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work at home workerIs your management team wrestling with the decision to let people work from home? It can be a big change, but it's also a positive and necessary one. Increasingly, people are viewing "work" as something you do, rather than somewhere you go.

When organisations look to the future, the most innovative and successful leaders realize the potential that virtual workforces have to change the face of business. As organisations expand around the globe, remote labor forces are becoming vital to business success.

More than 80 percent of Fortune magazine's 100 Best Companies to Work For already have virtual work policies in place. And that number is expected to rise as time and technology advance. If your company isn't on board yet, or your telework policy could be more inclusive, here are eight reasons why virtual work makes sense for both employer and employee:

  1. Cost savings for employers due to the reduced need for physical working space and overhead costs to maintain on-site facilities.
  2. Higher customer satisfaction due to better coverage across different time zones.
  3. Increased ability to attract top talent by eliminating geographic restrictions on the talent pool.
  4. Lower absenteeism and higher engagement. Gallup's 2013 State of the American Workplace study showed that virtual employees not only work an average of four hours longer per work week than people who go to the company site, but are also more engaged (32 percent versus 28 percent).
  5. Working from home eliminates the stress of commuting to work, and stress is one of the primary reasons for resignation.
  6. Costs for gas and train or bus fare are reduced, which creates a cost savings for employees.
  7. Higher innovation and creativity. According to a May 2014 Wall Street Journal article, only 10 percent of workers believe they do their best thinking at work compared with 39 percent who believe they do their best thinking at home.
  8. Better work-life balance and workplace flexibility, both of which are highly prized by Millennials, which is the fastest growing generation in the workforce.

Each year, the population of virtual workers grows, contributing to the belief that virtual workforces are here to stay. In fact, Harvard Business Review recently reported that by the end of 2015, 40 percent of the world's workforce will be remote. To remain competitive in this increasingly global world, the decision for your organisation to move toward a more virtual workplace should be an easy one.

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non for profitNew Australian research shows that one in two Not for Profit employees do not have access to any professional development.

According to researchers at The University of Western Australia Centre for Social Impact (UWA CSI) and funded by the Origin Foundation and the Australian Scholarships Foundation, the NFP sector is missing a massive opportunity to create greater social change through improving the capacity of its people.

Their research found that 33 per cent of NFP executives have no access to a designated training budget and just 48 per cent of all NFP employees and volunteers receive at least one formal professional development experience a year.

"Due to funding constraints, investment in training and developing employees is well below what the Not for Profit sector requires," the research found.

However the researchers found that for each dollar spent on capacity building, there's an average positive return of about six dollars that can be attributed to the training undertaken and the resulting behaviours, decisions and flow on effects.

The three year UWA CSI study, Learning for Purpose: Researching the Social Return on Education and Training in the Australian Not for Profit Sector, said its findings demonstrated that the success and sustainability of the Australian NFP sector hinges substantially on its people.

To go from "good" to "great", the research report calls upon funders, the public, Governments and NFP leaders and organisations to see professional development as an important investment rather than an overhead.

"For the first time we can demonstrate on the basis of research that workforce development really works for the Australian Not for Profit sector. Small Not for Profit organisations appear most challenged to get their people to the next level. It's not about making them work harder, but smarter," Lead researcher, Dr Ramon Wenzel from The University of Western Australia said.

"Australian Not for Profits are under enormous pressure to deliver key services that for-profits and Governments do not. It is now time for a conversation on how each organisation will continue delivering services in the face of change if they do not improve the knowledge, skills and abilities of their people."

Sean Barrett, Head of the Origin Foundation which funded the study, said it is important that funders and NFPs have the tools and empirical evidence to adapt and address societal needs.

"Gone are the days when the Not for Profit sector could explain itself by saying: 'We are good people doing good work'," Barrett said.

"Today, more is expected of the sector: more in terms of performance, more in terms of social impact. We have to change the public perception about the actual costs and benefits of workforce training development. This will challenge funders who are traditionally reluctant to support so-called capacity building in favour of front-line service delivery."

"The seven key findings show that developing NFP employees and volunteers has multiple positive effects for the individuals, the organisations, and the purposes they serve.

"It reveals training can improve an employee's role clarity, job knowledge, and self-confidence, and as such lead to better decisions and leadership behaviours, reduced costs, more funding, better services and beneficiary well-being."

Key findings of the report are:

  1. Training intensity is highly variable across organisational size, job role and sub-sector. About 48 per cent of all NFP employees and volunteers receive at least one formal professional development experience per calendar year, though this is highly variable across the Australian NFP sector. Members of governance boards, volunteers, and small NFP organisations in general receive less training than others in the Australian NFP sector.
  2. NFP organisations that systematically develop their people do better. Data from 697 Australian NFP organisations shows that organisational human resource development practices and policies positively affect organisational competence and capability. This in turn engenders organisational performance, which significantly facilitates the creation of social impact.
  3. Training for NFP key competencies works. New evidence presented in this report shows that a set of professional development activities addressing NFP governance, strategic leadership, and impact evaluation has systematic, positive effects on those trained. When compared to a control group, those receiving training in these fields gain greater role clarity, competence knowledge and self-confidence that facilitate better decisions and behaviours at work.
  4. Training NFP key competencies leads to multiple positive outcomes. Professional development experiences lead to new knowledge, skills and abilities. The data collected shows that training NFP workers facilitates better leadership, saves funds, leads to superior performance, and achieves greater well-being, which, in turn, enhances organisational viability and social change.
  5. Training can deliver positive economic returns. Exemplary cost-benefit estimation for a NFP governance training scheme suggests an economic impact factor of +6. For each dollar spent on the capacity building, there appears to be an average positive return of about six dollars that can be attributed to the training undertaken and the resulting behaviours, decisions and flow on effects.
  6. The lack of money and time prevent needed professional development opportunities. Insufficient financial and structural support prevent the Australian NFP sector and its people from engaging with more professional development. Smaller NFP organisations appear particularly prone to financial challenges, while larger NFPs are challenged by the time and support required to offer training. Thirty three per cent of NFP executives have no access to a designated training budget.
  7. The needs for developing NFP key competencies vary considerably. There is a need for increased leadership development and strategic competence across the Australian NFP sector to ensure mission success. Certain sub-sectors and organisational features demand specific attention. A future national study must generate large and more granular data to inform policy makers, training providers, funders and other NFP stakeholders.

Source: Pro Bono

Download the report here.

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mentoring miyagiIf you want to incorporate a mentoring strategy or program in your own or a client's organisation, department, or team, these tips will help ensure its success:

Mentoring is a development opportunity for both parties. Eager learners and seasoned veterans who are willing to mentor them can easily connect and begin a consensual, mutually beneficial mentoring relationship. However, the mentoring can also flow in the other direction, since there are many things a seasoned employee can learn from a green one. Regardless of who is the mentor and who is the protégé, both develop important competencies during the relationships, such as organisational information, networking, and political savvy for the protégé, and listening skills, flexibility, and leadership skills for the mentor.

In a mentoring relationship, the protégé (apprentice) is the driver. Because protégés are the primary beneficiaries of the relationship, the onus is on them to schedule meetings, send agendas, report and follow up on progress and action items, and initiate communication with their mentors. And since mentors are traditionally those with higher levels of responsibility, this prevents the mentoring relationship from adding undue burden on them and perhaps even teaches them delegation skills.

Preparation optimizes results. Prior to each mentoring session, protégés should prepare and send an update to their mentors in order to help focus the session for optimal results. They should include things, such as what they've accomplished since their last session, what action items were not accomplished and what got in the way, the challenges and opportunities they're currently facing, and the support they want from the mentor during the upcoming meeting.

Mentoring should be voluntary, not mandatory. Make every effort to allow the protégé to select the mentor. Both the mentor and the protégé must opt in and mutually commit to the mentoring process. Compelling either party to the relationship can lead to poor adherence, "deadbeat" participation, and ineffective results.

Train both mentors and protégés on how to make the most of the program. Ideally, train mentors and protégés separately so they can feel encouraged and free to ask questions, express concerns, and share ideas with peers.

Create an exit strategy up front. Encourage the mentoring partners to have a predetermined exit plan should either one feel at any point that the relationship is no longer beneficial or effective for any reason.

Ensure confidentiality. Mentors and protégés should agree to hold the content of their developmental work together in confidence.

Strong senior leadership support can encourage participation and help reinforce the program's importance. Leadership support can help prevent problems caused by mixed messages that employees receive from unsupportive managers about where they should put their priorities (usually not on mentoring).

Reference: Employee Development on a Shoestring, By Halelly Azulay, ATD Press 2012

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