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4 Ways to Develop Your Employees

team development
Woman looking at wall with sticky notes deciding how to develop her employees

Employee development is a continuous process. It is not a nurture-and-release endeavor by any means. The human condition dictates that it’s an ongoing event, just as trends and the marketplace change with the times. It keeps moving like a shark. Without a plan, organizations risk becoming stagnant and irrelevant. The world isn’t going to wait for you to catch up, either.

Therefore, human capital management is just as much about employee enrichment as it is about an organization’s survival in a changing world.


The Critical Need for Employee Development Plans

Employees have clear ideas about their needs within their organizations. The problem is that, more often than not, employers have dropped the ball and failed to motivate their workers. The most common reasons for this shortfall are:

  • Vague expectations and goals
  • Demand stress from poorly planned workloads
  • Unreasonable performance evaluation practices

Disengaged and unmotivated employees are a flight risk that few organizations can ignore, with estimates up to $605 billion in lost productivity. Employee development plans can help relieve this financial burden and organizational stress by giving workers a purpose and focus for their efforts. It’s part of our DNA. It’s part of the human condition to make the best use of our energy and avoid wasting time.

Optimization of our resources is our survival strategy.

Defining Your Purpose

The critical first step is defining your goals for your organization using the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) methodology. The process involves setting objectives that give everyone a clear idea of the overall expectations. The key results provide a means to evaluate the efforts to reach them. 

It’s essential to create a cascading path of objectives that go from individual to company-wide. Each successive layer builds upon the previous one, using the same focal point as the touchstone. Everyone in an organization has the same goal to motivate and inspire them.


The key results are the crux of the plan. They provide measurable, clear and specific assessments for evaluating the success of meeting the objectives. They all take a page out of the SMART methodology by creating attainable and reasonable initiatives that are time-bound. 

With this information in hand, you have the framework to develop your employees.

Starting From the Top-Down

The purpose provides the framework for leadership coaching to implement employee coaching and development. Even the face of this task has changed with COVID-19. The story is still being written on the long-term impacts on the workplace. What is clear is that it’s been a much-needed wake-up call for organizations to change their mindset to adapt.

Leadership coaching offers several benefits to both management and the organization. Over 50 percent of employees want more career development opportunities. It can help relieve manager/superior stress by reducing the isolation many feel in their position. In turn, coaching can increase motivation and personal satisfaction that leaders can pass on to their team members.

The organization benefits from improved employee morale to boost productivity and collaboration between team members. It is the proverbial win-win, which explains why business coaching is nearly a $12 billion industry. It gives managers the tools they need for effective performance management.

Coaching also shifts the focus from knowledge enhancement to vertical leader development for increasing self-awareness and emotional intelligence. That can lead to far-reaching benefits for the entire organization and its company culture. Personal growth doesn’t stop at management skills. It considers the person as a whole. It allows managers to become coaches instead of bosses.

The critical thing is that leaders set an example of the importance of training and development.

Developing Team Goals

This information empowers leaders to develop team goals, which are the basis for development programs. You know the objectives and key results. The next step is creating a plan to reach them. Everyone has a role in achieving these results. Breaking them down by teams makes them more attainable. If the goal is to increase sales by 10 percent, the plan will create quarterly milestones.

The advantage of splitting goals down into manageable chunks is that it provides a checkpoint along the path to success. Both managers and employees will find it satisfying to tick off boxes and enjoy seeing tangible results. It’s a powerful motivator to keep teams learning and achieving more.

Performance Management for Individuals

Performance management must address the disconnect between employers and employees if the goal is continuous development. Several elements must come into place. First, business leaders must understand their objectives and key results thoroughly. That will empower them to communicate them clearly to their team.

Second, the employees must have input in their development plans. Unfortunately, only 30 percent of workers feel that is the case. It’s a missed opportunity for fostering greater job satisfaction and engagement. When managers and employees work together on this task, it gives both a stake in the outcome.

Third, employers must adapt and be flexible with the changing times. Over 50 percent of organizations are moving toward a hybrid workplace. That figure is significant, given that one-third of employees fear that it will come at the cost of training. Nevertheless, over 70 percent of business leaders want to invest more in making remote work more accessible and more productive.

The takeaway is that the key to continuous employee development is adaptability.

Tips for Employee Development and Enrichment

The importance of employee development is evident when taken into account with the potential costs of ignoring or putting it on hold. Often, plans fail because they are either inconsistent or lack accountability. Implemented correctly, they offer opportunities to mend the gaps between strategies on the business and human capital sides of the equation.

Training is an investment that begins the first day on the job for the best ROI.


Customized Plans

Training requires collaboration between managers and team members to realize its full potential. It must also take into account the individual paths toward success. It’s not a matter of your or my goals, but our goals, instead. Now more than ever, employee development is personal.

The fact remains that individuals have different career goals. The objective is to ensure they align with the corporate ones. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. The key is to create an environment of psychological safety where employees can feel free to speak candidly about their expectations. Too often, employers get entangled in their curse of knowledge and fail to learn what it’s like on the front.

Collaboration can start with the plan. Like OKRs, it should tackle objectives on several levels, from short-term projects to long-term career development. 

Another strategy for engaging employees and building their skill set is incorporating cross-training into the plan. It offers a cost-effective way of teaching team members new skills. It can also help alleviate social support stress and foster cooperation between various departments.

The best plans consider the individual as a whole and incorporate strategies for enhancing:

  • Their career and skill development
  • Their emotional well-being
  • Their physical health

It’s worth noting that nearly 90 percent of employees want their managers to care about their mental health. COVID-19 taught all of us its importance, both at work and in our personal lives. It helps explain why work-health balance is so vital. Attending to these needs as a part of employee development fits in with the goals of vertical leader development.

Thinking outside of the box can also offer new avenues of growth. Incorporating developmental assignments or on-the-job training into the plan provides additional skill-learning opportunities. Likewise, increasing control and responsibilities can help employees take ownership of their positions and improve engagement.


Measurable Results

Just as OKRs require a means to assess performance, so do employee development plans. It creates accountability and allows team members to see the results of their efforts. It can spur motivation for continued improvement. It can also identify areas for additional skill-building efforts or reassessing the expectations. Managers can benefit from the insights that these metrics provide.

Positive Feedback

Positive feedback and constructive feedback is critical to the process. It represents a situation where a manager is more of a coach and mentor to the employee. The critical factor is that this exchange occurs frequently and not just at a performance review. It gives the employee a chance to adapt their process to meet the established expectations.

Providing feedback keeps the lines of communication open, which is vital to any organization. It should focus not only on the past but also guide the future. After all, the essence of an employee development plan is that it’s fluid and flexible. It adapts to the worker’s achievements to encourage continued growth.

Reassessing and Repeating

It’s equally as essential to reassess the individual development plan occasionally to ensure it’s still aligned with the organization’s strategies. It’s another opportunity for communication that is critical to the process. The manager and employee can use these times to explore other training or skill development. The plan evolves and grows with the individual.

Building a Learning Culture

Building a learning culture allows an organization to take employee development to the next level. It creates a workplace of lifelong learners who expand their knowledge base in new directions. There are several ways to approach this goal. It can be as simple as a corporate subscription to an online course platform, such as Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, or Udemy for professional development. Many sites also offer free MOOCs.

The advantage of e-learning is that employees can take courses on their time with on-demand, online learning opportunities. Tuition reimbursement is an excellent way to encourage learning at the college level. However, executive support is vital to foster this environment. Incentives to embrace employment development plans is essential to realize the benefits that they offer.

Business leaders must take the lead and encourage learning at all levels. Remember that the employees want to do their best. They need the tools and training to do it. Perhaps, they’re heeding the message. According to Training Magazine’s 2020 Training Industry Report, organizations invested $83 billion in training or about $1,111 per employee.

Realizing the Benefits of Continuous Employee Development

Many employees view career development programs as a fulfilling way to increase their skill set with benefits that touch their private lives, too. Many noted a better work-life balance and greater job satisfaction. About 70 percent of employees also noticed an improved ability to block distractions in the workplace. That can have far-reaching effects throughout a business.

Of course, other benefits of continuous employee development exist for the employer, too. Having a system in place makes it easier to respond to changes in the marketplace. Part of the reason that the financial fallout from COVID-19 was so devastating was that businesses weren’t prepared. Without an educational infrastructure, the corporate culture suffered.

As the business world shifts to a hybrid workplace model, the lessons learned from the pandemic will become more essential. They will also help usher in a new way of connecting and learning. The question of whether to develop your employees continuously will have the answer that organizations need to grow their businesses even in uncertain times.

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