Recently, we asked Club leaders what the most important issues they are dealing with right now are, and what we heard over and over and over again were two things: hiring and staff training.
These certainly aren’t unique to youth development, but they are CRITICAL to youth development, because the staff that we hire are the ones who are going to build the supportive relationships with young people to enable them to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible young people. It’s a HUGE DEAL! Getting the right people through the Blue Doors and then equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to successfully support youth is a herculean task that we have to undertake.
It can feel hard right now to dedicate the resources, whether those be time, energy, or finances, to training. But strengthening our support for training and development will ultimately pay off, because by building high-quality staff practices we can reduce stress and burnout in our frontline staff, which will in turn deepen our impact on youth outcomes. The research is clear: it works.
But how do we do that? I’m not going to pretend its a quick fix. Building a professional development pathway at your Club or Youth Center is going to take intentional work. But thankfully we can lean on the experience of our colleagues in the Movement. One of those is Carlyn Andrew. As Senior Director of Counseling and Training at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley, she’s worked with her organization to develop a robust training program that has made a huge impact. And on top of that, she’s partnered with us at BGCA to bring what they’ve learned in Wisconsin to everyone, especially in the area of Trauma-Informed Practice. Rock! Star! Status!
Staff training and development within an overall culture of learning is so important to building a Trauma-Informed Club that that’s right where the team started. In the Culture of Learning Guide, Carlyn lays out the case for the impact of staff development and then gives you the steps to build that culture at your Club. The who, what, where, when and how are all in there! And we know it works. It’s so good, I’m excited to bring you an excerpt today.
Consider using the following tips to build the training foundation to a culture of learning at your Club:
- Talk about training early. Data shows that job seekers are looking for employment with plenty of training and development opportunities. A robust training infrastructure can be part of what attracts a candidate to a position with a Club or Youth Center.
- Talk about training often. Professional Development Plans and accountability to them are then part of one-on-one meetings, team meetings, and performance management on a consistent basis.
- Have clearly established training requirements and opportunities. Defining and communicating training requirements and opportunities demonstrates your organization’s commitment to ongoing learning. It helps staff feel supported and valued and gives them goals to achieve and opportunities to advance. You can build your plans and requirements using the School of Youth Development Catalog of Learning.
- Train staff in a timely matter in their onboarding so they are equipped with the skills necessary to be successful in their positions. Investing in staff development helps them to be better in their roles, on their teams, and as leaders, and in turn leads to higher youth outcomes. When staff feel more capable at their jobs, and supported in their roles, they are less likely to leave. Learn more in our YDP Onboarding Guide.
- Train staff on an ongoing basis. Training should not be one-and-done. Training should be scaffolded to meet the needs of staff at every level. Spillett Leadership University offers a TON of varied online courses for whatever skills your staff hope to build.
- Provide action and follow-up to promote integration of learnings. Couple trainings with debrief to allow opportunity for teams to gather by site/team/department to more directly review how trainings apply to them and to focus on application and action in their area. Debriefs drive integration and accountability for translating learning into action. Get ideas for coaching, staff meetings, and then add these debrief opportunities to them on the CQI Toolkit.
- Offer trainings in a pre-set schedule. Schedule training offerings on a set schedule several weeks to months out so they can be prioritized in schedules. Trainings being consistently offered promotes commitment to ongoing learning and communications organizational priority to fulfill training requirements.
- Make training more convenient for staff. Offering trainings during the times that staff regularly work is the best way to reaching the intended target audience for trainings. Trainings offered at times inconvenient to staff can lessen meaningful participation in training, and therefore, reduced retention of key learning concepts that do not translate to integration of practice.
Boys & Girls Club and Youth Center staff can learn more about building a Culture of Learning and building your Trauma-Informed staff practice in the full Culture of Learning Guide on BGCA.net. Don’t work at a BGCA-affiliated program? You can download these tips in a printable excerpt here.