The new year is a natural time to assess our personal and professional goals and to consider how we can make the most of the months ahead of us. For business leaders and HR reps, the beginning of the year also underscores the importance of growing the skills of workforces by providing employee development opportunities. As you begin to brainstorm what developmental initiatives to roll-out next, keep the following in mind.
Employees Seek Professional Development
Today’s professionals are thinking in terms of careers, not jobs, and are continuously seeking to refine and grow their skill sets. Surveys show that nearly half of workers say learning and development is the most important benefit when deciding where to work, proving how critical career advancement is to them. However, over a third of workers say their current employers simply do not assist in their professional development. If employees don’t receive the support they need, they will seek it elsewhere with another company. Focusing on employee development opportunities in your business is a win-win situation because not only does it improve retention by keeping workers happy, but sharpening their skill sets makes them even more valuable to your organization.
Formal In-House Training
In the most traditional sense, in-house training programs can be effective for encouraging the professional development of your employees. These trainings are often geared toward specific positions or seek to groom a worker into a management role. When you put together your own programs, it provides training completely tailored to your business, imparting the exact skills your roles require. It may be the most labor-intensive option, but this way employees won’t wonder if the training applies to their job or learn irrelevant skills.
Whether in magazines, TV shows, or at work, people are always looking up to and aspiring to be like someone. It’s a great tool for employees to consider another’s professional journey, be inspired by their success, and learn the steps they took to get to where they are today. A great mentorship program can help facilitate this and can be an effective and attractive benefit for your employees. Yet, only 29% of workers report that their companies have mentorship programs in place. If you’re able to pair managers with subordinates in mentor-mentee relationships, it can create a culture of internal growth and seamless transitions. Mentors can become confidants and guides, fostering a trust that goes deeper than traditional training programs.
Certifications and Tuition Reimbursement
Outside programs also have much to offer in the way of employee development opportunities. Depending on your industry and the skill set being refined, there are often respected certifications or higher education classes that can help your employees develop and refine their skills in a certain area. These are popular options, as 61% of companies offer some sort of tuition reimbursement. Some organizations will reimburse all expenses while others will cover a percentage. Across the board, it’s typical to have stipulations that employees must meet to be eligible for these benefits, such as maintaining a certain grade point average or staying with the company for a year after completing their program. No matter the form it takes, programs like these save businesses valuable time.
Since any activity that imparts knowledge can count toward employee development, there’s always room to be creative. Gamify your training and hold monthly competition-type meetings that are educational and include prizes to engage employees in learning. Create a scavenger hunt that solves a theoretical business problem. Invite exciting/knowledgeable speakers to have lunch and chat with your team once per quarter. Partner with a local professional organization to hold workshops or sponsor memberships for your employees. For more ideas, you could even create a survey and ask your employees what they think will help them most. Whatever you choose, collaboration often produces the best employee development opportunities of all.
Employee Development Opportunities for Your Business
Not every type of employee professional development works for every business, but when a lack of training is a top reason that businesses fail, it’s important to find the methods that work for your organization. It takes time to determine which skill-growth activities will work best, and that burden often falls on shorthanded HR departments. Whether your HR function has the bandwidth to take on the challenge or you decide to outsource your HR, putting effort into employee development will pay off in a stronger and more efficient workforce.