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Professional Development

Update Your Nonprofit’s Career Development Programs

By | Nonprofit, Professional Development | No Comments

Career development? What career development program?

If that was your response to this article’s headline, you’re not alone. Many organizations have set career development programs on the back burner or never got them off the ground in light of the many challenges they’ve had to overcome during the past 18 months.

Career development programs are vital for attracting and retaining top talent. According to one report, 94% of employees say that career development programs are “very important” and a good reason for staying with a company. And, if you want to attract and retain younger talent to your nonprofit, 87% of millennials rank career development programs as very important to their decision to join and organization.

For those nonprofits who haven’t launched a career development program or who set it aside to cope with the challenges brought about by the pandemic, now is the time to rethink your organization’s training programs with an eye to keeping them going no matter what challenges the new year brings.

What Makes a Good Career Development Program?

Good career development programs share certain characteristics:

  1. Caters to all levels of the organization: Career development isn’t just for newcomers to the nonprofit world or those just entering the workplace. It’s for everyone. Good career development programs include specific programs for leaders, too.
  2. Involves virtual training: The new world of work means including your virtual team in training and development opportunities. Technology connects workers to your organization and can connect them to training and development opportunities. Seek out hybrid or virtual models that can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
  3. Offers mentorships: One of the best ways to enhance career knowledge and skills is to partner with an experienced person in the profession. Mentorship programs provide an excellent opportunity for networking, skill development, and career growth.
  4. Focus on what employees want to learn: It’s not enough to offer professional development programs in matters that the organization believes employees should learn. Find out what your team wants and needs to advance their career development and find the right programs to suit them.
  5. Don’t forget fun too: All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, and it makes for a boring workplace. Career development programs should also include time for socializing and networking so that people feel connected to the organization, their teams, and their coworkers.

Focus on Virtual Career Development

Virtual career development opportunities must focus on overcoming the barriers to communication among virtual employees. This can be done through video calls, phone calls, instant messaging, and other technology that aids communication.

One thing to bear in mind when creating and launching virtual career development programs: frequent communication is very important to effectively include everyone on the team. Schedule weekly touch-base calls and consider partnering your virtual team members with experienced employees who can help them grow into their jobs.

Personal, one-to-one time is essential for virtual workers. Many refrain from asking questions in group chats or calls. Having time just with their mentor or manager to ask questions, even if it’s only 15 minutes a week, can help them ask what’s on their minds. These quick touch-base calls can take the place of visits in a physical office space where teammates often drop by an office or desk just to chat and can make people feel better connected to their team members.

Short, Frequent Connections Are Best

Career development isn’t “once and done.” It’s better to provide short, frequent programs than long, occasional ones, especially if using videoconferencing technology. People can become fatigued from too many video conferences. Keeping connections short, focused, and frequent helps keep professional development top of mind, rather than a chore.

When your organization prioritizes career development as part of its approach to personnel management, you can create a desirable workplace with better connections and teamwork. Not only will your employees be happier, but your organization will thrive, with more engaged and connected employees.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Working from Home and Managing Your New Work-Life Balance

By | Professional Development | No Comments

Working from home may feel like a dream come true—or a nightmare unfolding. It all depends on your perspective.

For the past year, ever since most states announced mandatory stay-at-home orders, many accountants have been working from home. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, it may be compounding our stress levels.

A 2017 report from the United Nations indicates that people who work from home report higher levels of stress than people who commute to an external office every day. It’s not the home environment that increases stress, but the interruptions, lack of specific business hours and frequent use of mobile devices that is adding layers of stress to the already pandemic-stressed-out population.

While we may still be many months away from a full return to business as usual, there are many techniques to reduce stress and avoid burnout that you can try … from the comfort of your home.

Establish Clear Work and Home Boundaries

One of the biggest areas of added stress for accountants working from home is the blurring or blending of “home” versus “work” time. When commuting to the office every day, there is a clear distinction between work and home hours, with the time to commute the transition period between each. Move work to your kitchen table and suddenly there is no transition between work and making dinner, or helping kids with their homework, or any of the other homemaking tasks waiting for you.

If having a home office (with a door that closes against noises and distractions) isn’t possible for you right now, establishing clear and definite “work” and “home” hours is necessary. Create your own “after work” ritual. One CPA shuts her laptop each night and says aloud, “Mission accomplished.” It sounds silly, but this is her psychological cue that work is done for the day and it’s time to transition back into her off-duty self as a wife, mother, and avid yoga enthusiast.

Stagger Video Conferencing Hours

Zoom fatigue is real. Whether it’s everyone’s new favorite video conferencing tool or one of the many options available, feeling exhausted and drained after too many video conferences in one day is reality. Humans are hardwired to pick up a multitude of social cues, from facial expressions to posture, that may be lost or misunderstood on a small video screen. Add that to feeling like you’re on a stage or a movie set every day with the cameras rolling and it’s easy to see how video conferencing fatigue is more than a myth—it’s reality.

To avoid feeling frazzled and burned out from too many video chats, leave plenty of time between each call. Get up and walk around your house or go outside if you have a garden or place to get away from your computer for a few minutes. Note how many calls per day feels comfortable for you and seek to balance urgent requests against the need for your own time away from video conferencing. It may not always be possible, but at least knowing why you feel so exhausted after four hours of back-to-back video meetings can help.

Find Your Happy Place

Lastly, find your own happy place. It may be in your rec room listening to your favorite music or in the kitchen baking an apple pie, but there is some place or activity for you that is very freeing and relaxing. That’s finding your happy place. And while it may be limited right now since we cannot gather safely indoors with many people, an alternative might exist that lets you shed some of that stress and feel like your old self again.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

 

Networking From Home: Here’s How

By | Professional Development | No Comments

COVID 19 has put a damper on many activities nonprofits typically use for fundraising. Among them is networking.

How often have you used networking events in the past to connect with new talent, mentors, and potential employees, not to mention donors and others interested in your work? If you’re like the typical nonprofit owner, the answer is “Frequently!”

Now, however, with so many events canceled and local orders to shelter at home to avoid spreading the virus, networking options are limited. But are they really? Or are we looking at networking the wrong way?

Consider Networking Goals

The goals of networking are to increase your circle of business acquaintances and friends so when opportunities arise, you’ll be able to tap into your network. This includes filling staff positions, adding members to your organization, or finding new resources like a local marketing firm to handle your print ad campaign, and so on.

When you look at the goals of networking, it soon becomes clear that you don’t necessarily need to network in person. It’s easier to strike up a conversation with someone stuck in line with you at the bank but it’s not necessarily the only place where you can strike up conversations.

Online Networking Offers Great Possibilities

Many are finding opportunities to network online. Social networks, of course, are the obvious choice. But networking online isn’t limited to LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Many in-person groups have moved their networking online. Zoom, Go2Meeting, and Facebook Live offers opportunities for people to gather from the safety of their homes. Although not as much fun (and the snacks may not be as good) it’s still a great way to meet new people.

To get the most from online networking events, be sure to be a friend to others first before asking for something in return. The more you give, the more people will be receptive to requests you make. Look for opportunities to solve problems. If someone mentions they need a good local designer, offer to connect them to a graphic designer you know. It is these actions that lead to a network you can count on when you need something.

Work Your Social Networks

Social networking remains an excellent place to network with others. Not only can you increase your personal connections, you can join groups to meet new people, learn what’s happening in your industry, and share your knowledge.

To network effectively on social media, share information that is useful to your audience. This may include links to articles, tips, and resources. Like in-person networking, online social networking relies upon give and take. It’s not just broadcasting your message out but listening to what others say, responding, and sharing helpful resources and information.

Virtual Coffee, Anyone?

Coffee is like the oil that runs the business engine—it’s ubiquitous. Meeting new contacts for a coffee used to be part of the typical business day. Now, however, with many eschewing in-person visits for virtual visits, you can still “meet for coffee” via video conferencing.

Extend the invitation to others to gather on your favorite video platform, mug in hand, and socialize at a predetermined time.

Keep in Touch With Past Contacts

Lastly, networking isn’t just about meeting new people. It’s also keeping in touch with your network. Take time each week to go through your contacts and reach out to say hello to others. During these times when people can feel isolated, it’s always a pleasant surprise to hear from someone you worked with a long time ago. Reach out, say hello, and see if it sparks conversation.

Online Networking: Here to Stay?

Networking online probably won’t take the place of in-person networking for good but, for now, it’s helping many people connect and share resources, time, and care. Make time this week for online networking. Which one of these techniques will you try?

 Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Feeling – and Dealing – with Being Overwhelmed

By | Abila, Accounting, Accounting Software, Budget, Cloud, Corporate Culture, Fiscal, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit, Professional Development, Technology | No Comments

It’s not confined to tax season. A look at why you’re feeling overwhelmed, and how to deal with it.

In the book “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time”, authors Jeff and J.J. Sutherland have an interesting chart on page 91. In this chart, they cite statistics that indicate that as one’s attention is divided, productivity decreases. Working on two projects at once means a 20% loss in productivity due to switching gears; three projects at once, and you lose about 40% due to context switching.

Accountants and financial managers at nonprofits aren’t immune to this loss, due to context switching. In fact, we’re probably more vulnerable to it due to the focused nature of our work. Dealing with financial issues, accounting questions, and understanding complex financial information requires quiet, focused time. The barrage of instant messenger apps, phone calls, emails, texts and myriad information streams in today’s connected world increases the loss due to context switching. Multi-tasking for greater productivity is a myth.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Nearly all professionals are feeling overwhelmed these days. It’s as if the crunch before tax season never ends. Researchers point to the common culprits – instant messengers, instant news, instant everything – as a big part of the problem. The human brain isn’t wired to deal with this level of intensity, and we haven’t had time to adapt to the rapid pace of change that technology has wrought in our personal and business lives.

Although we cannot fully shut the world out and switch off the phones, there are ways to improve productivity. These include avoiding context or task switching, single-tasking instead of multi-tasking, and establishing boundaries around office times.

Single-Tasking for Greater Productivity

Multi-tasking does not improve productivity. Instead, it diminishes productivity because the mind needs time to acclimate to the second task. As we focus on one task, our attention is fixed on that task; switching to a second task takes brain power to establish focus, change direction, and process new information.

Don’t buy into the myth of multi-tasking. Instead, turn off the music or the television while you work. Shut the door to your office. Switch off the instant messages and turn your cell phone to mute while you work on a project. Allow yourself the space to focus, rather than trying to cram as many tasks as you can into the same amount of time.

Set Office Rules

Another tip to improve productivity and avoid feeling overwhelmed is to set some basic ground rules around your time in the office. While many managers prefer an ‘open door’ policy and make themselves available to their staff at any time, you may need to establish some basic policies around availability.

Some managers have ‘office hours’ when they leave their door open as a clear signal to their teams that they can drop in and ask any questions they wish. Others block out time on their calendar for quiet, focused work. Either method works fine. The point is to ensure that you have adequate quiet time for focused work and additional time blocked out for your teams.

Switch Off the Mobile Phone

 Cellphones are a great convenience, but their buzzing, shrilling, vibrating presence has ruined many a meeting, family dinner, or quiet time. Shut off the mobile phone when you aren’t at work or when you need some space. Texts are rarely as urgent as we make them out to be, and your brain needs a break from the constant stream of messages and information it’s trying to process.

Give Yourself Permission to Rest

 Lastly, give yourself permission to rest on the weekends, vacations and holidays. When you’re behind schedule on projects, it is tempting to trying to bring work home or devote a few extra hours in the evening to finishing up a project. Occasionally burning the midnight oil doesn’t hurt  but making it a habit can cut into your overall productivity. Ensuring balance in all things takes time, practice and effort, but it helps your overall productivity.

Everyone feels overwhelmed at times by work. If it becomes chronic, however, it’s time to take steps to safeguard your time. Burnout happens in all professions, including accounting and finance, nonprofit and for-profit companies.

 

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.