One of the biggest questions employers often ask is if HR should put most of its focus on employee development or on areas such as hiring. In some cases, it does make sense for HR to focus on something such as hiring. If you’re growing the business, for example, it is important to bring on new, qualified employees. However, most of the time, HR should be focused on employee development in order to help your current team members grow and expand their skills.
How should HR focus on employee development? Here are some tips for helping your HR team in this area.
The Driving Factors Behind Employee Development Programs
The first step in implementing a great employee development program is to understand the eight driving factors that make such a program successful. Basing your programs off of these factors will ensure that your employees are getting the most out of them.
· Empower your employees to expand their skills and knowledge by taking on additional roles or projects that interest them.
· Let your employees share their skills and talents with each other through peer training and mentoring.
· Promote employees from within and encourage cross training to prepare employees for upward movement in the company.
· Create individual progress plans and paths for each employee that help them reach their personal goals.
· Expose your employees to other ideas, concepts, and experts, including those in other industries.
· Invest in your employees, and let them know that you want to help them grow and learn.
· Create support structures such as career coaching and mentoring that employees can use when they’re ready.
· Make use of technology that your employees are familiar with and already use so they can focus on learning skills rather than learning how to use a new platform.
In most programs, you’ll find that you can truly focus on several of these key factors. That’s okay—focus on the factors that make the most sense for your company and that benefit your employees the most. Just remember that the more you can incorporate, the better your development programs will be.
Employees Need to Feel Stable First
Before employees can devote their time and energy to developing skills and cross-training, they need to feel stable. This means they need to know that their job isn’t going to suddenly end and that they will receive sufficient compensation in both wages and benefits. If you have an employee who is always uncertain if they will be able to pay their bills or is concerned that their position may be eliminated, they’re not going to be able to focus on developing skills or leadership training. Employees who don’t feel valued aren’t eager to grow or provide anything more to their employer than the basics.
Look at your competitors and at the industry averages to determine where you stand as far as compensation and benefits. Also, look at how you can change your benefits structure and at what your employees want. If most of your employees are asking for flex time, for example, implementing it as a benefit could greatly motivate your employees. Higher wages may certainly make your employees happy short-term, but long-term, high employee satisfaction is often linked more closely to benefits instead of pay.
Development and Training Are Not the Same
Many HR departments do make the basic mistake of assuming that development means training. While training on new technology and procedures is certainly a part of employee development, it’s not the same. Training generally focuses on short courses or programs designed to teach a specific skill or impart certain knowledge. Development, however, is more of a long-term plan that allows employees to move into upper-level positions or into entirely new careers.
Another way of looking at it is that training is more defined and structured for all employees, while development is, at times, more abstract and generally customized for each person. Training, for example, may teach all of your employees how to use Excel. Development, on the other hand, may involve one employee being mentored by the CFO to gain experience in corporate finance. This experience isn’t defined—it may involve growing as a leader, learning how to communicate better, or even developing new ways of thinking.
Bring in Motivational Speakers
Motivating your employees to learn more can be a challenge. Some may not see the point to learning skills that are outside of their job description. Others may not feel like growing professionally will do anything for them, especially those who aren’t looking to move up into management. This is where bringing in motivational speakers can help. These experts bring an outside point of view to your team. They’ve seen how development programs help people not just professionally but also personally. They may be able to help your team see why learning and looking outside their job description is important.
Some companies hold back on challenging their employees because they don’t want to overwhelm them or push them outside of their comfort zone for fear that the employee will not do a satisfactory job. That can happen if the challenge you present to your employee is too large or if you don’t provide them with the support they need. Asking a new hire with little experience to act as the point person on a major PR project or a multi-million dollar construction job is likely too much.
However, putting someone with several years of experience on such a project as a junior lead will challenge them. They will have the support they need in the form of the project leader, but they will also have ownership over certain aspects of the project. Having this responsibility and the support of your team will help them complete their tasks successfully and help them learn new skills and processes.
Remember to Put Employees in the Driver’s Seat
At the end of the day, your development program needs to be based on what employees want and need. This program should be built around the eight key factors of a great development program and supported by competitive wages and benefits. It should include motivational speakers, challenges, and both hands-on, concrete training and customized mentoring.
There’s a lot to creating an outstanding employee development program. However, as long as your HR team remembers that everything needs to be designed for employees and creates a path to meeting their goals, you will find that your development program is a huge success.
Being a senior business associate, Peter Davidson strives to help different brands and startups to make effective business decisions and plan effective business strategies. With years of rich domain expertise, he loves to share his views on the latest technologies and applications through his well-researched content pieces. Follow him on Twitter