Sunday, December 17, 2017

What Millennials Really Want in Professional Development

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on...................."

In a recent edition of Blue Avocado, I found an article on what millennials really want from Professional Development.  

"In December 2016, the Board of Directors at Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Los Angeles (YNPN LA) conducted a PD needs assessment of our constituents. More than 50 individuals completed a survey asking respondents to rate whether a PD training on 29 different topics would be Not Very Helpful (1), Somewhat Helpful (2), or Very Helpful (3)."

Of the seven highest ranking choices, four are clearly absent from virtually all professional development offerings in the nonprofit arts field, including: Personal financial management #4), and Salary and Benefits Negotiation #1).

Of the former, the article notes:

"A recent study showed huge deficits in financial literacy for American college students. Forty-four percent had "little or no knowledge on creating or maintaining a budget," and sixty-five percent gave themselves a grade of C or lower on their money management skills. Knowing these statistics, organizations could help their youngest employees manage their finances--and stress levels--by providing financial literacy training for their young professionals." 

And on the top choice:

"Forbes recently reported, "Average millennial salaries are disproportionately low compared to the national average--and are 20 percent lower than baby boomers' salaries when they were the same age." Millennials also face a combination of barriers to advancement: subpar economic conditions, holding more than a trillion dollars in student debt, weak wage growth, and ever-rising costs of living. At the same time, reports that feeling "uncomfortable negotiating salary," not wanting "to be perceived as pushy," and being "worried of losing my job," all factor into millennials' attitudes toward pay negotiations. Indeed, in a recent study, only 38% of millennials negotiated with their employers after receiving an offer, while 75% of hiring managers "typically had room to increase their first salary offers by 5% to 10%." So it's no surprise that millennials rated a salary negotiation workshop the highest." 

Bottom line, our professional development offerings shy away from helping our youngest managers with things that would help them with their own career trajectories, and focus principally on skills that help the organization with its business.  That's understandable, but myopic.

Now this study was limited to only fifty responses, so it is by no means a definitive reflection of what all millennials may desire from professional development, but based on my own anecdotal experience, I think it is accurate.

Certainly we need to tout mentorships, promote enhancement of management and leadership acumen and ability, and help our people to improve their communications skills, and all of those are also on the list of this study.  But we need to balance what development will directly benefit the organization, with the development of personal skills that will help the individual arts manager succeed in their career aspirations - for that will ultimately benefit both our organizations and the field as a whole by yielding confident, ambitious young managers to move into full leadership positions over time.

Professional development must be about more than just organizational skills.  It must be about helping fully developed, skilled and satisfied individuals.

Unfortunately, professional development is very often a neglected part of a job in the arts.  Budgets too frequently lack any line item allocation for any kind of professional development, and young managers in particular can expect, at best, some internal feedback, but little opportunity to avail themselves of tutorials, seminars, conferences, lectures, coaching or meaningful mentorships.   Too often those opportunities go exclusively to middle or senior management, if they are available at all.    Even when those opportunities are offered free online, the young manager is expected to find ways to plug into those options by themselves.  We need to get to a point where every young and upcoming arts manager has quality professional development programs available to them on a regular basis.

Smart organizations will take the time and effort to help all staff members grow professionally, on all levels - organizational and personal - and work conscientiously to facilitate their people being able to avail themselves of growth possibilities.  Organizations would be wise to ask their management staff what kinds of professional development they would most value.  Funders ought to insist on it.  Staff ought to demand it.  Boards ought to embrace it.  The field ought to make it a major priority.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Sunday, December 10, 2017

SWOT Analysis

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on................."

One of the mainstay lynchpins of business strategic planning has long been the SWOT Analysis tool.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  An analysis of a business simply consists of identifying the organization's strengths and weaknesses and considering how each impacts opportunities for the organization to advance its' mission, and are interconnected to the threats and barriers to taking advantage of those opportunities.  The purpose is to better understand how the organization functions within its environment, and how it might strategically plan to compensate for its weaknesses and exploit its strengths to recognize and take advantage of opportunities within the ecosystem in which it operates.

Not Rocket Science, but a very useful tool in the planning process.  Arts organizations are familiar with strategic planning and engage periodically in the process - usually every two to five years, though five years in today's rapidly changing world may not make sense anymore as circumstances change with rapidity.

Strengths are everything from a loyal subscriber base, sold out performances, stellar critical reviews, big budgets, large donor pools, talented and experienced key staff and so on and so on.  The list can be much broader and deeper than many organizations realize as they overlook strengths or minimize the relevance and importance of others.

Weaknesses likewise run the gamut - from inadequate budgets, small staffs, weak donor pools, struggling ticket sales, lack of philanthropic relationships, new entry into the field, heavy competition and so on and so on.  Again, even seemingly minor things can be a weakness, including those things hard to quantify - such as weak Board leadership.

Opportunities include any number of potential advantages - including a rich local donor pool, the presence of supporting foundations, growing respect and critical acclaim for the organization, the possibility of increased ticket sales and so on and so on.

And Threats include competition, cash flow challenges, lack of key staffing and so on and so on.

The Analysis part comes after an exhaustive identification of all the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, as you try to relate them to each other.  What opportunities might open because of the strengths?   How can the weaknesses be converted to strengths? What needs to be done to exploit the opportunities?  How are the threats best dealt with?

Doubtless many of you have done a SWOT Analysis before, even if called by another name.  Unfortunately, most of us don't consider that it might be a good idea to doing a SWOT Analysis on a regular basis.

The SWOT tool can be particularly useful if employed on an annual basis irrespective of the strategic planning process.  It doesn't take an inordinate amount of time, and it can help crystallize and clarify where the organization finds itself - for staff and Board.  There is value in the process of considering the SWOT matrix, which can lead to new insights into what the organization faces and what it might do.  And that better understanding can lead to ideas to move the organization forward, and capitalize on the opportunities and neutralize the threats.

What would be really interesting would be to do SWOT Analyses beyond the organizational level - at the regional, state, and even national levels as to the arts field's environments.  Beyond the obvious listing in each of the SWOT categories, it would be fascinating - and perhaps telling - to see what we really think our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as a field, truly are.

Perhaps you might consider scheduling a SWOT Analysis session with staff and / or Board soon.

Have a great week.  And remember:  if you're healthy, it is a great week.

Don't Quit