You want to develop the leaders at your company, but you have a limited training budget. Is it possible?

One nonprofit, Open Arms Care Corporation in Chattanooga, developed a process that allows the organization to grow its leaders while keeping training expenses low. I had the opportunity to work with this innovative organization and I was so impressed with their creativity in keeping development costs to a minimum while not sacrificing on the value delivered to their leaders.

Here is an overview of the system, developed by Executive Director Lisa King. You can use it as a guide to develop leaders at your own organization without spending more than your budget allows.

The leadership development system requires leaders to earn a certain number of leadership credits, which can be earned in a variety of ways, many of which don’t require any time or money from the organization. This is good because it requires employees to document and keep up with their own training. Employees who have ownership for their training generally retain more of what they learn during the process.

An internal document explaining the process makes it clear that learning and development is a career-long commitment and that all members of management must seek a “continuous learning and development philosophy while employed at OAC”.

Here are some questions to ask about your company: Does my organization have a leadership and development philosophy? If so, what is it and how is the philosophy demonstrated by the company. If there isn’t one, how can one be developed and implemented to fit your training budget?

At Open Arms Care, each year, leaders are required to renew their leadership qualifications by submitting their fulfilled requirements.  For Open Arms requirements are based on the level of leadership:

  • Assistant managers and coordinators have to do 20 credit hours;
  • leaders have to do 30 credit hours; and
  • directors have to do 50 credit hours.

The Open Arms Care system has six development categories:

  1. Continuing education and personal development. This includes courses, seminars, conferences, relevant books.
  2. Instruction, which includes providing instruction to other team members in specific leadership competencies and skills.
  3. On-the-job experience. This includes first-time work experience.
  4. Research and publishing.
  5. Leadership. Community-based volunteering and other leadership outside the workplace.
  6. Professional membership. Local, state, national or international associations that are related to job responsibilities or career goals.

The documentation also includes guidelines for calculating credit. For example, employees can earn five credit hours for each leadership book read. And they can earn three credits per membership with an association.

Leadership development is something that many organizations handle themselves and can often be costly. But this process developed by Open Arms Care shows that it’s possible to develop leaders without spending a lot of money. This is great news for organizations, including nonprofits, that have small budgets.

Additional training resources:

There are two other low cost/free options that weren’t mentioned in the Open Arms case study: videos on the internet.  Great leadership topics can be found on the TEDx and YouTube video websites.  I encourage you to use these resources as well.

What do you think about the way OAC handles employee leadership development? What other inexpensive methods can be incorporated into a leadership development plan?