The importance of workforce development

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The importance of workforce development should not be underestimated but in these days of funding cutbacks and emphasis on evaluating impact, setting up social enterprises and collaboration with the public sector it’s easy for people and their development needs to drop down the priority list. Perhaps people are seen as less complex or less essential to organisational survival than the more process driven topics which get the headlines today? Nothing could be further from the truth.

I was heartened today when invited to run a workshop on workforce development for small charities ( that so many people chose to attend. It indicated to me that despite the lack of funding focus it is still considered to be a vital ingredient in any effective and successful organisation and certainly the people in the room representing a very broad range of small organisations understood its importance to them.

In the glory days of workforce development initiatives being funded by central government there were tools and resources produced specifically for the voluntary sector some of which are still available today from NCVO and Skills Third Sector and some CVSs. Tools such as training needs analysis, the workforce wheel and appraisal and performance management systems are all readily available – free of charge.

What comes with a price attached of course is the time you need to set aside to focus on your people – trustees, paid staff and volunteers. Only you can decide whether you can afford to spend time communicating, planning, assessing and implementing and only you can decide to take time out to attend a training course or host an informal learning group. My recommendation is that you do so – it will pay dividends in motivation, satisfaction, retention and effectiveness and will make your organisation a better place to work and your beneficiaries will enjoy a better experience too.

Someone remarked at the event today that we were living in interesting times where on the one hand resources were scarcer and yet there were also new and exciting opportunities arising if only you could find them. There are still ways to develop your workforce without spending large sums but you have to search harder and think more creatively to find solutions.

Success in the voluntary sector is dependent on a number of things including good planning, good research, attention to detail and the courage and tenacity to make things happen. I would say that an enquiring mind and a flexible and optimistic outlook are the other essential ingredients. If you can develop a workforce with these attributes then the rest will surely follow.