Building a learning, training, and development strategy

A learning, training, and development strategy is crucial for the growth and long-term success of your organization and its employees. A well-designed strategy helps foster a culture of continuous improvement, develop employee skills, and enhance overall organizational effectiveness. This article will provide insights, examples, rationale, and tips on developing a comprehensive learning, training, and development strategy tailored for nonprofit organizations in Canada.

Align with your organization’s mission, vision, and values

Aligning your learning, training, and development strategy with your organization’s mission, vision, and values helps create a sense of purpose and direction, promoting employee engagement and motivation. It ensures that the training efforts support your organization’s broader goals and its impact on the community it serves.


Before implementing a learning, training, and development strategy, establish clear goals and measurable outcomes that align with your organization’s mission, values, and goals. These could include improving employee performance, increasing job satisfaction, or addressing employee retention. Establishing clear metrics for success will allow you to assess your strategy LTD over time and make necessary adjustments.

Conduct a strategic review

Review your organization’s strategic plan, including its mission statement/vision and goals, to ensure your organization’s objectives, strengths, and weaknesses are accounted for in your learning, training, and development strategy. Involve key stakeholders, including board members, staff, and, as applicable, volunteers, in the review process to gain diverse perspectives.

Identify key roles and responsibilities

Clearly define your organization’s roles and responsibilities, ensuring you capture the specific skills and knowledge required for each role. This will help ensure all tasks are covered, and the organization functions efficiently. Create and/or update your organizational chart, which should outline your organization’s roles, responsibilities, and reporting relationships.

You can read more about job analysis in our Recruitment, Selection, and Onboarding section.

Example: A Canadian nonprofit supporting Indigenous communities might include training programs emphasizing cultural awareness, reconciliation, and community-based approaches to align with its mission and values.

Consult with Canadian experts, community members, or partners to better understand the unique cultural context and regional nuances when aligning your strategy with your organization’s mission, vision, and values.

Assess organizational needs and skills gaps

Assessing your organization’s needs and skills gaps will help you prioritize training efforts and allocate your resources effectively. This step includes identifying areas where employees may require additional support or development to meet the organization’s objectives and the employee’s desired learning outcomes.

Begin by conducting a skills and competencies inventory, asking staff and volunteers to self-assess their skills and experience in key areas. Use a standardized skills assessment tool or survey to collect consistent data across your organization.

Examples of skills assessment tools include:

  • CliftonStrengths: Identifies an individual’s top 34 strengths/talents; useful for team-building and professional development.
  • SkillsProfiler: Customizable online skills inventory; helps identify skills gaps and inform training plans.
  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): Evaluates personality preferences; improves team dynamics and communication.
  • 360-Degree Feedback: Comprehensive performance feedback from multiple sources; informs development and performance management.
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Assessments: Measures emotional intelligence skills; identifies strong interpersonal skills and areas for improvement.
  • DiSC Profile: Assesses work style and interaction; helps improve teamwork, communication, and conflict resolution.

Example: A Canadian nonprofit working in the healthcare sector might identify a need for training in the latest telehealth technologies to provide remote services to rural and remote communities.

Develop a comprehensive learning plan

Create a comprehensive learning plan that includes individualization while meeting broader learning goals. Your goal is to provide employees with well-rounded training that addresses current and future skill requirements and enables your organization to adapt to changing landscapes.

Take the results of your strategic review (organizational needs) and skills assessments (individual employee needs), analyze gaps, and plan to address them.

Tips to help you develop a successful learning plan

  • Prioritize learning objectives: Focus resources on critical skills gaps and high-priority objectives to maximize individual and organizational performance.
  • Group employees with similar needs: Organize cost-effective group training sessions or workshops for employees with similar learning needs and create cohorts for collaborative learning.
  • Leverage existing resources: Utilize free or low-cost online training platforms and promote knowledge sharing through internal workshops, mentoring, or peer-to-peer training.[JN1] 
  • Use a blended learning approach: Combine online courses, instructor-led training, and self-paced learning to create a flexible and cost-effective learning plan.
  • Create customizable learning paths: Allow employees to choose courses or modules relevant to their needs, ensuring alignment with the organization’s learning objectives.
  • Incorporate Canadian-specific content: Leverage local resources, such as Canadian trainers, educational institutions, or industry partners.

Example: A Canadian environmental nonprofit might offer training programs on Canadian environmental regulations, Indigenous knowledge systems, and collaboration with local stakeholders.

Foster a learning culture

Fostering a learning culture within your organization encourages employees to take ownership of their professional development and continuously improve their skills. This leads to higher employee engagement, satisfaction, and overall performance in the Canadian context. A learning culture can help your organization adapt and respond to changing needs.

Tips for fostering a learning culture

  • Leadership commitment: Involve organizational leaders in learning initiatives to set the tone and demonstrate the importance of continuous learning. Encourage leaders to share their learning experiences, promote learning initiatives, and allocate resources for employee development.
  • Encourage knowledge sharing: Create opportunities for employees to exchange information, ideas, and experiences with their peers. Implement regular "lunch and learn" sessions or create an internal platform for sharing resources and best practices.
  • Offer diverse learning opportunities: Provide a variety of learning formats to cater to different learning styles and preferences. Leverage free or low-cost online learning resources and offer access to workshops, conferences, and in-house training programs.
  • Mentoring and coaching programs: Establish structured knowledge transfer and skill development programs through mentor-mentee relationships. Train and support mentors/coaches and regularly assess the effectiveness of mentoring relationships.
  • Celebrate and reward learning: Acknowledge and recognize employees' learning achievements to create a positive learning environment. Use newsletters, team meetings, or social media to highlight learning achievements and inspire others.
  • Set clear learning objectives: Align individual learning goals with the organization's strategic objectives and employees' career aspirations. Include learning objectives in performance evaluations and encourage employees to self-assess their progress.
  • Provide time and resources for learning: Ensure employees have the necessary time and resources to pursue learning opportunities. Allocate specific work time for learning activities and provide a budget for professional development opportunities, if possible.
  • Promote a growth mindset: Encourage a mentality that embraces challenges and views mistakes as learning opportunities. Provide training on growth mindset and its benefits and integrate this concept into performance evaluations. View this TED Talk on growth mindset by Carol Dweck.

Example: Encourage employees to attend conferences, workshops, or webinars relevant to their field to stay informed about the latest trends and best practices in the Canadian nonprofit sector.

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