Employee Growth

Investing in your employees’ growth is more than providing raises and promotions. The goal is to find out what’s important to each person on your team and give them ways to develop in those areas. According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2015, millennials valued training and development more than any other job perk, including flexible hours and cash bonuses. Employees’ values in the workplace are shifting now more than ever. Investing in their growth within your company helps retain and engage your staff.

Even teams with fewer resources can build out a plan for employee growth. Focus on what you have available, like experienced senior staff and learning resources, to design your approach. The only thing that every company must have is the desire to help their employees grow. The rest is unique to you.

Why invest in employees’ growth?

Growth opportunities at work have a direct correlation with retention. A 2016 study by Deloitte showed that 71% of employees who wanted to leave in the next two years show dissatisfaction with developing their leadership skills in the workplace. 63% of all people surveyed noted that these skills were not being fully developed. That means over half of all employees were dissatisfied with their development, and some of the most likely to leave cited it as a reason.

Investing in your employees’ growth pays off by:

  1. Creating talent you can promote
  2. Reducing turnover rates
  3. Staying up-to-date in your industry

Create promotable talent

When you need someone for a new leadership role, promoting internally is often safer than hiring externally. Internal promotions give your team an opportunity they can strive for well, encouraging them to develop their skills. While promotions are not the end-all-be-all goal of growth, they do provide an incentive. You know how someone performs when faced with pressure, new challenges, collaborative projects. Investing in the development and training of your staff prepares them for these roles. Then, you reduce the time and effort needed to fill openings.

Reduce turnover rates

Speaking of training time, hiring new employees is a time and resource-heavy endeavor. Not only do you have to consider the direct costs incurred by your team’s latest addition, but also the lost productivity and project time from the rest of your team. Often, new hires will ask why they’re hiring for the position in the interview process and will be apprehensive of companies with high turnover rates. On the other hand, if you create a team with high retention rates and job satisfaction, they will advocate for your company and funnel higher quality talent into your team.

Stay current in your industry

Your team’s overall skills are not as critical as their ability to learn. Every industry will experience significant changes in its technology and knowledge over time. Rather than making sure your team knows today’s industry, prepare them to continually step outside of their comfort zone and learn new skills. This way, they’ll be on the lookout for new insights and techniques that help you stay ahead rather than trying to catch up with the inevitable change.

How to design your plan

Naturally, helping your employees and their personal development benefits them as well as the company. However, when you design your plan to help, you need to structure it around your employee. Remember that even though it benefits the rest of the team, the goal is to know what’s important to each person and find a harmonious way to structure their learning plan.

Start with a survey asking your employees about their interests. You can include areas like technology, current events, and even their interests outside of work. See what they’re passionate about, even if it doesn’t seemingly have anything to do with their work life. For example, consider a team member who enjoys playing music in their free time. You may not have many opportunities for them to play guitar at work. Still, they may want extra training on public speaking or presentations to become a better performer outside of work. Then, you get a person who’s invested in their job and trained for opportunities like presentations for clients.

The critical component to an employee development plan is consistency. Set regular training schedules, be consistent in your promises, and encourage feedback from your employees so you can improve. If your mission statement says that you value learning, but it’s difficult in practice, employees will become disillusioned with the gap between your words and our actions. Pay employees for their training time and make sure that there’s room in their schedule to do it. The benefits for you are worth far more than the initial investment.

What to include in your plan

Ultimately, what you include in your employee development plan depends on your available resources. Some of these may be obvious, like your training budget and existing programs. Others may be less apparent but equally beneficial. Take into consideration some of the following factors.

1.   Software

First, look at the software your organization uses. Often, the technology you use has knowledge base certification courses that employees can use to boost their experience. They also develop a higher level of proficiency in the software you already use, which increases their productivity and helps them train newer team members. As their overall skill level rises, so will their confidence, and they will be more prepared to take on new challenges.

2.   Talent

Next, take a look at who you have in your organization. For example, you may have a team member who worked in event planning for a previous job to train newer staff in that skill. Consider having your team fill out a survey about their strengths and what skills they’d like to learn. Then, you can match your more experienced staff with those looking to learn their skills in a mentorship program. This also builds a collaborative dynamic that encourages your team to work together when approaching the new subject matter.

3.   Industry

Your resources are not limited to what you have as a company. Take a look at how the leaders in your industry get ahead. Are there networking events that you can send your team to? Are there mentorship opportunities outside of your business? Have your employees identify their main professional goals and someone they can look up to in the industry. Then, they can understand how they got to their place and ways to replicate their success in a way that works for them. Letting your team identify their opportunities builds trust within your organization and their investment in professional growth.

Ideas for investing in your employees’ growth

Now that you’ve got the fundamentals start planning out exactly how your growth plan will look. This should include a list of how you will train your employees and what kind of structure it will take. Apart from the training, imagine ways your team can put their skills to use. Here are a couple of ideas that you can incorporate into your employee growth plans.

1.   Create a training “menu”

While it’s important to let people drive most of their own training initiatives, you will need to create its overall structure. For example, once your employee has identified their training goals, use these to build a calendar and resource “menu” for their plan. You could let them choose one training goal per month and the tools they’ll use to reach it. This could include courses available through your team’s software, mentorship opportunities, events, and projects. Make this list of resources readily available to whoever wants to learn. This way, you can vet the resources they’ll use for quality and steer them towards the best options.

2.   Set challenging goals

The point of learning a new skill is to apply it. Though certifications matter, you want to see the results of their unique knowledge in action. Have management sit down with their team members and identify ways to use their new skills in their department. These goals should be challenging and involve resources that they have not used before. Take a moment to plan out who they can go to for help and what resources are available if they get stuck. The best opportunities for these projects are low risk and high reward. Ensure that there is room for failure and that it’s documented and used to add to the learning experience if or when it happens. Even knowing what doesn’t work helps you find out what does.

3.   Offer cross-departmental collaboration

Some employees don’t want to stay in their niche forever. If they’re looking at a career change, help them explore their options within your company. For example, if you have a software developer who would like to learn some marketing, consider letting them sit in with your marketing team and participate in some of their projects. By now, you can trust that they have a learning mindset if they’ve been following through on their personal development goals. Regardless of whether they choose to stay with your company long-term, their experience will be a positive one. If you need a new marketing team member, you already have one on hand. Or, if they do leave, they will advocate for your company’s growth culture.

4.   Think with a long-term plan

Remember when you asked your employees to identify their long-term goals? Here’s where that comes into play. When you structure out each month’s activities, set them up to build on each other and culminate in the skillset they want. For example, if somebody wants to become a manager, identify which skills they’ll need and what software they’ll have to use. Then, break down month by month goals starting with the most straightforward and approachable tasks. Over time, include progressively more challenging goals until they have the skillset and experience required for a management role.

5.   Demonstrate your trust

Learning is not a straightforward process. There is no instance in which people will not make mistakes. What matters is that when mistakes are made, the person does their best to learn from them and make sure it will not happen again. If you have the skills that an employee is looking to grow and notice that something is wrong, put yourself first in their place and imagine how you can turn this into a constructive conversation. However, if the risks are low, allow the employee to learn on their own and ask questions that make them think about their choices. Most importantly, do not hover over your staff as they build their knowledge. Trust that they are doing the best they can and that by hiring them, you saw that they would add value to your company.

Closing thoughts

Employees invest themselves in companies that invest in them. Show genuine interest in your staff and you’ll create a company culture that attracts top talent. Not only will you see benefits such as lowering turnover rates and creating talent that you can promote, but you’ll create a reputation as a great place to work. Even without significant financial resources, you can still find ways to show interest in your employees’ lives in and outside of work.

Expert management sets an example that the rest of your team can follow. Some examples of who can help include fractional CMOs, fractional COOs, and small business advisors. A fractional CMO or COO assists on a part-time basis as a c-suite professional so you can get the knowledge and leadership your team needs without the commitment of a full-time addition. A fractional COO or fractional CMO uses their knowledge to mentor your staff and create procedures designed for your company’s growth.

While the goal of this endeavor is to help your employees learn, remember that part of learning is using their skills. You invited each of these individuals to be part of your team because you saw something valuable in them. Even when things don’t go as planned, show the trust you have in your employees by allowing them to experiment in structured ways and learn from their mistakes. Eventually, this experience will mean far more than what they could have learned without applying what they know in the real world. The result? Talent that carries your company further.

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