At a time when many businesses are struggling to stay afloat, employees are under significant pressure to produce results. This might mean they are working harder, and working more hours, than ever before.
Unfortunately, employee development has also been deemphasized in favor of revenue-generating tasks in many businesses this year. While this is understandable as companies cope with a challenging economic climate while adapting to the reality of working remotely, it’s also a missed opportunity. When you give your employees the opportunity to acquire new skills or upgrade existing ones, everybody wins.
In 2016 alone, companies in the U.S. incurred more than $70 billion in training expenses. A large percentage of that investment was taken up by training that wasn’t directly applicable to employees’ jobs. Both managers and Learning and Development (L&D) departments need to be smarter about how they provide learning opportunities for employees.
Why Encourage Employees To Upgrade Skills?
The importance of upskilling your team boils down to two words: employee turnover. Many sources, including Forbes and the Human Capital Institute, claim that 1 in 5 new employees quit their jobs within 45 days of their start date. The cost of finding and training a replacement can run as high as 20% of the leavers’ salary each time someone leaves.
One of the most common reasons people leave earlier than they otherwise would? Lack of development opportunities. Many companies make the mistake of forgetting about employee development once the initial basic training and onboarding process is complete. However, taking this route represents a missed opportunity.
Well-trained employees are not just more competent in their roles; they are also more engaged, more productive, and able to provide better customer service. The result? They’ll stay with you longer and get better results for your business.
7 Ways To Encourage Employee Development In The Workplace
Many employees shy away from taking advantage of training and learning opportunities at work. Some say they don’t have enough time, while others don’t understand the long term value of training.
To get the most out of your training programs, you have to convince your employees that professional development is worth the time and effort it will take. Here are seven proven methods you can use to encourage employee development.
Reward employees who show growth through upskilling
Nothing gets employees excited about change better than an incentive. When you apply this enthusiasm-generating strategy to employee development, you can expect training course enrollment to surge.
There are several possible rewards you could offer to employees who show a passion for learning. You can give them a raise or bonus when they learn a new skill and apply it in their role, award them more prestigious projects, or move them to the front of the queue for promotion.
Some companies take a different route and choose to award online badges or certificates to employees who successfully complete a training course. The employees can display their achievements on their LinkedIn profile. This will help them to prove their skills and aptitude now and in the future, providing long-term career benefits.
Make employee development part of your strategic planning
Many companies’ strategic planning sessions either leave out employee development or include it as an afterthought. As you might expect, companies that overlook the importance of employee upskilling end up with dissatisfied employees who are more likely to leave and seek growth elsewhere.
Your business’s talent development strategy should involve employees, management, and human resources professionals. Everyone will have their own ideas when it comes to implementing training and learning programs that are aligned with both employee and company goals.
If your employees feel that their voices are heard and their goals are taken into account, you’ll build a culture where everyone feels empowered to seek the appropriate development opportunities.
Expose employees to new tasks that require learning new skills
Not all learning has to be part of the training courses. On-the-job upskilling is at least as valuable. Many long-time employees feel frustrated that they cannot move to other positions within the company because of a lack of experience. Assigning new tasks and stretch projects will allow them to develop and learn as they work.
One of the best ways to provide these opportunities is to implement cross-functional projects where your team can collaborate with employees from other teams. These projects are not just an opportunity for learning new skills but also offer a chance to build networks within the organization. All this experience will be invaluable when an employee goes for promotion.
Offer customized learning paths for each employee
Some employees complain that their company only offers training in topics that they’ve already mastered or that are irrelevant to their jobs. Offering customized learning paths for each employee will help increase satisfaction with your development program.
These paths should be aligned with the different job opportunities or focus areas within your company. However, you can also allow employees to cross-train by taking courses in different areas of the business.
Here’s a suggestion for you: why not ask every employee to select a training program that they will take over the course of several weeks? You can then ask them to do a capstone project that will integrate what they’ve learned into their job. It’s a bit like a college thesis, but for the workplace.
Encourage employees to join external training and professional organizations
If your business isn’t large, you might not have a dedicated L&D department, or limited capacity to provide development opportunities. One way of getting around this is to encourage your employees to take their desired training from another provider. Naturally, you should allow them to train during work time and reimburse them for any associated expenses.
Some companies even go a step further, paying for employees to go back to college or take graduate courses. This can be expensive, but companies understand that their investment will result in more highly skilled employees and better performance in the long run.
You may also offer to fund for your employees to join professional organizations. These organizations offer the chance to interact with industry experts, learn best practices from top practitioners, then come back to your business and apply what they’ve learned to their jobs.
Make training easy, engaging, and accessible
One of the complaints against employee development is that it’s arduous, boring, and hard to fit into one’s schedule. However, given all the recent advancements in learning technology, there are so many ways you can make employee training easier, more engaging, and more accessible.
For example, your employees might absorb concepts better when you create micro-courses. This learning format breaks down larger concepts and serves it in bite-sized chunks. This system allows an employee to complete five minutes of learning during a coffee break or while sending proposals and waiting for a response. By making these courses available on the cloud or through a mobile app, employees can access them at any time, no matter where they are.
In addition, you can use new techniques, such as gamification or augmented reality, to keep your employees engaged. Augmented reality is being used by a number of industries to present trainees with different job-related scenarios. These simulations improve employee confidence and decision-making in real-life situations.
Give and ask for feedback regularly
While employees used to view annual reviews as a necessary evil, today’s workforce is a lot more open to feedback. Therefore, meet with each member of your team regularly to offer feedback, constructive criticism, and one-to-one support.
Regular feedback lets your employees know where they currently stand and what they need to do to improve if anything. You can use these sessions to motivate your employees to upskill themselves by making training and development opportunities part of the conversation.
One-to-ones also gives employees a chance to let you know how you’re doing as a leader and what you could improve. You could solicit ideas for training programs from your employees by asking them what they’d like to see and what their areas of interest are.
Feedback sessions are useful for setting expectations, aligning an employee’s learning path with their ideal career progression, and providing opportunities for mentorship.
Long-term Benefits Of Employee Development
Aside from improving employee retention rates and engagement levels, robust employee development has many more long-term benefits. Here are just a few:
- Training develops future leaders. Hiring leaders from outside the company costs more than developing them in-house. Employees who were trained within the company have better organizational knowledge and are more familiar with the business’s products, services, and target market. This makes them ready to step up and lead more quickly and more confidently.
- Training future-proofs your business. The world of business moves quickly. Therefore, if you don’t invest in training, your business could be left behind before you know it. Constantly exposing your employees to the latest technology, best practices, and industry developments will keep your business innovative and relevant for years to come.
- Training attracts high-quality talent. Job seekers no longer look at compensation alone as their sole reason for choosing a workplace. May seek working environments that encourage a growth mindset. Therefore, if you want to attract the best talent, you need to ensure you have great development opportunities in place.
- Training keeps your employees sharp. People lose skills and become rusty if they don’t use them regularly. Refresher training programs keep your employees sharp and their skills up-to-date, maintaining a high level of knowledge across your organization.
These are just a few of the many long-term benefits that you will enjoy when you put a solid employee development program in place. Encouraging your employees to upskill themselves gives your business a competitive advantage and helps you create fantastic future leaders from within.
While establishing and promoting an employee development program takes a substantial investment in time and resources, the potential return on investment is vast. Training programs help you retain your employees and turn them into leaders, attract the best talent from outside the company and give your organization the competitive edge it needs.
But without ways to encourage employees to participate in your training programs, you will be wasting a great opportunity. Listen to your employees about their training needs, expose them to engaging opportunities to learn new skills that are aligned to their career plans, and give them the opportunity to collaborate with other teams. If you do this consistently, you will build company loyalty and establish a culture of learning, improvement, and continuous innovation.
Owen Baker is a content marketer for Voila Norbert, an online Email verification tool. He has spent most of the last decade working online for a range of marketing companies. When he’s not busy writing, you can find him in the kitchen mastering new dishes.