Tennessee Mid-Level Manager Professional Development Needs: Recommendations for Executive Directors

By Dr. Kristi Forman

Mid-level managers in nonprofit organizations need both management and leadership skills to be effective in their roles. However, there is evidence that there are deficits in both types of skills within the nonprofit sector. Understanding the current management competencies possessed and the deficient competencies were critical information for nonprofit executives to use when determining professional development needs for the organization. 2020 research conducted by Dr. Kristi Forman provides recommendations to executive directors regarding Tennessee mid-level manager professional development needs.

Focus on training employees rather than hiring those with management experience is recommended. The study showed that years of management experience had little effect on management competency proficiency. The model predicted that a one-year increase in management experience was correlated with a 0.016 unit increase in perceived skill.  Although the model was statistically significant, the predicted effect was minimal.

Focus on mid-level management professional development in information management, specifically focusing on training around the use of social media platforms. There was a deficiency in social media literacy among the group studied. Using social media to promote awareness of the organization was the most critical skill deficiency for the study sample, with only 37% of participants self-reporting proficiency.

Focus on mid-level management professional development in data management, specifically focusing on using data to make confident decisions. There was a deficiency in data literacy among the group studied. Identifying trends using data and avoiding prolonged uncertainty when making decisions had the lowest self-reported proficiency of the competencies that were grouped in the data management component. These two competencies go hand in hand when making data-driven decisions. Using data to identify trends can reduce uncertainty in decision making. Learning to use data to make decisions can be a daunting task for nonprofit mid-level managers, especially those new to their roles.

Utilize a variety of training methods. The use of a combination of consultants, webinars, and print resources can help reduce costs associated with training and development. One-on-one coaching, group activities, and discussions are beneficial, cost-effective ways of learning.


For a copy of the entire research study or to inquire about needs assessment services for your organization, please contact Dr. Kristi Forman at kristinjforman@gmail.com.