In the modern workplace, employee development is an essential component of a productive environment; companies that neglect it can find their best workers suddenly leaving en masse, meaning that the presence of some sort of progression plan is vital for preserving retention.
It's not just about keeping people, either. The performance of your team is directly linked to how engaged and challenged they feel. If your staff are equipped with wider skillsets, better training methods and a more defined approach to tackling their career goals, then you will see direct results in their output, making it a win not just for them, but also for you and your organisation.
So, how can you effect these changes?
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best ways to get started; this is how to develop your employees…
1. Look in the Mirror First
Nobody is going to listen to your advice, or even take you seriously, if you never pertain to practise what you preach. Leading by example is one of the single most effective ways to get your message across without having to lecture people on their behaviour, and if you are successful in what you do, then your employees will try to emulate it.
This can also mean sharing your own experiences with your staff. Explain how you handled certain situations in the past – touch not only on the things that you did right, but also, importantly, on the mistakes that you made. Good leaders mentor the people in their charge, and before you can seek to guide and develop others, you first need to be in top shape yourself.
2. Invest Financially in Your Team
As the saying goes: people are your most valuable resource; therefore, you need to look after them and take their development seriously. If this means asking your HR department to put their hands in their pocket, then so be it.
This doesn’t necessarily mean hiring motivational speakers or investing in training system upgrades, either; you could take your team out of the office for a beach-side bonding trip, for example. The benefits of mixing things up and offering employees something different are clear for all to see and, in the long run, their increased engagement and the skills they will develop will be to everyone’s advantage.
3. Don’t Give Solutions – Encourage Them
Employees will never progress if the answers to their problems are given to them. Instead, you should focus on providing them with the tools to reach their own conclusions. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should abandon your staff and tell them to figure everything out on their own; instead, try to coach and coax the answers out of them. Not only will this develop their analytical skills, but it will also breed self-confidence in their ability to tackle problems more independently.
Additionally, by encouraging your employees to take more responsibility, their leadership skills will also naturally improve. Having a group of leaders can only make your team stronger, so don’t overlook this valuable point.
4. Delegate Tasks
In line with this point, delegating responsibility is another important developmental tool. As a manager, it can sometimes be easy to try and do everything yourself – especially the tasks that consume copious amounts of your valuable time – which is why it’s vital that you bring others on board.
Not only will it allow you to concentrate on other things, but it will also give your employees a chance to shine. For instance, they might approach the task in a slightly different way to you or they may even devise a more efficient way of doing things altogether. Either way, this is how your employees will learn – and, besides, if needs be, you can always provide guidance and advice along the way.
As an aside, don’t underestimate the effect this can have on your own managerial development, too. The ability to relinquish control and put your trust in your staff will help to ensure that you don’t lapse into the dreaded morale wasteland of micromanagement, a workplace disease that can have disastrously negative repercussions for everybody involved.
5. Measure Performance and Give Regular Feedback
Although the term ‘feedback’ has become something of a buzzword in corporate circles, it’s undeniable that there is value in the concept. Taking the time to sit down regularly with individual employees – whether formally or informally – and discussing what they have done well and where they could improve gives clear structure and guidance to an employee’s development.
Of course, this needs to be done tactfully and with positivity, but it also needs to be quantifiable, too. While the true value of performance metrics are still open to debate, having some degree of measurement to ascertain where an employee is at, and where they should be, is of great use. It allows you as a manager to identify where strengths and weaknesses lie, and it gives the employee something concrete to work towards.
Don’t forget that appraisals are not just about praise or constructive criticism, either. Ask each of your staff what their goals and ambitions are, and how they feel about their working environment. Development is a two-way street, after all, and what your employee is saying is just as important as what you have to say.
6. Tailor Development Plans to the Individual
While appraisals are a valuable development method, they are essentially useless if the results of the discussion are not acted upon; therefore, it’s important to create a development plan with each individual employee.
The key word, however, is ‘individual’. Many organisations – whether consciously or otherwise – are guilty of taking a blanket approach to staff progression strategy, when the reality is that the goals, competencies and ambitions of every single staff member are different. As a result, needs are not met, and growth can become stunted, leading to dissatisfaction and disengagement.
Make sure that each individual has a development plan that is tailored specifically to them. For one employee, this might mean gaining more exposure in a particular department, while for another it could be developing a broader sense of commercial awareness. Remember: the more customised the plan, the better the results will be.
7. Widen Your Employees’ Horizons
In larger organisations with multiple departments, knowing what exactly it is that they do up on the fourth floor can be something of a mystery. Yet this lack of cohesion and understanding can be detrimental to the company’s performance, as well as to the development of its staff.
If opportunity permits, arrange for your employees to spend time in different departments, gaining a basic knowledge of what others do and how it could potentially affect or improve their current role. Gaining exposure to the bigger picture and realising how each section contributes to the company’s overall goal discourages linear thinking and broadens horizons, leading to a more dynamic and open way of doing things.
Additionally, it might lead to an employee discovering their true calling. Part of your development responsibility is to help people find happiness in their role, so if Hannah from your audit team comes back and explains that she loved her two weeks with Mergers and Acquisitions, try to arrange a longer secondment or a permanent transfer. You might lose a good team member, but if they will be happier and more effective somewhere else, then you should try to respect and enable this.
Developing employees entails more than conducting the odd training session or a token attempt at mentorship. The very best managers understand the importance of their people and they prioritise their progression and contentment over all other aspects of the role.
It’s a reciprocal process, too: the capabilities of your team will be increased, and your employees will appreciate and demonstrate loyalty towards you.
So, if you haven’t already, make sure that you’re dedicating time and resources to this hugely important task – or run the risk of having your very best people desert you.
What other ways can you develop your employees? Let us know in the comments section below…