9 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Support Employee Development

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Have you ever watched the reality TV show, Undercover Boss, where the CEO of a company leaves their ivory tower office to secretly experience the frontlines? What a great example of cross-department training delivered from the bottom up. Imagine adopting that concept for real across all levels and divisions. Okay, so the undercover part doesn’t apply and the week-long experience may be a tad brief, but exposure to the organization from different perspectives makes solid employee development sense.

According to a formula commonly used in the employee training industry, we obtain 70 percent of our knowledge from job-related experiences, 20 percent from interactions with others and 10 percent from formal educational events.

Most organizations have a professional development budget set aside for employees

In 2016, The State of the Industry Report found that organizations provided employees with an average of 32.4 learning hours per year.

Training Magazine’s 2015 training industry report pegged U.S. training expenditures—including payroll and spending on external products and services—at $70.6 billion.

Sadly though, employee development programs aren’t always used, chiefly because of heavy workloads. That’s an important issue when we know professional growth is a key engagement driver. Gallup has found that 87 percent of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job. A full 69 percent of non-millennials agree.

Returning to the 70:20:10 model used by employee training professionals, there are a lot of job-related experiences in-house to encourage employee development across our organizations.

9 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Support Employee Development

1. Find out what your employees want to learn.

Kevin Lunch, President and CEO at National Industries for the Blind (NIB) writes in a 2017 Forbes article that an excellent way to engage employees and grow your organizations “is through surveys that ask employees about professional development opportunities they’re interested in. Implementing feedback on learning and development opportunities can help….retain and grow high-performing employees, as well as attract new talent.”

2. Identify what your organization wants your employees to learn.

There’s always a new tool, process or policy change, right? And the desire to keep abreast of industry trends and best practices, correct?

3. Make professional development an intrinsic part of your overall culture.

When employee development is woven through the fabric of your organization and is supported by and for everyone, everyone will naturally gravitate towards training opportunities whether they’re sought out independently, recommended by peers or suggested by the boss.

4. Build time for professional development into everyone’s schedule

Dedicate a set number of hours per month or year and stick to it. Small frequent bursts of learning over extended periods of time can accommodate employees facing heavy workloads, demanding deadlines and other job pressures. Consider introducing performance benchmarks to measure employee development participation. Reward managers who encourage and support training among their teams. Celebrate educational achievements.

5. Commit to continuous learning.

Learning isn’t meant to be a one-time thing. Time, technology and trends wait for no one.

6. Unearth hidden talents.

Surely there are employees among your workforce who can share a valuable job-learning experience? Or who have expertise in an area that might be of benefit to others? Give employees opportunities to flex their muscles by doing what they do best. Maybe it’s a lunch n’ learn session, on-site demonstration, or mentoring assignment.

7. Speaking of mentoring – create a mentorship program.

Loads of studies confirm learning programs positively influence employee retention rates. Retention, says Clear Company, “is 25 percent higher for employees who have engaged in company sponsored mentoring.”  Best of all, the two-way exchange is beneficial to both mentor and mentee.

8. Transfer employees to other departments.

Just because someone’s been hired as a junior marketing coordinator doesn’t mean they’ll want to stay in that position forever and a day. Introduce role reassignment. Remember the Undercover Boss story line? Cross-training broadens skills, nurtures team camaraderie and develops a stronger understanding of the organization from different perspectives.

9. Take advantage of free resources

  • Webinars
  • White papers
  • Sponsored events
  • Online courses

Helping employees reach their full potential through professional development programs demonstrates a vested interest in their success. It’s a loud signal they’re valued. And a major motivator that may even reveal unexpected skills employees themselves didn’t realize they possess.

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