Professional Development

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Program Staff Are Our Most Valuable Asset—Act Accordingly

Tuesday, 12 February 2019 15:22

Program staff are an afterschool program's greatest asset, yet many programs do not budget adequately for staff development.

The greatest investment afterschool programs can make is in their people.

Ultimately, an investment in afterschool staff is an investment in young people.

Gallup research shows disengaged employees cost U.S. companies billions in lost productivity each year, as a result of poor performance and high absenteeism. In afterschool programs, this disengagement is not necessarily measured in dollars lost, but likely in lower program quality and staff turnover—negatively impacting the afterschool program's bottom line: positive youth outcomes.

This same Gallup research says, "Without the proper support and positive work environment required to do what they do best, employees will quickly become disengaged and unhappy in their work."

One of the top reasons employees leave an organization is the lack of support and development opportunities. Employees can interpret an employer's lack of investment in training as a disregard for their professional development.

Want to keep staff? Invest in them.

Investment in staff greatly improves the program quality that positively impacts youth. Instead of just saying that quality afterschool programs result in positive youth outcomes, we must invest in the people responsible for these results. At the University of Pennsylvania, researchers discovered that businesses that spent 10 percent of their funding on capital improvements saw a 3.9 percent productivity increase. When that same 10 percent was invested in employees, productivity went up 8.5 percent.

Business research shows there's an economic link between employee satisfaction and company financial performance. In business, a happy workplace culture translates into better stock returns.

Happy Employees = Happy Stakeholders.

Afterschool research shows that staff are the linchpin to program quality. Could a case be made for the link between afterschool staff satisfaction, program quality, and positive impacts on kids? We think so.

If you're passionate about making a difference in the lives of young people, you must believe that program staff are our most valuable asset and act accordingly.

You must create healthy work atmospheres and you must provide staff with the tools and support to do their jobs effectively.

Written by Heidi Ham, NAA Vice President of Programs and Strategy.

#3 Rick Rood 2019-03-26 12:35
Quoting Sara Babb:
This would be much more helpful with some actual tips or suggestions.

I would say to start out by designating funds to send front line staff to nearby conferences and workshops. Put it in the calendar as a day (or days) your program will be closed.

It takes planning (usually a year in advance), but the payoffs are HUGE. Motivation. Expertise. And that one thing we all got into this for - the feeling of being able to make a difference.
#2 Kimberly Flores 2019-03-26 09:37
I'm so grateful that NAA is focusing on the development and health of staff in our field. Many years ago, I conducted a study for the Robert Bowne Foundation on this issue. We found that when staff development was a central focus, staff were staying five times longer than typical in out of school time programs. In my current work, we identify organizations that are showing exceptional social and emotional outcome growth in our Hello Insight platform, in 2018, we identified six, representing the top 10% of the 400 programs, using our platform nationally. How were they succeeding? These organizations were using youth development techniques to build staff capacity - across all of their programs. They insisted that staff work on teams, expected staff to explore their interests and bring them into programming, helped them set their own life and work goals, invited them to take risks and learn from their mistakes. All great tips as we focus on one of our most valuable assets - staff.
#1 Sara Babb 2019-03-20 15:27
This would be much more helpful with some actual tips or suggestions.
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