Career development and education are a big part of One Acre Fund’s mantra – we’re constantly looking for ways to help staff learn and grow in their jobs. That’s why Alexis Roehrich, a human capital development manager based in Rwanda, makes career enrichment her business. She sat down with recruiter Liz Sims to talk about One Acre Fund’s approach to training and mentorship.
Alexis Roehrich: While attending Smith College, I was an assistant at the executive education center for two years. It was an incredible learning experience. I got to learn a lot about business strategy, presentations, negotiations, and trainings. After I graduated, I got a job at the Brookings Institution to do executive education for the federal government. I liked the job and I liked the field, but I felt pretty disconnected from the end-product. I would coordinate one- or two-day sessions, but I never got to see the effect it had in the office or on the participants. That’s how I ended up at One Acre Fund. I wanted to do human capital training, and I also wanted to work in-house. I saw the One Acre Fund job posting, and I knew that this was my dream job. I never thought I’d move to Africa, but I thought, “I have to give this a shot.”
What does human capital development mean to you?
AR: We have an amazing staff, and I really enjoy getting to know them and helping them become the best professional versions of themselves. Leading trainings is such a high. After participating in a training, I hope people think, “I learned something today, I’m going to apply it to my job, and I will be better, our team will be better, and our impact will be better.”
I like to think about our approach to learning as falling into three buckets, something we call the 10-20-70 idea. With this approach, 10 percent of training comes from learning and self-study, 20 percent comes from mentorship, and 70 percent comes from on-the-job projects and stretch opportunities.
There are several ways in which this 10-20-70 approach manifests. For starters, we are building online and physical libraries so staff members have tons of written resources at their disposal. We’re also building regular professional development training opportunities, including a program that offers coaching opportunities for high-level staff. In addition, we’ve rolled out an intensive orientation program for all new hires that takes place every month at our headquarters in Bungoma, Kenya, and at our second-largest site in Rubengera, Rwanda.
Training diverse staff
AR: We have a diverse staff coming from around the globe, with a wide range of educational backgrounds and specialties, so tailor-making training for everyone can be challenging. We start by doing comprehensive needs assessments to get ideas and make sure trainings match each audience. Right after a training session, we ask for feedback. A few weeks later, we reach out to managers and ask, “Have you seen improvement?” Then we use this feedback to shape our trainings in the future.
How will career development change as One Acre Fund grows?
AR: The biggest adjustments will happen as we integrate technology and partnerships into our program. One example of new technology is the tablets we’re using now to make data collection more efficient. We’re also looking to form more educational partnerships. Long-term, we may consider partnering with East African universities to provide graduate or undergraduate opportunities to staff. More of these opportunities will come up as we expand.
Overall, I think it’s really incredible the extent to which One Acre Fund already values and seeks to invest in staff development. Everyone in the organization cares a lot about career development. There is always help and ideas coming from all over. It’s nice to know that it’s not just my team working towards this, but rather people on every team.