A challenge to solve
Keeping kids engaged in education is an important task but it isn’t HEAF’s only job — they also have to make sure their staff are thriving and developing too. Staff feedback about professional development had worried Deirdre. “In exit interviews, a couple of staff said the need for professional development was one of their reasons for leaving,” Deidre explains. “So we did a staff survey to find out what they were thinking about and what they needed for their professional growth.”
It turns out that HEAF needed help to solve their HR problem that had come from a simple communication error. “A lot of our professional development was actually already in place, but staff weren’t seeing it that way – they thought learning was only in the classroom and weren’t thinking about mentoring, leadership opportunities, and external free training,” says Deirdre.
A skill shared
Last year, MetLife Foundation and MetLife employees helped to solve HEAF’s problem. MetLife Foundation teamed up with the Taproot Foundation to share the skills of employees with HEAF at a half-day event called an Opportunity Workshop.
MetLife Foundation worked with the Global Learning and Development team to identify the employees with the right skills to help HEAF out, and they came together at MetLife headquarters in New York City.
Holding on to talent
MetLife volunteer Emily Hacker, Senior Learning Consultant on the Global Learning & Development team, explains her involvement on the day: “One area of expertise in our team is professional development, so we were a perfect match for HEAF.
“HEAF wanted to find ways to improve the professional development they offer to their staff,” says Emily. “A lot of the staff are young – straight out of college – and they need the chance to grow and develop. HEAF wants to build a culture of growth and learning so they can attract and keep their young talent.”
Building a culture of learning
“The workshop was a brilliant day,” says Emily. “We all had breakfast together and then we got to work! We explored HEAF’s objectives and did a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis. Once we knew what we could do, we helped them figure out a plan.
“Our team extended its expertise in HR and professional development to HEAF, which was really rewarding. The workshop was just five hours long, but we managed to do a really quick but successful deep dive into their challenge. Most nonprofits can’t afford to hire a consultant, but we were able to help through volunteering our skills and knowledge. We made sure HEAF had all the resources and tools they needed to move forward.
“It was amazing helping them. We had a great chance to talk about what cultures of learning can look like, and how HEAF could look at their practices and behaviors and tweak those with the tools they already had. We got so much accomplished and it was really empowering for them to learn from corporate HR professionals.”
Deirdre reflects on the Opportunity Workshop. “We went into MetLife with a real challenge,” she says. “How could we change what our staff thought about their development? MetLife helped us come up with a mission statement, which says: ‘Learning at HEAF is continuous. Here, lifelong learning for our staff and young people is fostered and celebrated.’ Once we had that, a lot of things fell into place.
“The MetLife team was fantastic — they really kept us on task! They helped us put together an action plan and provided us with resources and tools we could use at low or no cost – perfect for our small budget. They also signed me up to five e-learning classes to help me improve my HR skills.
“We’ve changed so much since the workshop. We’ve changed our evaluation forms so staff can tell us what’s working and what they need, and introduced ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions with the whole team. We all come together and learn about a topic over lunch – it’s a great collaborative learning environment.
“HEAF is a great place to work and I’m happy our staff is feeling more positive. The evaluation forms and Lunch and Learn sessions are just the start of an even brighter future at HEAF.”