a more targeted and relevant credential that be provide opportunities to quickly up skill existing employees in the sector or create pathways for new sector entrants.
Tools for employee-driven control
Technology is now providing more tools for employees to demonstrate the full spectrum of their learning and professional development and its alignment with specific competency development goals. Until just a few years ago, the tracking of education and training was the domain of the employer or an academic institution; and it usually tracked only the most formal learning experiences. For the employee, there were few tools to set goals, select and track certain learning, and then promote it to potential new employers—across their entire career with portability.
The most obvious tool that has gained massive scale in LinkedIn. The ability to track not only your employment experiences but your educational experiences, certifications, and achievements and awards is changing how employees are able to track and promote their employability. While better than a resume—with the ability to find people with similar experiences and education—LinkedIn is still limited in its ability to help people map their education to potential new career paths.
Degreed is a new could-based platform for individuals and organizations that connects employees to a much broader range of formal and informal learning experiences. The system also ranks each provider and course experience which provides additional options for employees to choose and for employers to evaluate the relevance and validity of certain educational experiences.
Earlier this month, I also got an early peek at a new tool, Red Panda, that will take what Degreed is doing to the next level. Employees will be able to set specific career goals and/or even align their goals to published competency framework. It is built on the OKR model and extends the model to professional development with opportunities for peer assessment. With Red Panda, the employee will be able to find, access, and track relevant learning—from articles to videos to formal courses and more—all targeted and aligned to their professional goals.
How is your organization approaching the skills gap you may be facing? What types of collaborative efforts are you engaged in? What types of credentials are you recruiting for? or encouraging your employees to achieve? Do you feel that you have the right digital tools to take your efforts to a new level? No organization is immune from the challenges and can take a holistic approach on their own, so now’s time to find new ways to work together.
Learn more about our latest initiative in the NGO sector to set new skills standards and get involved.
A guest post from LINGOs CEO Chris Proulx
At the end of 2015, I was reviewing data from our 85 members in the LINGOs Learning Collaborative—looking for insight into which programs were generating more adoption and usage. What jumped out to me was that there was a marked difference between a small number of members who were seeing amazing utilization of their online courses (as measured as completions per employee) compared with the majority of organizations.
Online course engagement at any organization is difficult, but encouraging employees to focus on learning while they are working in challenging development and humanitarian contexts can be even more of an uphill battle. So, I dug a little deeper and spoke to some of the L&D managers at these over-performing organizations to find out what was working.
Strategy #1: Start on Day One
At each of the four organizations I interviewed, employees were introduced to the LMS during their new employee on-boarding process. When Relief International overhauled their orientation program last year, Diane Barish focused on creating an online on-boarding program that had most staff using the LMS within the first 48 hours of joining RI. For Diane, this has been about establishing—from day one—that learning and professional development is a critical part of the organizational culture—and access to the LMS is a primary tool for which everyone can access regardless of work location. At Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Fund, Leigh Jenkins explained how they developed specific new course modules on EGPAF’s ethics policy that reached more experienced employees as well new employees and provided an opportunity to re-introduce the LMS to the company.
Requiring completion of online courses has given online learning and the LMS a black eye in many organizations. However, when used effectively and rolled out properly, these courses can provide staff with a window into the breadth of training that is available. Tamidra Marable of Heifer International confirmed that by exposing staff early on through on-boarding and compliance courses, you are essentially marketing the range of course options that are available for on-going professional development.
Strategy #2: Make it Sticky
At the conservation organization Rare, Teri Brezner explained how she had worked with her colleagues from the talent development group to launch five learning communities in 2015 around important topics at Rare. By aligning online courses with these communities, they were able to drive increased engagement. This is just one example of several where an organization aligned online courses with other organizational initiatives that resulted in increased adoption.
For example, Rare also rolled out new training programs mapped to the organization’s new Leadership Competencies that combined online courses in the LMS, in-house developed guides, and an online discuss. Relief International goes even further by encouraging use of the online courses as part of the performance management process—in fact 20% of an employee’s performance rating at RI is tied to meeting your training and professional development goals for the year.
Heifer has made an organization-wide commitment to PMD Pro as its project management methodology—for HQ as well as the field. As part of this commitment, all employees are required to complete LINGOs-authored Last Mile Learning PMD Pro courses before attending a more in-depth face to face PMD Pro training. The use of pre-requisites as part of a blended program is not uncommon, but Heifer goes a step further. The online PMD Pro courses are also included as part of one or more learning paths, where the project management courses are combined with other management and soft skills. Employees who complete the learning path are awarded an internal certificate of achievement—delivered by their manager at one of Heifer’s all-hands meetings.
Strategy #3: Don’t Go It Alone
It is nearly impossible for an L&D professional to drive significant adoption and engagement on their own. Each of the four people I spoke with joined forces across the organization to make learning a priority. Teri at Rare is using VPs and other senior leaders as visible experts in their in-house developed courses—generating demand among employees and also encouraging the leaders to advocate and promote the courses. At Relief International, Diane is working with in-country HR professionals—training them on how to help employees match training courses to their performance goals and how they can use LMS reporting features to track progress of their country’s staff. Continued professional development also had support from the top-down at RI which creates lots of energy and discussion around learning in the organization with even the VPs asking for their annual training records to ensure they are leading by example.
Tamidra explained that at Heifer, leaders are now competing against each other for the right to claim that their team has completed the most training and learning in the past year. Leigh at EGPAF works with in-country HR staff to hold brown bag lunch training sessions where teams complete an online course together and then discuss it in real time over lunch.
And, don’t forget that a little sizzle goes a long way. Tamidra’s colleagues at Heifer have been creating Pow-Toons to market learning and generating some excitement along the way.
The other key message I took away from these leaders was about focus. Most of them spoke about only three or four key initiatives last year where they invested significant time and energy to ensure success. So as you contemplate your 2016 strategy, choose a couple of important organizational needs and initiatives and work with other leaders to design a program that will allow you to start to build momentum for learning.
In addition to these strategies, there are some useful resources on the web to help you jump start your program in 2016. Chris Pappas’ blog post on effective blended learning strategies is a great start. The eLearning Guild also just released a new e-book on the role of Context not Content in your learning strategy. Fcousing on relevance and currency, similar to the learning communities at Rare or PMD Pro at Heifer, is far more important and effective for long-term sustainability of learning that relying on compliance mandates alone.
And finally, LINGOs and the Learning Collaborative are your partners in this journey:
- Making sense of the data from the LLP is a first step to planning ways to improve engagement. Are you signed up for the data and reporting webinar on Feb 11? Janet Humphries from GOAL is going to demo some of the dashboards she has created to stay on top of her learning program.
- The Marketing Your Learning co-creation group is kicking off on February 25. Make sure you email email@example.com to sign up for this year-long working group designed to create and share tools and best practices in marketing.
- The Learning Collaborative team has also assembled more learning paths that can help you target specific job functions or learning objectives more easily. To learn more, contact your dedicated LINGOs account manager.