Help Your Employees Develop, or Watch Them Leave

When was the last time you thought about your employee development strategy? Chances are, development plans have taken a back seat to current projects, end of year sales targets, new hires, and software implementation. Maybe some departments in your organization have well-defined growth tracks, while others have no clear growth strategy defined. With mounting workloads, it can be tempting for managers to try to keep employees in their current roles to keep outputs high, rather than move people into roles where their skills are unproven, or allow them to expand their scope of responsibilities beyond what they already do well. As every HR leader knows, this short-sighted thinking can easily backfire, driving employees out the door when they reach the end of their patience within the confines of their current role.

Worse still, denying employees the opportunity to grow and develop not only impacts retention, but also endangers recruiting efforts. A recent survey found that job candidates in the U.S. look for one thing above all others when applying for jobs: opportunities for growth and professional development. If your potential candidates learn that opportunities for development and growth are non-existent within your organization, they’ll likely look for positions elsewhere, even if you offer outstanding benefits and compensation packages.

87 percent of Millennials and more than 60 percent of Gen X and Baby Boomers say professional or career growth and development opportunities are important when considering job opportunities.

- Gallup News

Managers need to consistently invest in onboarding, training, education, and growth options to keep their employees interested and motivated. We’ve compiled a complete list of methods to create ways for employees to be successful within your organization in our Employee Success Playbook, but here are a few things you can do to get your employee development plan on track:

Understand and record the goals of each employee individually. Do managers at your organization understand the career aspirations of their employees? Have they developed and discussed milestones that employees will need to achieve to reach the next level in their careers? Are these requirements documented and measurable? Without discussing and documenting career development, managers and employees leave room for mismatched expectations, confusion, and disappointment on both sides. By keeping a record of each employee’s career objectives, and milestones they need to achieve to get there, you can align development opportunities with the goals of the employee.

Create and track progress toward success metrics. It’s important for employees to know where they stand when it comes to making progress toward their development goals. Gone are the days when an annual review was sufficient to discuss progress toward development goals. To make sure employees know where they stand in terms of achievement, managers should be reviewing progress toward goals and recognizing success as it happens. Progress and accomplishments should be recorded in a centralized database to ensure visibility for the employee internally.

Develop employee strengths, instead of focusing on improving weaknesses. By targeting on developing employees’ strongest traits, you’ll develop a team of specialized experts, as opposed to a team that does many things reasonably well. People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job, according to Gallup. By focusing on strengths, and matching employees with projects and responsibilities that utilize those strengths, Gallup suggests managers can ensure employees are more productive, profitable, and have higher quality work. That doesn’t mean managers should limit employees who want to try to develop in areas where they have limited experience, but perhaps consider whether a new project or assignment plays to an employee's existing strengths

Creating opportunities for development not only encourages employees to hone their own skills, but could also encourage employees to share knowledge and mentor their peers. Spending more resources on talent attraction and hiring without equal effort on development and retention will ultimately hurt your organization's ability to grow and scale. If you’re looking for more ways to boost retention and help foster employee success within your organization, check out our Employee Success Playbook for 10 tips to create highly-engaged, productive employees.

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