3 best practices for employee development


I recently had the opportunity with ATD to host a webcast focused on deepening the employee experience. When participants registered for the webcast, they were asked two questions:

1. Is employee development a strategic goal for you? 89.5% said yes.

2. What is most important to you at work? Growth opportunities and a clear career path were at the top of the list.

For me the most interesting part of the session was when the questions came up after my presentation. What advice did I have on implementing these best practices when institutional or cultural barriers prevented me?

Some thoughts I shared:

  • Be strategic in how you deploy your human resources initiatives.
  • Lead with data to help people understand that if we don’t invest in people and their growth, they will walk away and link your initiatives to business results.
  • Don’t feel like you have to boil the ocean right from the start. Start small with experience and see organic growth as people get involved in what you do.

Here are some other best practices to better connect our learning and development programs to create deeper employee experiences:

1. Use structured conversations to find out what motivates your employees the most.

Structured conversations help you better understand what motivates people and what really matters to them. This could be a checklist, calendar, script, or template that helps people lead a conversation that might be difficult, conversations that might otherwise be emotionally charged, or personal information or dealing with complex information or processes.

To help managers, we have developed a set of career driver files for this purpose. The goal: to provide tools for a structured and meaningful career development conversation. In this exercise, employees first prioritize their unique career motivations and then discuss how each driver is fulfilled in their current role. This provides managers with an empathetic view of where a person is and what makes them tick, then highlights areas that aren’t working and need to be addressed.

2. Identify and provide growth opportunities towards their career Everest.

When you give employees the opportunity to dream and talk about where they want to be safe, they are exposing their vision or “Career Everest”. Knowing this vision helps take learning to a new place. It is not about programs or certifications, but about their vision of their career. Knowing about this Everest career provides the context that makes learning content meaningful, relevant and actionable.

To put this into practice, you can use Career Driver Cards or other structured conversation tools to help employees identify their long-term vision and identify the skills they need to get there. This allows for conversations to be held about the skills that will help them improve in their role now, and which are also part of their long term vision. It’s these types of growth conversations that drive higher performance and better engagement because your employees feel like you are invested in them and their vision for the future.

3. Provide feedback in a psychologically safe environment.

Ask, “Can I give you some feedback? Usually inspires fear or panic. But he doesn’t have to feel that way. Psychological safety comes when team members feel they can take risks and be vulnerable with each other. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it is crucial for successful teams according to Google. What are the conditions that drive the connection and drive this security?

There are several things managers can do to facilitate psychological safety, including:

  • invite participatory leadership: give people a voice on their teams’ priorities
  • provide opportunities for autonomy in the things people have
  • define individual roles or role clarity – what is the team relying on me for?
  • warm look (teams spending time together and having fun together).

Employee records are the perfect platform for psychological safety and feedback. Using a shared agenda provides transparency that goes a long way in building trust.


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