It’s estimated that American companies spend $164.2 billion on employee development programs each year.
Executives who successfully implement year-round development activities are tapping into the strengths and talents of their employees and dramatically lowering the rate at which their best employees are quitting.
A good development program is robust and clear in its objectives, can scale across your small business, and is measurable in terms of real return on Investment (ROI).
Here are 8 ways that your small business can provide professional development to employees to help bring out the best in each and every one of them.
1. Mentoring Opportunities
While mentoring may not be a “traditional” development program, it can make a big difference with new or younger employees.
Get managers or experienced employees to volunteer to mentor and match mentor/mentee based on interest, job role, or technical skills.
For some, coaching will seem intimidating at first, but a commitment to it pays off tremendously for all involved, as it demands more than just a manager telling an employee what to do.
2. Provide Skill Level Based Teaching
The most effective development programs always involve learning and they are never one-size-fits-all. Individual employees have different strengths and core abilities and so small businesses will benefit from providing a variety learning options.
A new employee may not find value in, “advanced marketing principles for managers,” while an experienced employee on the path to being a manager will. It’s important to tailor each program based on the individual and give them a sense of ownership over their learning.
3. Provide Flexible Learning Options
Implementing a development program when employees already have a full workload can be overwhelming and make them less productive in the long run.
Your small business can respond by finding programs that offer 24-hour learning opportunities and ones that extend to mobile. This will allow employees to complete learning courses at the times that work best for them.
You may also consider rewarding employees for completing certain learning or development courses and activities. Doing so will help to make it feel less like “work” and more like something they look forward to being a part of.
4. Implement a Program that Makes Growth “Personal”
Every employee in your business will have a different motivation for participating in a development program. It is job of the business owner or manager to find out exactly what that reason is.
Any coach or trainer will tell you that a general goal of “winning” or “being healthier” is much less powerful than something specific such as “beating a personal record in a 5K” or “fitting into an old outfit.”
Take time to sit down with each employee at least once per quarter to discuss his or her goals and aspirations for the development program and how it will benefit both parties.
5. Develop Soft-Skills / People Skills
Research shows that interpersonal skills play a huge role in employee growth, happiness, and productivity. In fact, 85% of career growth is based on ‘Human Engineering,’ in other words, people skills.
Try bringing in a communication expert to talk to and coach employees on things like non-verbal skills, office communication, reading human interactions, and customer service. While this may not seem as important as technical skills, it can improve everything from employee cohesion to revenue in your small business.
6. Find an Office Program Leader
The development program leader is essential to the success of the program. A weak program leader who does not fully buy-in almost guarantees underwhelming results while a strong leader will garner the trust and support of employees.
Choose a program leader that is passionate about the company and the program, has great communication skills, can work with the key stakeholders and executives, and will serve as the ambassador throughout the office to motivate and help employees whenever needed.
7. Experiment with Job Rotations and/or Job Moves
Being a part of any successful development program will eventually mean that employees will want to move up or around in your small business. This is great news as it shows that they are hungry to be a part of the company’s future.
Your program should be clear in the opportunities and growth paths that will be available to employees as they complete milestones. Offering new positions or moving people around in the organisation based on skill sets and interests can increase motivation, boost retention, and give employees the feeling of growth.
8. Offer a Modern Working Environment
Business owners are often surprised to find the some employees equate development with a simple change of pace in their daily routines.
Try offering employees, if possible, the opportunity to work from home once or twice per week. Or, do away with the typical “two-week” vacation policy and move to “unlimited vacation time.” Businesses that have moved to unlimited vacation time have seen a boost in employees’ productivity levels and trust of the organisation.
It’s safe to say that most small business owners want to keep their employees happy and productive. They want to do this because happy and productive employees are good for business. And when you consider that an employee development program can result in a 250% boost in productivity, it begins to make a lot of sense for your small business.
Take the time to invest in your employees today and it will pay off tremendously in the future. Here’s one of our favourite Guides to Employee Development.8 Ways Your Small Business Can Provide Professional Development Brian Peters