A group of women sit and look at laptops.

How This Senior HR Director Got Her Nonprofit Excited About Learning & Development

For more than three decades, Achēv, a Toronto-based nonprofit, has provided employment, newcomer, language, youth, women, and inclusion services to those in need. Offering these services is no small feat, and requires a robust, dedicated staff that has roughly doubled in headcount in just a few years.

Marwa Gamil, Senior Director of Human Resources, joined Achēv in June 2022, just on the heels of this organizational growth. One of the first things she was tasked with was crafting a learning and development (L&D) strategy for Achēv’s growing workforce. Marwa wanted to develop a meaningful, quick way to upskill and reskill staff members during this time of internal change, while also building employee excitement around long-term professional development.

“We needed something that was generalized enough that everyone could use it, but also personalized enough that it fit individual needs,” she says. “It needed to be very general but very specific.”

This vision eventually led Marwa to research and later adopt LinkedIn Learning as a cornerstone of her L&D strategy – a decision that has been warmly received by Achēv staff across all levels.

Building a learning and developing program for a growing nonprofit staff

Right from the start, Marwa decided she didn’t want Achēv’s L&D program to focus exclusively on providing employees with the skills they need for their current roles. Instead, she designed the organization’s L&D program to support employees’ development of short-and-long-term career skills that they could use in their current and future roles.  

“That’s a big part of why I’m very passionate about learning and development,” Marwa explains. “We all keep moving in and out of companies and organizations throughout our careers, and every time you leave, you give back everything you were given — except what you learned.”

To encourage employees to invest in their long-term professional development, in addition to their current needs, Marwa encourages Achēv’s staff to use LinkedIn Learning for role-based training – but as a resource to learn anything else they’re interested in.

“When I sent out that first email explaining what LinkedIn Learning is, and the minimum hours I was expecting everyone to use it, I also explained how much more they could use it,” she recalls. “I mentioned that there were over two thousand learning opportunities and encouraged everyone to go bananas, and learn whatever they wanted to learn.”

This outreach, and overall approach to L&D, has proven incredibly successful, with employees spending much more than the mandatory 2 hours a month on LinkedIn Learning. In fact, from May - August 2023, Achēv employees completed over 4,800 LInkedIn Learning videos, leading to 220 total LinkedIn Learning Course completions over a 90-day period.

“I wasn’t expecting to see as much as I’ve seen, and I was even more surprised that, even though I assigned them some topics as a start, people were searching out and watching and learning everything,” she says. “People are really making the most of it.”

Advice for other nonprofits: “Developing your people shows them that you really care”

Based on her own success adopting LinkedIn Learning, Marwa has four helpful pieces of advice for any nonprofit organization wanting to get their employees excited about L&D: 

  1. Provide all learners with opportunities to develop both hard and soft skills: “Our teams really like how specialized the courses are [on LinkedIn Learning]. For instance, the IT teams have a full program they’re using to learn some very technical things. But at the same time, there are also soft skills available to learn. So people on our teams have been looking up supplementary skills they don’t even ‘need,’ just to learn them. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by that.”

  2. Focus on developing the whole person, not just the role: “You only grow if your team is growing. Developing your people shows them that you really care – not just about achieving goals, but about them as people. No one wants to be the same every day, they want to grow and evolve.”

  3. Give your learners the “gift” to explore their own interests: “Organizations always plan learning initiatives based on what they think people should know, but that doesn’t give space for people to go in and learn what they want – when you have a platform like [LinkedIn Learning], you give them the gift to explore their interests in addition to what you need from them.”

  4. Lean into your support resources: Throughout the build-out of her L&D strategy, Marwa has been utilizing the LinkedIn Learning team as active partners: “The LinkedIn team reached out, not for sales, but for support. They asked us, ‘What’s going on,’ ‘How can we help,’ and ‘Let us understand your needs better.’ As much as having the actual training on the platform, it’s been important to have that kind of support and understanding from LinkedIn as a partner.”

To learn more about how you can follow Marwa’s advice and get your own nonprofit excited about learning and development, get in touch today.