As an entrepreneur, you have your work cut out for you. You have operations to manage, books to balance and strategies to plan. With all those balls to juggle, can anyone blame you for putting programs like employee development on the back burner?
Even so, you’ll want to push career development programs higher up your priority list. Not only can those programs ramp up overall productivity 250 percent, but they can also boost employee retention by 25 percent. Whether you run a small business or a Fortune 500 corporation, it’s in your best interest to invest in your employees.
Keep in mind, however, that employee development isn’t just about handing out a list of tasks and training manuals. Your objective should be to equip your employees with the tools, skills and mindset to handle short-term and long-term organizational challenges. To achieve that objective, keep these guidelines in mind when creating or revamping your employee development program.
- Encourage Employees to Take the Initiative
There’s only so much you can do to push your employees forward. If you run a large and/or fast-paced organization, it might be too expensive and time-consuming to train every employee thoroughly. Instead, take these steps to encourage self-directed career development.
- Design training programs such that employees have the option to learn at their own pace.
- Provide employees a safe environment to apply and evaluate what they’ve learned.
- Reward those who successfully complete their training programs. The rewards should meet the ADD criteria: Accessible, Desirable and Deliverable.
- Encourage honest, constructive feedback, so that training programs get better and better each time they’re implemented.
Take note that “self-directed career development” is not the same as leaving employees alone in the lurch. Give employees the tools to carve out their own careers, but don’t hesitate to lend them a guiding hand whenever necessary.
- Support Your Managers As Well
It’s easy to let your managers handle all the training. However, when you consider that their plates are full enough without having to mentor rank-and-file employees, they might end up feeling overburdened instead.
Give your managers the resources and encouragement to train. Assure them that taking time out of their daily work to train won’t adversely affect their performance. Reward managers whose trainees consistently perform well. Ask managers for their feedback on training, so you’ll have the whole picture when assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your development programs.
- Go Virtual
Training doesn’t have to be limited to the four walls of the office. Thanks to modern technology, it’s now possible to train employees in real time no matter where they live.
For example, international employees can turn to IPTV for their video training needs. Unlike traditional online videos, IPTV has a built-in buffering feature which ensures high-quality streaming regardless of the strength of internet connection. Also, videos can be reused and updated for every training session, making them efficient and cost-effective tools for keeping your employees up to speed.
- Include Interdepartmental Training
If you want employees to be genuinely invested in their jobs, have them train with people from other departments. Aside from teaching them something new, cross-training also helps employees get a clearer picture of how their work fits into the larger scheme of things.
Plus, employees struggling in their current jobs may realize that their skills, temperament and talent are better utilized elsewhere. If you can identify these employees and push them in the right direction, they might be able to help your company in ways you didn’t expect.
- Be Generous With Your Attention
Being human, employees have a natural desire to feel valued. No matter how small their role is in the organization, they will seek acknowledgement and validation for what they do.
So hear them out when they have something to say. Tell them it’s OK to be vocal about areas of improvement, even if you personally disagree with them. Praise them for good deeds, even if those deeds aren’t directly related to their job, such as returning a co-worker’s lost item. Give them the impression that their worth as human beings matters to you as much as their worth as professionals.
- Promote a Well-Rounded Approach to Development
Employee development doesn’t just cover the professional aspect. It also encompasses the emotional, intellectual and physical health of your employees. If you provide them the resources to stay happy, motivated and productive on and away from the job, they will pay you back in one way or another.
Train your managers to display supportive leadership behaviors. Give your employees ample opportunities to learn not just how to do their job, but also how to manage their lives outside of work. Let them know it’s OK to get up and away from their desks, since doing so spurs creativity and keeps them healthy.
Remember: Employees are one of your organization’s most important assets. The more you invest in them, the higher your potential return. It might take a while before you see tangible results from your employee development programs, but everything good takes time, right?