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8 Ways to Boost Employee Development in Your Organization

Investing in employee development is mutually beneficial for both the employee and the employer.
A group of young people holds brainstorming in the office, working on employee development to boost retention.

The competitiveness of today’s candidate-driven hiring market is not looking like it will let up in 2020. HR professionals’ recruiting efforts have become an increasingly influential component when it comes to properly staffing a business, especially in niche fields that require specific expertise and credentials. A simple job post on a career page or LinkedIn listing is not going to cut it. 

Quality employees are not that easy to come by; it takes a lot of effort to source the right fit for your company. And job seekers are looking for more than a paycheck. It’s important for today’s workforce to feel connected to their employer on a deeper level. They will look to see what larger initiatives a company stands for, the things that go beyond selling or providing a product. Does your company value sustainability? Support diversity? Does your company give back to the community? All of these non-job related factors can greatly impact a potential candidate’s willingness to apply to your company. 

And once your company has officially converted a candidate into an employee, it can be just as difficult to keep them as it was to find them. Employees want to feel a personal connection to your company’s mission, but they also want to feel valued and recognized for their contributions. A 10-year, 200,000 person study done by O.C. Tanner Learning Group found that 79% of people who leave their jobs cite “lack of appreciation” for their reason for leaving. While there are many ways to show your employees your company values their input, investing in employee development can be mutually beneficial for both the employee and the employer. 

How employee development can help employee retention

The American Management Association notes that creating a learning and development environment will help boost employee retention by creating more engaged employees, better collaboration, increased morale, and better employee satisfaction. If employees feel like they are empowered to contribute and grow within in a company, they can be more committed to the long haul, compared to employees who don’t see growth opportunities. Recruiters, hiring managers, and team members alike don’t want to see a high potential peer or direct report leave the company, especially given it can impact their day-to-day in a direct way until a replacement is hired, on-boarded, and properly trained. Retaining quality employees can help with your company’s bottom line too, as replacing an employee can cost a business both time and money. 

Employee development programs can show that you company values not only what your employees contribute today, but also what they are capable of achieving in the future. So, when looking to reduce turnover and maintain the quality workforce you worked hard to develop, consider investing in employee career development. There are many ways to tackle employee learning. Keep your employees committed to your company and engaged in their work with these strategies.

1. Formal Mentorship Programs

While typically considered a program for greener employees, mentor relationships can help benefit individuals at any level within an organization. That being said, only about one in three organizations provide formal mentoring. 

Encourage employees to look to better their professional skill sets by leaning into your company’s business leaders and innovators. Match mentors and mentees based on areas that will encourage employees to step outside of their comfort zones. This can involve matching mentees with mentors from outside of their direct departments. It can also be a good idea to open up these kinds of relationships to more senior level staff. Director level employees, for example, could still benefit from a mentor relationship, especially if it is based on a connection outside of their expertise. Not only will this form of employee development program benefit the individuals, but it can also positively impact employee performance in relation to achieving overarching business goals as well as fostering better cross departmental collaboration. 

2. Career Mapping and Development Plans

Show employees there is a clear path for development at your company by utilizing career mapping and employee development plans. Train managers on how to properly set up development plans and create unified templates that the whole company can use. Ensure that individual objectives established within these career mapping sessions ladder up to larger, corporate goals. Empowering employees to support these business initiatives can tie their success to the business’ success. 

Task employees with outlining how they plan to support these larger goals with personal objectives and empower them to see their individual contributions through to a positive end result. Clearly defining a path for development can keep employees motivated to accomplish smaller goals along the road to an eventual promotion. Additionally, have an agreed upon path can come in handy when review periods come around.  

3. Constructive Review Processes 

It’s important to note that a formal review process should already be established before any piecemeal critiques on overall job performance are shared with an employee. If your company does not have a formal system in place, consider planning one out and communicating it out to the teams. Once a formal review series has been established, provide feedback that an employee can use to better their contributions. Try to provide feedback that an employee can take action on, versus sharing comments that are non-starters. Avoid making common mistakes that can come up throughout the review process. And focus on constructive matters that will help the employee grow as an individual contributor within your company.

The idea is to have employees leave a review feeling encouraged, even if there are improvements to be made. Help them develop and grow by providing feedback that they feel empowered to tackle. If an employee could use some professional development, point them to company employee trainings that could help them grow. 

4. Comprehensive Employee Training

Look to develop skillsets in and outside of an employee’s core work responsibilities. There are certain competency trainings that an employee needs in order to execute their duties, but today, employee trainings can extend beyond everyday job functions. Host training sessions that any department can attend. If the marketing department is learning about new social advertising guidelines open it up to everyone, as these best practices may impact other departments in an indirect way. Doing these kinds of sessions can also expose employees to new areas of the business and consequently broaden their interests without them having to leave your company to do so. 

Also consider inviting experts and leaders from outside of the company to host training sessions, as employees can find these kinds of learning opportunities especially beneficial. In fact, the 2018 Global Leadership Forecast found that when surveyed, the majority of high potentials at a company wanted access to external mentors more than any other development tool, beating out learning opportunities from their direct manager or peers.

5. Soft Skills Development

Communication is key when it comes to any employee’s individual success at any company. Help foster necessary skill sets with employee learning sessions that focus on corporate communication best practices. This might be a good opportunity to invite outside experts into the office. This can help establish a baseline for learning that removes any opportunities for company politics to cloud the message. 

Cover topics that might focus on equipping employees to promote better collaboration across different departments and share strategies for constructive problem solving or deescalating hot button issues. Empower your employees with the right communication tools to help them grow both personally and professionally. 

6. Lateral Movement and Cross-Departmental Exposure

Employee development does not have to be limited to climbing the corporate ladder within one’s established team structure. Expose employees to opportunities outside of their current role and team. As previously mentioned, one way to do this is to open up training sessions to all departments. Also noted above, consider mentorship programs that connect mentors with mentees from outside of their departments. Providing employees the opportunity to broaden their skill sets can show that your company is invested in their individual success. Allowing individuals exposure to other areas can widen their interests and open them up to growth opportunities that would not have been possible otherwise.

7. Work-Life Balance Coaching 

Employee happiness shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to overall employee development. An overworked employee may be hyper-focused on completing tasks instead of developing their strengths and improving upon their weaknesses. Encourage employees to seek a healthy balance between work and home life. There are various ways for an employer to support a healthy work balance. Offering flexible work policies can be one route—this benefit can be especially attractive to millennial workforces.

8. Employee Engagement Opportunities 

This employee development strategy depends on a little logic: the more engaged the employee, the more likely an employee will be to stick around and grow within your company—instead of looking for opportunity elsewhere. Keep employees engaged by rewarding both big and small wins. Recognize their contributions and foster an environment where their work is appreciated. Also, look to social media platforms to engage employees outside of the office. And think about hosting webinars that keep employees engaged in learning activities to help them grow outside of their direct position. 

Investing in your employees’ development is a direct investment in your company’s success. Developing an employee’s professional and personal skill sets can manifest higher functioning teams and bolster employee retention. Looking for more ways to retain your workforce in the year ahead? Consider enriching your company culture and be ready to make some changes to some boilerplate tactics with these tips.

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