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Why Does Investing in Staff Development Improve Nonprofit Effectiveness?

Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) is defined as the ? “integration of human resources management (HRM) with the strategic mission of the organization. It adapts human resources policies and practices to meet the challenges that agencies face today, as well as those they will face in the future” (Pynes, 2013, xvii).  Human Resources are necessary, as employees are the greatest asset for an organization. SHRM is vital to an organization because it is utilized to attract, retain and develop the associates who are considered the ‘best fit’. Businesses have recognized that SHRM is a beneficial practice because hiring employees is a costly endeavor. How a workforce is treated will affect the overall productivity. Staff development, a component of SHRM, is important because “Organizations use training and development to improve the skills of employees and develop their capacity to cope with the constantly changing demands of the work environment” (Pynes, 2013, 276). 

The choice to plan and implement professional development strategies can prevent turnover, especially when it comes to quality employees who expect to be invested in. While staff development is important for businesses in the for-profit sector, there should be a continued driving force to invest in strategic human resources in the social sector as well. Nonprofits follow vastly different missions from one another and the assumption is that employees who choose to work for these organizations have more intrinsic-based motivations than their partners in the other sectors (Riddles & McCandless, 2008). 

That does not excuse the organization from investing in employee strategies, as this is how a professionally trained staff is built. Nonprofits are in a difficult position where they are expected by the public to make high impact on their communities while spending next to nothing in administrative costs. This limits the opportunities available for training and development, despite the benefits that SHRM can provide. This issue should not be ignored by nonprofit organizations due to the long-term benefits that can be provided, such as increased retention, loyalty and productivity. In order to convince nonprofits to invest in these strategies, they should be researching the inclusion of cost-effective training that encompasses the positive aspects of both in-person and online courses, creating needs assessment to determine the desired outcomes of the training opportunities, and placing an overall greater investment in the Human Resource department for better implementation of strategies.  

The benefits of training and development are not only for the organization itself, but also for the employees. One of the noted expectations of the newer generations who are now entering the workforce is that they desire continual development (Pynes, 2013, pg. 28-29). This should influence the investment in staff development opportunities, as keeping up with employee expectations and motivations gives an organization a competitive advantage over those who choose not to invest. As defined by Kunle Akingbola (2016), training is the learning of their current position, and the skills and knowledge required to perform the tasks required of them. Development, meanwhile, is the learning of skills and knowledge that would be utilized with future promotions within the organization. This is vital for job advancement for employees and will set them up for future successes.

Nonprofits are facing the challenges of a constantly changing landscape and have to be willing to adapt and meet these demands in order to survive and thrive in the competitive nonprofit sector. Kunle Akingbola (2016) states that learning and development is very important to the sector for this reason, as these learning opportunities must be provided to ensure that the associates are attaining new skill sets that will be relevant to their job requirements and ensure the competitive advantage to other organizations (pg. 151). Providing additional competencies can only improve the capabilities of the employees as they not only can make them more versatile to the unpredictability of the nonprofit world, but they have the personal benefit, which can be utilized for future roles and career prospects.


Akingbola, K. (2015). Managing human resources for nonprofits. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Pynes, J. (2013). Human Resources Management for Public and Nonprofit Organizations A Strategic Approach (4th ed., Essential Texts for Nonprofit and Public Leadership and Management). Hoboken: Wiley.

Ridder, H., & McCandless, A. (2008). Influences on the Architecture of Human Resource Management in Nonprofit Organizations. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 39(1), 124-141. doi:10.1177/0899764008328182

Brittany Samples is a graduate student at ASU, who obtained a Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management in fall 2017. She earned her undergraduate degree at ASU in Theatre.


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