You spend weeks, sometimes months, searching for and recruiting a new employee for your team. Not to mention money! More will be spent getting that employee up to speed and providing onboarding training as well. Though you know this is an expense, you also know that spending more on training and development will help achieve your goals and retain your staff.
Time and money spent on an employee is an investment, however, so smart business leaders want to see a maximum return on that investment. That’s why you spend the time and treasure on your employee development program, to continue investing in your employees’ future and ensure the long-term success of your organization. So how do you maximize your development program to generate the biggest return?
1. Reinforce Your Managers
When it comes to training, your managers—who interact with employees on a regular basis—will be the front-line delivery mechanism for the learning (or lack of it) your staff receives. But your managers have a full plate already themselves. If you simply dump the mandate to spend more time on employee development on them, you risk burning out valuable resources.
Here are some ways to support your leaders and make sure on-the-ground training is successful:
- Train the trainers on better coaching skills. This may be the single-most-effective thing you do to improve employee development. A great coach will have an exponential effect on their direct reports that filters throughout the organization.
- Recognize that training takes time. Demonstrate your commitment to employee development by creating time for your managers to train. Time is your most valuable resource and where you devote your time says everything about where your values lie.
- Allocate resources. What does your team need to be more effective at development? Do you need to invest in training materials, upgrade your conference rooms, or deploy new technology? Reevaluate your development budget to cut away what isn’t working and beef up areas that need help.
2. Measure What You Want to Improve
We all know what happens to resolutions that aren’t backed up by measurable goals. Determining that you want to improve your employee development program is an admirable goal, but unless you back it up with quantifiable expectations, it’s just wishful thinking. Demonstrate that you are serious about investing in and developing talent by making key measurable goals a part of every employee’s evaluation.
Again, begin with management. Set goals and expectations for what you want to see from them in terms of developing their teams. This will provide you with valuable feedback about where your managers need more training themselves.
Communicate clearly with your employees exactly where they stand in training and development and what you want to see them accomplish in the next quarter. Your managers should be consistently following up with them to ensure they are progressing toward both their short- and long-term goals. Meeting short-term goals inspires confidence, builds morale, and generates a strong desire to succeed further.
3. Make Development Plans Personal and Flexible
You probably don’t have many employees lounging in their offices with nothing to do. With skilled talent harder to come by, everyone is asked to do more. Confront an employee with a demand to begin employee development training and you may get a blank stare and the question, “When am I expected to do this?” So, it’s important that you make training accessible, flexible, and easy to work into busy schedules.
Schneider Electric employs 160,000 people globally. It has successfully implemented development programs that include not only traditional development conferences, but also Energy University, an online resource with more than 200 courses related to its industry. Creating virtual training opportunities opens a host of avenues for training to take place in nontraditional times. Creating those courses gives you the freedom to fine-tune the content as well and update periodically as the need arises.
Create an individual training path for each employee. Sure, everyone could probably use more leadership training, but some people are naturally gifted at conflict resolution. Some of your developers come in already knowing the new framework you want to train on and some urgently need an update on testing skills. Don’t risk the resentment and feeling of time wasted that comes with training people in things they already understand. Tailor your training plan for the individual to avoid wasting the resources you have available and maximize the development you provide.
4. Always Be Training
The market is evolving quickly, and your training should as well. Most companies have trained employees in a certain skill set, then felt they were done. With the rapid pace of change today, the skills you teach now might be obsolete by this time next year—if not next week! To keep your business running at peak efficiency, your team’s skills need to keep up with change.
Training should be an ongoing, lifelong process. While this may be more obvious in some areas—web developers and marketing technologists immediately spring to mind—the same is true for everyone. How different are the management techniques of today from those of just a few years ago? Trends are changing regularly in design, UX, content, mobile and more—and the incredible need to optimize customer experience and leverage data is creating opportunity for change as it constantly evolves.
That said, you don’t have to spend millions to make learning effective and a part of your culture. Many online learning platforms are available either at a low cost or no cost. In fact, our own no-cost Aquent Gymnasium online training programs are taught by industry experts to help your staff build skills to meet the ever-changing demands of the workplace. YouTube is filled with how-to videos, and free online content abounds that can be curated and shared on a regular basis with your teams. You just need a plan for frequency and focus that meets those learning goals you set above (remember, measure what you want to improve!) to make continual learning work.
The best employees relish learning constantly. Pair the opportunity to continue developing their skills with measurable feedback on how they’re improving and watch morale soar. Then add in one final component to the mix...
5. Provide an Open Path for Advancement
Learning and developing become a chore without the opportunity to exercise those hard-won skills. Set a clear career path for employees to advance as their skill set increases, making sure you have distinct competencies required for each role and strong succession plans to fill the gaps as your staff rise.
Lay out clear goals for moving up, and the targets that employees must reach to fill those positions. Seeing that the hard work of acquiring and honing skills pays off is a great way to reinvigorate a disengaged employee. Engagement is critical to your success. If your employees are not growing, learning, and contributing their knowledge willingly, your customers will suffer, and your business will flounder. By creating a dynamic flow from top to bottom, you generate a positive current that will carry your business higher as well.
Overall, employee development plans can have a radical impact on growth. Taking the time to optimize yours can make the difference between mediocre results from mildly engaged staff to high-performing teams that go above and beyond to drive customer experience.
One of our four guiding principles at Aquent is continual learning, which involves an internal learning services team, an easily accessible learning management system, and a robust employee tuition reimbursement program that ensures leaders and their teams have the resources they need to succeed.
Need help thinking through your own plans? Talk to one of our Aquent staff members and learn how we help businesses—and talent—keep improving every day!