Michelle Sheridan, Talent Development Manager at Urbint
As a versatile project manager and HR content writer, Michelle develops successful organizational development programs and shares insights with the world at large to facilitate healthy workplace cultures of diversity, inclusivity, and advancement. She has written about manager development, remote work, project & time management, employee well-being, and other relevant topics to help people excel in the modern workplace.
Pub: August 17 2020
. Upd: October 17 2021
Employee development is a crucial aspect of employee experience. Whether you have a brand new hire or a more tenured employee looking to advance in their career, employee development is a way to increase engagement and productivity to benefit both the employee and the company.
Within a competitive job market, one way that employers try to stand out is with a robust offering of learning opportunities. Employees are no longer focused solely on a substantial compensation and benefits package - instead, they are seeking organizations that can provide room for them to grow and develop.
Employees typically report higher levels of engagement and company loyalty when provided with a variety of career development opportunities. They tend to work harder and be more engaged with an employer who shows an interest in their own development and values their growth.
Employee development opportunities also lead to increased retention and prevent turnover. Since the cost of replacing an employee can be as high as 150% of their salary, it saves a company money in the long run to retain quality employees. Engaged employees who do their job well bring both productivity and financial benefits to the company.
Development opportunities are an essential motivator in the workplace. They inspire and enable employees to grow while developing new knowledge, skills, and mindsets.
The four general approaches that companies use for employee development include:Training & Education:
Additional Work Experience:
Coaching & Mentoring:
Let’s break these down.
1. Training & Education:
This is typically what comes to mind when thinking about career development.
From continuing education to online self-led courses to conferences, there are a plethora of resources available to explore a specific skill set further or focus on new mastery.
Company training budgets are typically dedicated to these programs, which include the following:
General Training: This often looks like in-company training courses on feedback, leadership, or other technical courses needed for the job. They are usually heavy in theory, providing an employee with a solid foundation to then take out into the real world. Some courses offer workshop opportunities, which give employees the space to network internally and apply these new skills to hypothetical situations to understand how to handle these types of cases in the workplace.
Conferences: Conferences are an excellent opportunity for employees to learn and network with top talent in their industry. They can learn about innovative processes and tools to share with teammates once they’ve returned to the office. One of the main benefits of conferences is the ability to change your scenery and gain some new perspectives from industry leaders, which can be very energizing and inspirational.
Formal Education: Formal education refers to learning programs that take place through a structured instruction program, such as a college course or a certification. These opportunities can be more expensive but are a great way to continue to develop an employee’s credentials, placing them as a thought leader inside the company.
Informal Education: Informal education can take the shape of employee-led training sessions, TedTalks, or online learning programs. It’s also as simple as one person sharing tips about how to navigate a new tool or software, or searching for something online when you don’t have the answer. This is an excellent way to expose employees to new skills and ideas at no cost
2. Additional Work Experience:
Providing additional work experience as method of people development is a cost-efficient way to focus on expanding your team’s skill set. These types of programs also inspire loyalty by proving to employees that you can see them taking on more responsibility and growing within the company - it prevents stagnation and builds team leaders.
Job Rotations: Job rotations help employees develop new interests and new skill sets by showing them how other facets of the company work. By exposing them to new roles and teams, you can potentially help them find a position that best suits their skills and allows them to make a more substantial contribution to the company.
Stretch Projects: Stretch projects can be either vertical or horizontal: working on projects for their level in a different swimlane, or taking on more upwards or downwards responsibilities to enhance leadership and management skills. They allow employees to develop a greater understanding of how adjacent teams work or try on new responsibilities to prove that they are ready for a promotion.
3. Coaching & Mentoring:
Both options offer more targeted interpersonal support to manage employee development and help achieve specific outcomes. Employees who receive either contribute with greater confidence, thereby empowering their team to work more effectively.Coaching: Coaching engagements are performance-driven, and usually work on a shorter timeline to help employees improve specific skill sets.
Mentoring: On the other hand, mentoring takes a developmental approach and support an employee while focusing on both hard and soft skills. Mentoring relationships tend to be more of a long-term relationship, while coaching engagements end after a set amount of time.
4. Performance Assessments:
Performance assessments (both formal and informal) elicit a deeper understanding of both where an employee is and how to get them to where they need to be. They help organizations build a dialogue based culture, allowing team members to have open conversations about where they can continue to improve.Check-ins: Often considered a more informal approach to performance management, they are still a valuable tool to assess how an employee is doing in their day to day tasks. These ideally occur regularly to evaluate how employees are performing with goals and to provide feedback continually, and to identify either:
▻ when an employee is doing well and should get additional opportunities to build new skills,
▻ or when an employee is not meeting expectations and needs other development opportunities to get up to speed.
Year-End Reviews: Usually seen as the more formal approach, year-end reviews allow employees and managers to have a more in-depth conversation about performance to wrap up the year. These are an excellent opportunity to discuss how goals were met for the year, provide any additional feedback from team members, or take a forward look at promotions or extra responsibilities.
360 Feedback: 360 feedback branches out from the typical downwards flow of feedback from manager to employee. By opening up feedback channels to include co-workers and other team leaders, it increases self-awareness and creates a culture of openness. Employees who engage in 360 feedback can gain additional insight into their strengths and areas of improvement that a manager might not see, and can address them accordingly via development plans.
As you can see, there is no shortage of employee development methods. Many companies engage in a mixture of all four to find their ideal balance - there’s no one size fits all solution.
Smart leaders know that investing in employee development is crucial to the long term success of the company. It’s a joint effort between the company and employee, leading to increased returns on both ends. By giving employees room to grow their skills, companies prove that they value their contributions and efforts, leading to increased job satisfaction and engagement.
Whether you are building a career development program from scratch or looking to add to your current programming, take a look at the list above and give them a try. Your team will only thank you.