Employee Development: Best Practices for Business Owners

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Saphia Lanier
Saphia Lanier

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Building a successful company requires having the right people with the right skills. But it’s not always easy locking down top talent that can take your company to the next level. 

employee development

One solution: invest in employee development. 

If you’re not already creating time and resources to help your team succeed, then now’s the time to start. 

What is employee development?

Employee development is the process of helping employees improve their skills, traits, and knowledge to improve their abilities in their roles. The purpose of employee development is to help workers excel in their positions and help companies grow. 

In some instances, it can lead to promotion opportunities. 

Benefits of employee development

Employee development is a win-win situation for workers and organizations. It empowers individuals to grow their skills and advance their careers while contributing to the success of their companies. 

Benefits of employee development include:

  • Increases employee engagement: Employees feel valued when they are provided with opportunities for growth and development. This can result in them putting in more effort and seeking opportunities to move up the ladder. 
  • Attracts talent: Companies that offer employee development attract workers that want to learn. An SHRM report shows over 80% of management believe it helps to attract talent — and nearly half of employees agree it’s a factor in choosing an employer. 
  • Retains talent: Keeping your top talent saves money and time from having to recruit and train new candidates. A LinkedIn study shows 94% of workers say they’d stay with a company that invested in their learning and development.
  • Improves job performance: Employees who have access to the right tools, training, and resources are more capable of succeeding in their roles. 
  • Enhances innovation: Employees who are given the opportunity to learn new skills and technologies become more creative, innovative, and better problem solvers.    

“I invest in my employees’ development because it creates successful employees and a successful business,” says Vladimir Gendelman, founder of Company Folders Inc., a custom- folder-printing service. “I’ve seen employee engagement and satisfaction increase because I demonstrate that I value their personal and professional growth."

Employee retention is also high in Gendelman’s company because he made a clear path for upward mobility within the company.

“Most of our employees have been with the company for over 10 years, and I credit our development programs in paying a critical part in that.”     

Types of employee development

There are several ways organizations can encourage employees’ growth and success. Here’s a look at some of the methods you can use: 

  1. On-the-job training: Involves learning new skills while performing job duties. For example, a new employee at a restaurant might receive on-the-job training on how to use the cash register and take orders.
  2. Mentoring: Involves pairing an experienced employee with a less experienced employee to provide guidance and support. For instance, a senior software engineer might mentor a junior software engineer on best practices for coding.
  3. Coaching: Involves providing feedback and guidance to help employees improve their performance. For example, a sales manager might coach a sales representative on how to improve their closing techniques.
  4. Classroom training: Involves attending formal training sessions or workshops to learn new skills or knowledge. For instance, an employee might attend a workshop on effective communication skills.
  5. E-learning: Involves using online resources and courses to learn new skills or knowledge. For example, an employee might complete an online course on coding in Python. 
  6. Job shadowing: Involves observing another employee perform their job duties to gain insight into the role and learn new skills. For example, a marketing assistant might shadow the marketing director to learn about strategic planning.
  7. Cross-training: Involves learning how to perform tasks outside of one’s primary job duties to increase versatility and flexibility in the workplace. For instance, an administrative assistant might receive cross-training in customer service to assist with phone calls during busy periods.

    Areas employees can improve include hard skills like project management, sales techniques, and marketing. Or soft skills, such as leadership, teamwork, and time management.

Best practices for creating employee development programs 

  1. Identify goals and objectives: Before designing an employee development program, identify the goals and objectives you want to achieve. For example, if you aim to improve employee retention, you may want to focus on leadership development programs.
  2. Assess employee needs: Conduct a needs assessment to identify the skills and knowledge gaps that exist within your organization. This can be done through surveys, interviews, or focus groups. For example, if you find that many employees lack proficiency in a particular software tool, you may want to offer training in that area.
  3. Create a plan: Based on your goals and needs assessment, create a plan that outlines the specific activities and resources needed to achieve your objectives. This should include timelines, budgets, and metrics for measuring success.
  4. Offer various learning opportunities: Provide a range of programs such as classroom training, e-learning modules, coaching, job shadowing, and on-the-job training. This is important as people have different learning styles.
  5. Encourage participation: Increase participation by making the programs relevant and engaging. This can be done by aligning the program with your workers’ career goals or offering incentives for completion.
  6. Provide ongoing support: Continuously monitor progress and provide additional support, which can include coaching sessions, access to resources, and regular check-ins with managers.
  7. Measure success: Track metrics like employee satisfaction, retention, productivity, and skill enhancement to improve your program and meet organization requirements. You can also use surveys to gather feedback to improve your initiatives. 

Examples of employee development in the workplace

What would employee development look like in your organization? Here’s an example of how it could play out for building leaders in your company.

Say your long-term goal is to develop employees’ leadership skills and increase their overall job satisfaction. So you create programs focused on delivering training sessions on leadership and communication skills.

Here’s how it may look over the course of a year:

  1. Hold monthly training seminars on leadership and communication skills, led by experienced managers or outside trainers.
  2. After one month, conduct surveys to assess employees’ satisfaction with the seminars and gather feedback on what they would like to see in future sessions.
  3. Provide opportunities for employees to practice their leadership skills by assigning them to lead small projects or teams.
  4. After six months, conduct performance reviews to assess employees’ progress in developing their leadership skills and gather feedback from managers and colleagues.
  5. Offer mentorship programs where experienced managers can provide guidance and support to employees who are interested in advancing their careers.
  6. After one year, conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the program’s effectiveness, including employee retention rates, job satisfaction levels, and overall performance. Use this data to make improvements to the program as needed.

“After experimenting, I’ve found learning lunches to be an effective and engaging strategy to help employees develop and learn,” says Gendelman.

These are informal meetings designed to foster peer-to-peer mentoring, which builds camaraderie and increases knowledge sharing. During every session, an employee creates a program for their peers that includes:

  • Presentation
  • Discussion
  • Hands-on activity that can involve an introduction to new tools or tech
  • Industry trends
  • Best practices
  • Solutions to common problems
  • Techniques to enhance work-life balance and more

BizReport, a finance and business publication, incentivizes self-directed learning. It offers rewards and growth opportunities to employees showing commitment to learning and improving their skills. 

“We give employees paid time off to attend conferences, workshops, and skills development training programs as long as they demonstrate these events help them become more valuable to the organization,” says Young Pham, co-founder of BizReport.

The outcome so far has been a positive jump in employee experience, with improved motivation and increased productivity.

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