Your Guide To Employee Development

Updated June 24, 2022

A company's success is to a large extent dependent on the quality of its employees. When you find a talented and committed employee, the best way to ensure that the individual stays with the company is to invest in their personal and professional development. In this article, we define employee development, its benefits and outline a few ways in which you can provide opportunities for the ongoing development of your team.

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What is employee development?

Employee development is the process of a company providing employees with opportunities and support to improve their existing skills and knowledge to excel and develop as professionals.

There are many different ways in which a company can develop its employees, including training, mentoring and employee reviews. It is important to remember to not only focus on the professional development of your employees but to also provide them with opportunities to improve and develop their soft skills.

Related: Advancing Your Career With Leadership Development

Benefits of employee development

If a business invests in employees, employees will likely have a vested interest in the business. Although it is important that an employee contributes to the growth and development of a company, the opposite also applies. An employee also needs to develop and grow while working for a company.

If you provide your employees with adequate growth opportunities, they should be more motivated to perform well and less tempted to look for employment elsewhere. Employee development, in turn, also tends to have a positive effect on productivity and profit margins.

How to develop employees

As an employer, there are many different methods you can use to promote employee development and growth. Start with the following steps to determine which are best for you and your team:

  1. Decide on an employee development plan.

  2. Establish specific quantitative performance metrics.

  3. Give constructive and regular feedback.

  4. Provide training opportunities.

  5. Offer mentorship.

  6. Provide cross-departmental training.

  7. Remember to develop your team's soft skills too.

1. Decide on an employee development plan

Meet with employees and find out what their personal goals and desires are. Although an employee's professional goals should align with their position and the broad goals of a company, it is important to consider their personal aspirations. Especially if they are talented and efficient, you should be prepared to offer them attractive growth opportunities so that they have sufficient reasons to remain with the company.

Once you have learned what the professional goals of an employee are, you can decide on a development plan that aligns with both the professional aspirations of the employee and the needs and goals of the company. The development plan serves as a map for both the company and the employee and includes measurable goals and timeframes for achieving these goals.

2. Establish specific quantitative performance metrics

Next, establish performance metrics to measure employee objectives. Performance metrics provide employees with a clear idea of what you expect of them, as well as attainable goals that they can work towards. They also help you gauge the strengths and weaknesses of an employee in relation to their performance so you can tweak your strategy accordingly through mentoring or training.

3. Give constructive and regular feedback

If you want employee development to be effective, you will need to communicate with your employees regularly. You can do this through one-on-one meetings or updates via mail, to stay up to date on their progress and development. During such feedback sessions, you can discuss the employee's performance (with data from performance metrics) and can provide them with constructive feedback. In this way, you can offer enhanced support where needed and also bolster an employee's confidence by praising them for work well done.

Communicating with your employees on a regular basis is beneficial to all parties concerned. It allows you to address issues before they become concerns and to gently guide an employee's development. Most employees welcome regular feedback sessions, as it demonstrates your vested interest in their work and your commitment to their ongoing development.

4. Provide training opportunities

Measuring and guiding your employee's performances supports your employee's development; however, to maximize their potential, you should supplement this with training opportunities.

This may involve sending employees on training and certification courses, organizing workshops for them or providing them with the training material, such as online articles and videos or books. Some employees may wish to study part-time towards a degree, which you can support by offering financial assistance or study leave when they have to write exams.

5. Offer mentorship

Another great way to improve an employee's skills and knowledge is by providing them with a mentor. This is a very valuable and effective way of developing an employee, as they gain practical on-the-job experience under the guidance of a senior or more experienced staff member. You should strive to meet with the mentor and trainee from time to time to ascertain whether both parties are committed to the process and whether their personalities make for a good fit. If the parties are incompatible, it is best to assign a new mentor.

Related: The Definitive Guide To Mentorship

6. Provide cross-departmental training

Although many companies have quite rigid organizational structures in place, it can only be beneficial for employees to gain knowledge about the functions and processes of other departments within a company. This is especially applicable in today's world, where the new generation of workers responds well to more open and fluid work environments.

You can implement cross-departmental training at your workplace that will afford employees a deeper understanding of a company's activities. For example, you can ask program developers to accompany technicians to client sites when installing new program updates, which will provide the developers with a better understanding of client needs. The technicians, on the other hand, are bound to gain more in-depth knowledge of the program.

7. Remember to develop your team's soft skills too

You should also focus on developing your employee's soft skills, as these are as important as technical skills and professional knowledge. An employee who is emotionally intelligent is a valuable asset in the workplace as they are bound to deflect conflict, work well in a team and excel in their duties. Providing employees with the means to develop their soft skills is also beneficial to them, as it may help them cope better with pressure and stress.

You can improve your team's soft skills, for instance, by organizing a workshop where an expert coaches them on various skills, such as coping with conflict in the workplace, effective communication and healthy lifestyle choices. Employees who can communicate effectively and support each other emotionally encourage a happy and productive workspace.

Related: Emotional Intelligence: Definitions and Examples

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Examples of employee development

Sally is a new IT technician that has just joined your team. She has no previous work experience and has just completed her associate degree program. You decide to meet with Sally to gain a better understanding of what her professional aspirations are. She informs you that she wishes to specialize in networking and work towards becoming a senior Cisco engineer. You decide to include the following in her development plan:

Cisco certification

Sally will need to obtain professional Cisco certification if she wishes to become a Cisco engineer. The company agrees to cover 50% of the training and examination fees towards the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) qualification. As it is best for Sally to first gain some on-the-job experience, you agree that she will complete this step by the end of her first year at the company.

Assign a mentor

You assign Sally a mentor in the networking department, namely Sean, who is a senior Cisco engineer. Sally needs to shadow Sean and accompany him when he visits client sites. You organize a meeting with Sean and Sally and decide on specific performance metrics for Sally, which you will review during a monthly meeting.

Online training

You show Sally a few sites where she can receive free online training in the meantime and also loan her two Cisco books from the company's library.

Soft-skill development

You inform Sally that there will be a workshop on soft skills next Saturday and that it is compulsory for her to attend.

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