At the core of a company’s success is the knowledge held by its employees. Providing a culture that nurtures increased employee growth through knowledge acquisition can prove to be one of the greatest returns on investment and organization can make.
The goal of this article is to discuss Employee Growth: Providing a Rewarding Environment for Your People. The following initiatives can make up the components of growth that so many employees seek.
What is considered employee growth?
Growth for an employee can be as individualistic as each employee. We each are seeking a specific experience that is personal to us. Companies that work to understand our individual needs and support this growth will benefit from the improved engagement that we exhibit and the knowledge that we are able to leverage.
Finding the Individual Activity best suited for each employee
One of the best ways of identifying the activity that may most benefit an employee is to engage the individual employee in a dialogue about growth. The following are a sample of:
- Attend an industry conference: Conferences can be expensive due to travel and conference fees, however, attendance with an agenda for your employee can result in an enriching experience. Conferences may not meet the learning styles of all employees, though for many individuals this may be a great environment for them to get exposed to new ideas and concepts and to engage in rich dialogue with industry experts. Employees will likely return with a new level of enthusiasm and engagement towards their daily work. The insights and ideas they gain can quickly be applied to your business.
- Certification in a discipline: Nearly every discipline imaginable now has a certification that can be earned to demonstrate proficiency in a specific subject area. Certifications are should be very desirable by companies as they exhibit a commitment from an employee to improving their proficiency in a subject. This proficiency benefits the company and can provide a quick return on the investment. Additionally, employees feel supported by their company as these investments are made (improving employee engagement. Some leaders may fear that an employee takes these skills elsewhere. While this is certainly a risk and concern, in most cases the company will recoup their investment quickly and the goodwill created with the employee can prove very valuable
- Educational Assistance: With educational assistance, a company commits to reimbursement of degreed programs that can benefit the employee and company.
- Stretch Assignment: For some employees and situations placing an individual in a role that stretches their skills and competencies can result in greatly improved knowledge in a short period of time. Employees who are up for the challenge will appreciate the company taking the chance on them.
- Mentorship Program: Mentorship arrangements can be informal or formal. Many employees enjoy and/or can benefit from a mentorship relationship with someone who is in a position or discipline that the employee wishes to work towards. Not all mentorship programs need to be with an individual under this type of scenario. What is key about a mentorship arrangement is that both parties are actively and willingly engaged in the relationship focused on the development of the mentee in ways that are not likely occurring with the mentee’s supervisor.
- Coaching: Sometimes an individual can benefit from one-one-coaching by a subject matter expert in the business on a particular skill or knowledge area (e.g. providing a leader with coaching on giving presentations from a more skilled person inside the organization).
- Listening to Podcast: Podcasts are a great way to get exposed to new knowledge and insights in a short amount of time. Podcasts are often arranged in series that address learning on a new subject over a period of time.
- Following a Blog: Encouraging employees to find blogs by leaders in the field that they are interested in will gradually build their knowledge in new areas. These are usually free and only involve the time commitment by the employee.
- Professional Membership: Most disciplines have professional membership organizations that an employee can join. A discussion should occur with each employee to uncover specific areas of interest they have and potential organizations that they should look to become members of. These organizations can provide a wealth of learning including podcasts, blogs, webinars, publications, conferences, specific training, etc.
- Webinars: Webinars have become an increasingly popular way to exchange knowledge. Webinars tend to be more formalized and one-way as opposed to listening in on podcasts and often exhibit characteristics of distance learning. An added benefit of webinars is that the content is often shared, allowing for further review or future reference.
- External Workshops: Colleges, organizations, and others often conduct workshops that can be attended (varying from 4 hours to multiple days). These external workshops usually provide learnings that can be applied across varied businesses. Seeking out workshops that can provide learnings/insights into a problem the organization is facing can be a very valuable investment into a particular employee
- Managing a Project: Many individuals have the skills and competencies to run an actual project. This can be a great learning opportunity for the right person and provide them with a feeling of great contribution to the organization.
- Team Member on a Project: Many people thrive on the ability to contribute to the organization in a team setting outside of their normal workgroup. For these types of personalities, it may be appreciated to be involved in a project that includes people from varied disciplines.
- Job Shadowing: Sometimes the best way for someone to learn and grow is to observe an expert through shadowing this individual to get a sense of the daily activities and challenges.
- Additional Responsibilities: Many people yearn to be able to contribute in new ways without leaving their current role. For these types of induvial finding new responsibilities that can be handled within their bandwidth can be a great place to grow their skills and competencies.
- Job Rotation: Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to be fully immersed in doing it. Providing opportunities for people to fully experience another role for a fixed period of time will expand the knowledge of individuals and the capabilities of the organization
- Knowledge Reading: While reading may not be for everyone, for many finding the right books (that can either be read or listened to) that increase their knowledge of a specific subject
- Networking: Helping your employees learn how to network is a gift that will keep on giving throughout their careers. Networking is proven to be an effective way to broaden an individual’s interest and understanding of the world around them as they are exposed to other individuals inside their field who may have more knowledge and insight and meet others with interest outside their field, but which may still be connected.
- Never Eat Alone: In his book “Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time” Keith Ferrazzi points out the benefit of utilizing your time at lunch to expand your understanding of the world around you by broadening the mix of people you spend time with. Seeking out time with people outside of your normal circles will awaken in your interest in areas you likely were unaware of before and will sensitize you to issues and opportunities throughout your company.
- LinkedIn Learning: An economical way to stay abreast of the latest skills training in creative, software, or business disciplines. LinkedIn is the premier source for networking and they offer great training courses.
- Coursera: Founded in 2012 Coursera offers a variety of college-level academic courses for a fraction of the cost and from the comfort of your home. Coursera virtually eliminates any reason for not being able to take a higher-level learning class to improve your skills.
- MOOC.org: Similar to Coursera Massive Open Online Courses are a way to get exposure to college-level course content in a virtual setting.
- Online Professional Development: Many disciplines (like teaching) offer online professional development courses designed to keep skills current on offer exposure to new ideas and methodologies
- YouTube: Attention spans have decreased, though people’s desire to learn has not. YouTube has moved beyond a place to watch great cat videos and has become the go-to site to improve one’s skills from how to perform certain functions in software programs to learn how to fix your mower on your own.
- 360° Feedback: Many leadership and development programs include a 360o Feedback component. These surveys (typically given to an employee’s peers, superiors, and direct reports) can elicit numerous points of growth opportunity to an individual that will strengthen the employee’s capabilities.
The preceding list may appear intimidating. The key takeaway is that there are a variety of options available to each employee.
Following are some key steps that managers can take as your company works to improve the growth of your employees:
- Understand the alternatives: The list above is meant to be a thought-starter and the summaries of each briefly explain each option. It is recommended that a manager take a few hours to review these and conduct their own independent research (Google each term and you will find plentiful resources to review further). Having familiarity with these various options will provide a manager with a bountiful resource of options to meet the needs of individual employees.
- Secure the resources: While some of the options are free, many do cost money. All managers in an organization should be familiar with the average amount of expenditures per employee on training and development. If your company spends an average of $1,000 per year on each employee does the individual manager know how that is being allocated and how involved are they in determining how those funds are spent An employee’s manager should be the most familiar with that employee’s needs, and the manager should be the strongest advocate for making sure the training funds are properly spent on that individual employee.
- Assess the individuals: As noted at the beginning of this article a dialogue should be occurring between each employee and their supervisor to best understand the employee’s desires/goals for growth and insight/guidance from the manager on their observations of where the employee may need development. It is important that your human resources and training department are involved in helping to develop any assessment program. Numerous tools and techniques (too extensive to address here) are available to ensure that these conversations are efficient and effective.
- Communications: Companywide initiatives like employee growth should be well communicated. You will want your communications, human resources, and training department involved you formulating the correct communications and timelines to ensure that the entire organization is informed of the intention, accessibility, and commitment from leadership. As your company becomes proficient at employee growth you will find that it will become a recruiting and retention tool. Career Development Opportunities (Growth) is sighted as a top reason contributing to employee engagement. Since high employee engagement is a critical factor to a company’s success it is important to focus some energy on your employee growth initiatives.
- Accountability: How are you holding your leaders accountable for the growth of the employees in their department? What metrics are in place to ensure that employee growth is occurring according to the company’s goals? How frequently is employee engagement measured and are their questions related to employee growth? How often is employee growth discussed in senior leadership meetings? Is employee growth discussed in the annual report? Do Individual Development Plans (IDPs) contain goals related to personal growth for the employee? To build a growth culture there must be accountability throughout the organization.
Choosing to invest in your employee’s growth will yield short-term and long-term benefits that will improve your company’s bottom line. A legion of appreciative and loyal employees who eagerly invest back into their company is an eventual outcome