3 new approaches to improve employee development


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Professional development budgets are no longer an optional benefit but rather an expectation. If companies want to attract and retain the best talent, they must prioritize and commit to their development. The biggest myth of employee development is that it requires a significant financial investment.

Small businesses and startups often don’t have the learning and development budget to invest in their people. It’s not that they don’t understand the importance, but because they are strapped for cash. This forces companies to be creative in how they invest in the growth of their employees. Employers who offer development opportunities show that they value their employees and want them to be successful.

Gartner conducted a recent investigation with over 7,000 workers asking them to self-assess their mastery of their skills. 80% of those surveyed admitted that they did not have both the skills needed for their current job and their future career. When employees don’t feel like they’re learning and growing, they start looking for new opportunities. This leads to companies losing their top talent to their biggest competitors.

Here are 3 new ways businesses, from startups to large organizations, are investing in the development of their employees to keep them engaged and loyal.

Encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing

Besides traditional webinars, book recommendations, and lectures, there are a plethora of resources available that require little to no personal expense. The availability of free, low-cost online learning programs through sites such as Udemy and Coursera gives individuals the education they need to improve their skills at their own pace. Employers also benefit from reduced training costs.

However, according to LinkedIn’s Workforce Learning Report 2018, 68% of employees prefer to learn on the job, gaining knowledge from their manager and peers. Sacha Ferrandi, founder and director of Texas hard money and Source Capital Funding says, “Creating an environment that fosters learning is one of the best ways to foster professional development. The new generation of workers wants to be more involved in the learning process. To adapt, cCompanies are rethinking their development initiatives to focus more on coaching and collaborative learning.

Slack is a powerful tool that encourages organic sharing, cohesive communication, and collaboration. Designating a Slack or communications channel where the team shares best practices, articles, podcasts, videos, and resources to help each other out is a free and easy way to spread knowledge. It also helps bring the team together by working collaboratively with each other instead of competing against each other.

Peer coaching is a great way to merge between departments. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. Ivelice Thomas, CEO of HR and beyond, says: “Pairing less tenured or experienced employees with more experienced or experienced employees creates opportunities for observation, information sharing and relationship building. To have an impact, leaders must stay involved in the process to help develop the permanent employee to become an effective coach and mentor to the inexperienced.

Pairing employees from different departments, also known as cross-training, is another effective way to expose employees to new skills and new areas of interest across the company. The knowledge gained by employees helps them better understand how the business works as a whole, helping them find more purpose in their own role.

Use of internal resources for informal workshops

Companies often overlook the diversity of skills that their own employees bring. Each employee has specific expertise as well as unique abilities, passions and ideas. Leaders who prioritize creating hands-on experience that gives their employees the chance to present their knowledge helps them grow exponentially.

Rather than relying on external resources, leaders can draw on their own internal talents. Giving employees the opportunity to contribute enhances their own knowledge while instilling in them a sense of purpose. Leaders who encourage their employees to share their knowledge help them show others what they are passionate about.

Employees who share similar skills can also team up to create a training session that combines what they both bring into an educational experience for all. If the goal is to create more community, leaders may choose to bring together teams of people from the same department or from different departments to work together to create and distribute a training session for everyone.

Instead of formal and intense conferences, companies are finding informal ways to deliver value to their employees to stay active while learning. Bethan Vincent, Marketing Director at Netsells Group, shares a new approach they introduced that helped transfer internal knowledge.

Vincent says: “Every Wednesday at lunchtime, we host internal staff-led discussions where we share best practices and allow staff members to share their expertise. Recent discussions have included web development for newbies, learning how to execute an agile software development process, and even discussions from their CFO about how pensions work. She says they even invite outside speakers on occasion.

Harsha Reddy, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Little genius of the trade, takes full advantage of his company’s internal resources to create informal workshops. Reddy says his team is mostly writers, so every Monday they host a “Monday with your editor” workshop covering a variety of topics. Some of the topics covered are writing tips and tricks, SEO, marketing techniques, and doing 5 minute exercises to write a compelling headline.

Stretch skills through mentorship and partnership

Companies often think that in order to develop their employees, they need to invest heavily in external resources and programs. Where companies often fail in this area is once they invest in resources that they disengage from employee tracking during and after. Without follow-up, leaders do not evaluate what they have learned. This creates a gap to help them find the connection and give them ideas on how what they have learned can be implemented in their position.

To improve this, leaders can have debriefing sessions where they talk about the knowledge they have gained from trainings, courses or webinars. Together, they can find ways to apply it to their current role or how it fits into their department or their business as a whole. They can then assign extended projects that develop their skills and knowledge while providing training to help them better understand other areas of the business in a way that they can still contribute productively.

Helen McPherson, Senior Consultant at McPherson Consulting Group, says the real value is that leaders give employees time. Leaders are rich in knowledge that they have accumulated during their careers. Investing their time to disseminate it to their team is not only profitable, but it fosters engagement, increases loyalty and improves development.

Leaders who take the time to sit down with their employees to understand their professional goals can help them create a plan to achieve them. Not only will their manager serve as an accountability partner, but they will also be able to provide consistent advice, resources, and feedback to ensure they are on track to meet their goals.

If employees express interest in taking a high-level position or pursuing entrepreneurship, leaders can embrace it by creating projects or assigning tasks that prepare their skills for future growth. Adam Beveridge, founder of Hollabox, understands that his employees have goals that extend beyond their position. For example, currently he mentors a software development intern for an hour each week to teach her about startups, key terminology and how to get investments.

These simple and effective approaches have proven invaluable, regardless of the size of the business. From startups to businesses, they all share one thing, employees are their greatest asset and taking the time to invest in their development shows how much you value them. Employees who feel valued are more productive, happy and engaged.



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