Investing in the development of employees should be one of the top priorities for companies. However, while many business leaders understand the importance, it is often difficult to understand the areas your employees need to develop and how, and so planning any kind of additional training becomes just another item on the never ending to do list.
When looked at from a purely business perspective, developing your employees is a great way to gain a smarter and more future-proof workforce that perform at high levels, and from an employees perspective, working in an environment that encourages continued development provides great job satisfaction, and with motivated employees comes a lower staff turnover. It's a win win!
Below we provide some quick wins for fostering an employee development culture within your business.
Lead by example
Before you can effectively develop others, ensure you are actively working on your own areas for improvement. A manager that can demonstrate willingness to learn provides a great role model for employees and will also sharpen skills that you can then begin to pass on to others.
Create a safe environment
Often for employees, discussing their areas of development can seem more of a criticism of their weaknesses. Instead, make it clear that the purpose is to inspire them to take ownership of their development, build trust with them and help them to see that you're invested in their success and continued improvement .
Create a learning culture
It's likely you have weekly meetings with employees, be it a weekly catch up, project check ins, or reviews. Utilise this opportunity to add value to your employees and develop your team. Consider ways to integrate a growth mindset into your regular meetings. For example, if there has been an issue with a project, discuss why the issue occurred, ask questions, talk them through the problem solving process and encourage them to understand how the outcome was reached. Many businesses are quick to leave employees out of steps like these, but doing so can help prepare for future management and leadership roles.
Following on from the point above, few people respond well to simply being told what they need to do. It is important to involve your employees in the process by asking well thought out questions, and encouraging employees to figure things out for themselves. “Coaching questions” force independent thinking, and can be revisited after a project is complete as a way of reflecting on lessons learnt or to further solidify the new skill or knowledge.
Many managers fall into the trap of carrying out tasks that, although they are comfortable doing, they shouldn't be doing! Letting go of these responsibilities will help your employees to develop new skills, and free up your time, another win win! Though this is a great and easy way to encourage further learning, don’t expect all work that you delegate to be carried out the exact same way you did. Additional instructions and guidance may be needed, but this is the best way to learn. At the end of the day, the extra time spent teaching your employees to do the job correctly will save you both heaps of time in the future - they may even end up doing a better job than you!
Other than a job change, “stretch assignments” can be the best way to learn and develop. Consider looking for opportunities for your employees that are aligned with the areas they wish to develop and the areas that meet their career aspirations. Instead of picking the most qualified person for the task, think about picking the right task for developing the person.
Encourage employees to network
Good leaders and managers are often better connected and have the ability to create opportunities and open doors through connecting employees to industry experts and tutors. Providing opportunities to expand an employees network will ultimately help them to understand that they are also responsible for their professional growth. Plus, people remember who opened doors for them, so it is likely the gesture will be returned in the future.
Feedback, feedback, feedback! Everybody makes mistakes and behavioural blind spots are thankfully something a manager can pick up on and tactfully help an employee to see a weakness that is blocking their development. Be open to giving frequent, constructive feedback, and hold back from waiting until the traditional annual review. The majority of employees prefer regular discussions and this will also help you to ensure changes are made quickly, without the need to wait for a formal review.
Try Experiential Learning
It can be difficult to find the time to provide employees with enough development opportunities, whilst trying to also keep a business running smoothly. Experiential learning allows businesses and employees to acquire new skills in a safe environment that reflects real life situations. Being able to mirror real-world decision making in a competitive, emotionally charged environment prepares employees for concepts and challenges that they otherwise wouldn't have been able to experience in the normal work environment. The nature of experiential learning means it is risk free for both the business and employee, and by analysing the impact of their actions, employees can understand how learnings can be applied in their real-life circumstances.
Experiential Learning to Improve Employee Development
Discover the full benefits of experiential learning for employee development by downloading the Experiential Learning User’s Guide today.