July 2018
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TD Magazine

Engaging With Learning on a Low Budget

Highly engaged nonprofits are more likely to encourage learners to collaborate and lead their own learning.

What's the best way to engage employees on limited funds? Many nonprofits face this challenge, which Towards Maturity examines in Engaged Learners: Great Performance With Minimum Resources. The report notes that about one-quarter of nonprofits have highly engaged staff, while 76 percent of nonprofits suffer from what is considered low engagement.

According to the report, highly engaged organizations are more likely to use tools that enable employees to interact and engage with their learning—and many of these tools do not require a large budget. Half of these organizations, for instance, offer user-generated content, as opposed to a quarter of organizations with low engagement. Forty-five percent of highly engaged nonprofits


have a platform where tutors or learners can post and comment on blogs, compared with just 26 percent of low-engagement organizations. Open education resources and digital materials, such as content from Wikipedia and TED Talks, are a popular option for all, but they also are more likely to be found at highly engaged organizations (77 percent) than low-engaged ones (61 percent).

Highly engaged organizations also tend to encourage employees to take responsibility for their learning and are more likely than organizations with low engagement to involve learners in the design of the most appropriate learning approach (29 percent compared with 22 percent). This has been shown to be effective: ATD's research report Personalized and Adaptive Learning: Shaping Employee Development for Engagement and Performance found that creating personal development plans for employees is correlated to market performance and learning effectiveness—and it gives employees a chance to shape their learning.

The Towards Maturity report notes that more than one-third of highly engaged nonprofit organizations encourage learners to solve problems together (which just 15 percent of low-engaged nonprofits do). Highly engaged nonprofits also tend to use available support systems to promote self-reliance rather than a culture of dependency. Regardless of the resources available, empowering workers to lead their own learning is an excellent—and inexpensive—way to foster engagement.

About the Author

Shauna Robinson is a research analyst at the Association for Talent Development (ATD), where she prepares surveys, analyzes data, and writes research reports and short case studies. Her previous positions at ATD include human capital specialist and communities of practice coordinator.

Prior to working for ATD, Shauna was a senior editorial assistant at Wiley in San Francisco, California. Shauna received a bachelor’s degree in English from UC Berkeley, and she is currently attending the University of Connecticut remotely to obtain a master's degree in survey research.

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