It’s a topic that, in my humble opinion, isn’t discussed nearly enough in entrepreneurial circles: employee development.
Most entrepreneurs are natural go-getters. Many of us jumped in without much coaching, without some leadership figure monitoring and providing feedback on our every move. We tend to forget that not everyone is the same way.
And in fact, that’s a good thing. Not everyone can be the boss. As business owners, we need qualified people who want to thrive under someone else’s leadership. We bear a responsibility to help develop those individuals and guide their careers—even in ways we may not have experienced ourselves.
Employee development isn’t an option; it should be a priority for every profitable entrepreneur.
Career Development = Happy Employees
Why should you spend valuable time and resources working to mold the career of someone who most likely, eventually, is going to leave you? Namely, because they’ll stick around longer and do better work.
Various studies have shown that companies with structured employee development programs have more satisfied employees and lower turnover rates than their non-development-focused counterparts. As we’ve discussed previously, both of these factors are critical elements of a successful business.
And employees echo the sentiment; a study by Glassdoor found that nearly three-quarters of employees said specialized training was more important than their college degree in workplace success!
You can’t build an empire all by yourself; your people are your greatest asset. Therefore, it’s wise to invest in them in ways that truly build value for their overall career—not just in ways that are beneficial to you.
There’s no single formula for creating an effective career development program. Yours will depend on the size of your organization, your leadership structure, and your financial resources. Here are six factors to consider to better incorporate employee development into your business model.
Provide Regular Feedback
One of the most frustrating things about being an employee is feeling clueless about how you’re doing. Making quarterly reviews part of your regularly scheduled internal activities is a small step that can make a big difference in employee perception about your investment in them.
Use these regular review sessions not only to set and track measurable goals, but to check in with your employee about how things are going and what, if anything, they’d like more coaching on. Simply asking employees what they need from you is a major step in empowering them on their own career path.
Encourage Conference Attendance
It’s hard to match the volume and caliber of education your employees can get from attending an industry conference (the good ones, at least!). Plus there’s zero effort required on your part.
Yes, conferences can be expensive, but when compared to the cost of running your own training programs in-house, they’re often a better bang for your buck with a lot less hassle.
Consider reimbursing your employees for all or a portion of one conference of their choice per year. If covering the full cost of attendance isn’t in the budget, you might cover the entry fee if they cover the travel, or incentivize attendance with a non-monetary bonus, like extra PTO days.
Support Continued Learning
If it’s not feasible to send all of your employees to an off-site conference, a continued-learning course might be a cost-effective alternative.
These days there are an unprecedented number of webinars, online courses and work-at-your-own-pace continued learning programs available for professionals, some from prestigious institutions like MIT. Many are even available for free!
For some ideas, check out our post on 9 Awesome Resources for Continued Learning, No Matter Your Field.
Delegate Your Duties
One of the most valuable career opportunities you can offer ambitious employees is the chance to stand in your shoes.
I once had a boss that would regularly send us in her place to things like Chamber of Commerce events, professional association meetings and philanthropic gatherings. It was a way for her to get obligations off her plate, to be sure, but for the more junior team members it was an amazing glimpse into professional and social circles we might not have had otherwise.
I spent many an early morning showing up in my boss’ place at Chamber of Commerce breakfasts, but I was more than just a seat-warmer. I got to rub elbows with the movers and shakers of the professional community and made valuable contacts, many of whom I keep in touch with to this day.
Delegating some of your civic and professional duties is a win-win; your employees get to experience new realms outside of their day-to-day job title, and you free up time to dedicate toward growing your business.
Tap Your Managers
If you have a multi-department staff, empower your managers by putting employee development in the hands of each department head. Managers are likely more familiar with the skillsets of their direct reports than you are, and are probably better equipped to determine the most effective development programs for their teams.
This is also a display of trust and respect for your management team; when you place your confidence in their abilities, they perform with confidence and deliver better results.
Empower Your Employees
Perhaps the most important step in developing your employees is empowering them to be part of the process. According to a Gallup study, employees who are given a voice in the type of training they receive display a higher level of satisfaction with the training than those who are blindly told how and what they’ll be learning.
The best way to find out what kind of professional development your employees are after? Ask! Make them part of the loop and take their feedback into consideration when building your development programs.
It’s true that some individuals are more ambitious about professional development than others. Some prefer to show up, do their job and go home.
Both types of people can be effective employees; by empowering them to make decisions about their training and continued career development—and by supporting those who are serious about advancing in their career—you’ll breed happy employees, lower turnover rates and more successful departments.
Do you have an employee development program? What does it look like?