by Jini Stolk
Whatever happened to the age-old tradition of training your own staff?
According to a quick search on Google, the various manpower agencies hiring and placing temporary foreign workers in Canada are responding to a need by employers for a reliable workforce, with workers who are loyal and committed, and even exceed the qualifications required for their jobs.
Well all right, but I was used to thinking that we’re responsible for creating the work conditions that lead to loyalty and commitment – and that if we offered a creative and fulfilling work experience, based on the most humane and inventive HR practices, we would attract reliable staff who might even have a range of skills and experience beyond the requirements of their jobs!
The arts sector is a prolific, successful and largely unacknowledged job skills training ground: public relations, communications, social media, bookkeeping, financial management, facilities management, event planning, fundraising, strategic planning, collaboration and more. I could make a long list of people I know who’ve had highly successful careers, in the arts or not, after experiencing the focused chaos of “on the job training” at a nonprofit arts organization.
We could definitely make good, productive use of more funded internship programs (the kind that make it possible to offer reasonable salaries to the interns) for both students and graduate job seekers. One of the best of the few that are still around has a deadline coming up in the next few days.
In the meantime, we need to learn from each other about how to compensate arts workers with great experiences and rich learning in lieu of high salaries. That means we have to:
- learn to be clear and open about our expectations;
- be willing to try new ideas, like a four-day workweek, that might be tremendously appealing to staff with outside performance or production gigs;
- think about what triggers staff turnover and try to eliminate barriers to retaining great staff;
- know how to use regular check-ins or performance evaluations to give meaningful professional feedback, helping staff learn and grow while feeling valued and appreciated (there are tons of good ideas in this overview from IdeaEncore of employee evaluations – including for Executive Directors, for those board members reading this), and
- if we’re serious about training people up, we should look at Four Steps to Developing Your Future Leaders shared by The Bridgespan Group