14 Effective Tips for Developing Employees

By Jennifer Herrity

Updated November 16, 2021 | Published March 22, 2021

Updated November 16, 2021

Published March 22, 2021

Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.

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Employees are perhaps the most valuable asset in any organization. Employee development refers to the process of working with them to strengthen and improve their skills in line with professional and organizational goals. Developing employees gives rise to a proficient and motivated workforce that directly affects a company's performance.

In this article, we outline the process of developing employees and name the best practices.

Key tactics for developing employees

It is an employee's individual responsibility to work toward professional development. However, encouraging and facilitating development opportunities benefits the employer as well as the employee. The following 14 strategies can help you create a robust program for developing your employees.

1. Train for success from the start

Training is an essential activity for onboarding new employees and developing existing ones. Training enhances the hard and soft skills, improves the knowledge and increases the confidence required to complete tasks. When an employee's confidence is raised, they are likely to perform better at work. Moreover, when you dedicate time and resources to developing staff, employees feel valued and appreciated and this motivates them to put more effort into their work.

2. Set a good example and encourage self-development

Leaders who develop themselves professionally are likely to encourage employees to develop themselves too. When a manager takes steps to learn and grow, other employees realize that personal development is an integral part of company culture.

3. Create individual development plans

Work with everyone on your team to help them identify their professional goals. Each personal development plan should highlight ways of achieving these goals, challenges facing the employee, interventions to resolve the challenges and the time frames for attaining the identified goals. This motivates employees and helps you determine whether your business goals are aligned with the employee goals.

4. Set performance metrics

Develop employees by setting measurable performance metrics. Establish specific performance objectives so your team has tangible goals to meet. As they hit each target, the sense of accomplishment motivates them to achieve even higher levels of performance. If done correctly, performance appraisals can identify areas where further training is necessary.

Read More: Ways to Conduct Employee Performance Appraisals

5. Simulate situations

Simulating real-life situations in the workplace is an effective way of developing employees. Simulation entails recreating workplace scenarios, resolving the situations and applying the solutions to real-world practices. This prepares employees to handle challenging workplace situations, such as resolving a customer complaint.

6. Give regular feedback

Develop employees by giving constructive feedback about their conduct, performance and attitude throughout the year. Congratulate employees for the work well done and encourage them to improve on specific areas for better results in the future.

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7. Delegate responsibilities

Develop employees by enabling them to perform higher-level duties from time to time. When employees get used to taking up higher responsibilities, they learn new skills and prepare for future leadership responsibilities. Delegating duties helps delegators free up time that could be used for more important tasks. It also encourages trust and communication between managers and employees because it gives them confidence knowing that you trust them and that you believe in their capabilities.

Related: Delegation Strategies for the Workplace

8. Engage in cross-training

Cross-training prepares employees for roles they may qualify for in the future. Temporarily shifting them to a new department gives them a chance to explore a different—and possibly challenging—area of your business. Finally, cross-training fosters a spirit of teamwork by eliminating working silos, allowing employees to learn to appreciate the value of different roles and aspects of the business.

9. Coaching

Coaching is one of the most effective ways of developing employees, especially new hires. It involves a senior staff member working closely with young or inexperienced employees, which helps create a continuous stream of future organizational leaders. Coaching helps employees see things from a different perspective and develop ways of solving problems on their own.

10. Take career progression seriously

Every organization has a method to gauge whether an employee has qualified for a promotion. Career progression guidelines allow employees to attain the necessary qualifications such as certifications and licenses. Employees need to be assured that their efforts are likely to enable them to achieve higher levels of responsibility. Feeling stuck in one position for a long time saps the motivation of employees, who then might see self-development as a futile effort and begin to look elsewhere for opportunities.

11. Dedicate resources

To realize true returns, your organization must invest resources in employee development. While some ways of developing employees may not require a substantial investment, other strategies require budgetary support to implement. To ensure employee development goes as planned, set aside sufficient resources to implement programs such as training workshops, learning tours and team-building activities, not to mention incentives, raises and promotions where appropriate.

12. Retention

If your organization has a high turnover rate, you might be losing your investment, including the costs of onboarding, training and other employee development programs. To save valuable resources, establish mechanisms to retain the best employees in your organization. You might find that the cost of replacing an employee is higher than the cost of developing one. Retaining also ensures you preserve institutional knowledge as the company grows.

Read More: 17 Successful Retention Strategies

13. Nurture professional networks

Develop employees by expanding their professional horizons, giving them the opportunity to network with others in the industry. Introduce employees to mentors, business leaders and professional associations. Networking broadens their minds and gives them new angles of perception, both key attributes in solving evolving challenges in the workplace. Networking provides your team ways of obtaining extra support, advice and information to grow their careers. You also create ambassadors for your organization both in your industry and the community.

14. Eliminate barriers

Some organizations have compartmentalized teams. Develop employees by eliminating rigidity in organizational structure and processes. Allow for cross-functional collaboration, which is essential for learning, sharing and flourishing.

Related: Guide To People Management: Definition, Tips and Skills

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Benefits of effectively developing employees

Investing in developing employees has several benefits to your organization, including but not limited to:

  • Unlocking employee creativity

  • Improving performance

  • Fostering a goal-oriented mindset

  • Enabling closer collaboration

  • Saving money through employee retention

Employees do not want to feel that their careers are stalled. They want to dedicate themselves and make an effort for an employer that recognizes their skills and acknowledges their successes.

Read more: How to Train and Effectively Develop Employees

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