Creating opportunities for growth
By helping each of your employees develop and succeed, you help your business as a whole.
You know your employees are critical to the success of your business, but in the rush of daily tasks, it can be easy to postpone plans for their professional development. Yet, preparing your staff for new responsibilities may help your business reach its larger goals.
Employees who feel their supervisors support their development tend to be more motivated and loyal, according to a survey from the American Psychological Association (APA).1 When workers felt their supervisors were helping them grow, 88 percent of respondents said they were motivated to do their best work, compared with 48 percent of those who did not feel supported.
David Ballard, director of the APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence, encourages business owners to heed these findings. “If they want to remain competitive, employers need not only to be able to retain the best and brightest, but they need to keep them skilled up,” he says.
Training and development can happen within your organization or through outside resources. Here are some ways to help your employees step up.
Continuing education courses, conferences, tuition-reimbursement programs, and career counseling can be key opportunities to build employees’ skills and guide them in setting career goals. By the end of 2017, more than 90 percent of total U.S companies offered some form of classroom training or virtual learning, and 85 percent offered tuition reimbursement to at least a portion of employees.2
For instance, Zawadi Bryant, CEO of NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care, hires a consulting firm every quarter to facilitate employee training in emotional intelligence and conflict resolution. She pairs the training with a team-building activity, such as cooking, painting, or rock climbing, which serves to promote a professional and positive work environment.
“People who are learning and growing are the most productive and positive employees,” Bryant says. “That leads to lower turnover, higher productivity, and ultimately better [customer] care.
Professional development can be as simple as listening to what your employees are interested in and what they want to do next, then taking steps to guide them, says Victor Lipman, president of Howling Wolf Management Training and author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World.
Have regular meetings on the books to discuss these topics — not only during annual performance reviews, but throughout the year. These checkins may help you and your managers identify growth opportunities. For example, Lipman worked closely with an employee who completed tasks thoroughly but lacked confidence. Lipman recommended an internal seminar on public speaking, which helped the employee improve presentation skills and advance in the company.
“Development can be a very low-cost or no-cost way to build loyalty, which is very valuable in employees and hard to come by,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be an elaborate seminar. It can be simple activities that a person does on his or her own.”
Research on organizational behavior shows that people want to have some control over the work they do and how they do it.3 Job enrichment is another way to expand employees’ capabilities, by allowing them to try out new roles or types of projects within your business.
Consider employees’ current job descriptions and activities, then build on or diversify those tasks. Maybe this means letting employees try working in a different department or on a different team. Plan these enrichment opportunities strategically: As you identify needs within your business, assess which of your current employees possess related skills that could be nurtured or adapted to meet your needs. For example, a graphic designer may have similar skills as a digital marketer. Create “learning paths” that help employees benchmark themselves against the relevant skills that will help them — and your business — grow and succeed.
Building professional development opportunities into your business practices can help your employees stay current, build new skills, and remain loyal team members.
1 "2017 Job Skills Training and Career Development Survey,” American Psychological Association, 2017.
2 “2017 Inventory of Total Rewards Programs & Practices,” World At Work, 2018.
3 “Structure That’s Not Stifling,” Harvard Business Review, 2018.