Change is inevitable these days and one thing employers can do is prepare their staff to face change with knowledge, grit and continuous improvement. Leaders who undertake staff development as one of their goals see multiplying returns for their employees, teams, and for the organization as a whole, in the form of happier and healthier employees, new product ideas, and many others that ultimately lead to increased business revenue.
Let’s look at some ways leaders can promote employee development.
Conferences bring together knowledge experts, cutting edge content and people who are ready to learn and experiment with them. Conferences also provide employees the opportunity to try something new and bring it back to the organization. One thing I have always enjoyed about conferences is the chance to meet some of the industry experts whose books and blogs I follow. Another key benefit is the informal and formal networking opportunities with professionals in similar lines of work from across a region. If you have virtual team members, they may find local colleagues to be their teammates and mentors.
Employees who receive regular skill-focused training opportunities tend to have better job performance and job satisfaction. According to a 2011 PwC study, millennials rank training and development as the #1 most valuable benefit that an employer can provide. Training supported and planned by leadership has a business reason for why it exists and often comes with an expectation to apply it on the job. Employees tend to actively participate in such training sessions with the goal of finding relevant content to improve their own job performance.
Rotational assignments when structured properly create opportunities for organizations to provide employees with an accelerated learning experience. Such programs broaden the skillsets of the employees, allow them to share expertise and learn from different departments, deepen their knowledge and enhance their professional networks within the organization. Not all organizations are ready or big enough to provide rotational programs. If that is the case, consider creative ways to offer career-expanding assignments, otherwise your employees may look for them elsewhere.
Although hackathons originated in the technology industry, a quick Google search shows that several companies are using hackathons as a model to collaboratively problem solve in a short amount of time to generate new product or process ideas, and prototype them. Hackathons allow employees to get away from their routine, meet new people in the organization and quickly expand their skillsets by diving deep into one idea.
If your organization is not in a position to offer stretch assignments, support employees who are interested in volunteering with other organizations. Pro bono work provides the opportunity to develop transferable professional and leadership skills, expands employee networks and empowers employees to use their skills and talents to make a social impact. Volunteering has the potential to develop employees beyond the training session by offering practical real-world scenarios to apply what they learned.
Notice the common threads among the five development opportunities: 1) meet new people and 2) learn new skills. Both components are key to building confidence in facing career challenges. Ever since my first layoff experience, I have become more conscious about my network and my development. Sooner or later, I may encounter similar career changes, but my goal is to have the ability to overcome them with confidence.
As a side note, not everyone on your team may be interested in development activities. In that case, there are other ways to get your team members involved. Have a lunch and learn session for your conference attendees to share what they discovered, bring in experts to speak about a topic, host a meetup, have employees research a new topic and share with the team. These are just few ideas. What ideas have you tried for ongoing employee and team development?