Tips For Developing Employee Skills And Career Growth

Employee development is a strategic investment into the long term health, stability, and profitability of your organization. It also intrinsically supports the workforce itself, helping increase both employee satisfaction and retention. In fact, according to a 2019 LinkedIn study, some 94% of employees said they’d stay with their current employer if the company invested in their development.

Development programs directly contribute to improved performance and innovation, and prepare the workforce for future challenges. Ultimately, a culture of continuous learning helps shape a positive work environment and build a strong company reputation that’s healthy from the inside out.

Unlocking the Benefits of Employee Development With Managers

Anand Chopra-McGowan, general manager at UK & Europe for Emeritus, a fast growing ed-tech company, penned a piece in Harvard Business Review pointing out the importance of managers in employee development. In the article, Chopra-McGowan emphasizes that managers should be empowered to tell leadership what they need, have a specific role in training, and be supported in turning training into action. He also stresses the significance of feedback in the process, encouraging leaders to listen to both managers and employees about the training experiences.

With this structure in mind, here are some more key strategies for developing employee skills and creating opportunities for career growth.

Identifying Employee Potential and Skills Gaps

Before improving employee skills, you have to assess them. Identifying skill gaps in the workplace will improve your team’s effectiveness, keeping your organization competitive and continually innovative. This can be addressed at hiring, training, and within the current workforce.

Strategies for Assessing Employee Skills and Identifying Gaps

    1. Start With Managers: As the HBR article emphasizes, managers are a pivotal part of the strategy for improving employee skills and performance. They must be trusted professionals and empowered to understand their teams. Using a ranking template or other standardized skills gap analysis, have each team leader assess their team’s proficiencies and gaps on an individualized basis. Depending on the line of work and size of the workforce, this could be as simple as a one-sheet questionnaire, or an in-depth series of meetings and retrospectives. No matter how involved the process is, it’s critically important to make sure it is organized, actionable, and standardized for every employee and team. Once you’ve identified strengths and gaps, get feedback from managers on where to focus efforts for improvement and how to approach upskilling and reskilling.
    2. Create Thoughtful Training Programs: Using manager feedback and their skill gap analyses as a guide, build training sessions to improve skills, utilizing experienced employees, e-learning, and/or external consultants. Here again, managers should lead the charge, making recommendations for what will work best for their teams. Their context and perspective should be the primary insight from which leaders should build these programs.
    3. Craft Communications Carefully: Done wrong, a skills analysis can feel like a test for employees, or worse, like a planned replacement. Keep this perspective in mind, and help employees understand that your development plans are for them. The skills they will learn will serve to help them not only in their current roles, but also in the future. In your talks and written communications, make sure to give career growth as much focus as skills improvement, helping employees know that you are as interested in their personal development as you are in building the company.
    4. Revamp Hiring: Once you’ve determined your key areas of focus, build these skills assessments into your candidacy process. This will help hiring managers better identify suitable candidates and give them a way to prioritize learning potential for new hires, getting them quickly acclimated to the culture of continuous improvement.

The Role of Performance Reviews in Career Development

Effective performance reviews are another critical element of employee development, providing the workforce with a thoughtful process for improving their skills and growing in their careers. Training the managers who do the performance reviews is equally important, as is ensuring that their assessments do not fall victim to common pitfalls like leniency, bias, or favoritism. Managers conducting performance reviews should also have key context into the employees’ roles they are assessing, with plenty of knowledge about their responsibilities and expectations.

Elements of Effective Performance Reviews

    • Continuous and Timely Feedback: Ensure feedback is an ongoing process throughout the review period, allowing employees to understand their performance relative to expectations. Doing this with consistency will help employees know what is expected of them and how they can contribute to the company’s goals.
    • Clear Goals and Expectations: Initiate the performance management cycle with transparent and specific objectives, providing a concrete basis for evaluating employee performance.
    • Documented Outcomes: Formalize the results of the performance review process in a written document agreed upon by both manager and employee. This ensures clarity and mutual understanding and leaves nothing in question.
    • Regular, Personalized Conversations: While ongoing anonymous feedback can give you a temperature-read on the workforce as a whole, personal conversations will be key for performance reviews. Conduct face-to-face discussions periodically, fostering a two-way dialogue that personalizes the performance evaluation experience.

Creating Personalized Development Plans

When taking steps to design effective employee development plans, be sure to consider and properly balance the employee’s personal goals along with those of the business. This will create a mutually beneficial outcome where employees feel valued and motivated to grow, while the organization benefits from a more skilled, engaged, and productive workforce.

Incorporating Employee Aspirations and Business Needs

When employees see a clear connection between their personal growth and the success of the business, it leads to increased productivity, job satisfaction, and retention rates. This integration ensures that the development of employee skills and competencies directly supports the evolving needs of the business. A rising tide lifts all boats, as the saying goes.

Leveraging Technology for Skill Development

E-learning and Online Training Platforms

Upskilling in some industries requires technical continuing education, where truck drivers will get an advanced CDL, as an example. Or, where an employee may complete a professional certification to become a manager.

In addition to providing time and resources for employees to access these technical opportunities, companies can also invest in e-learning and online training platforms. These can include company-designed online course for processes and standard operating procedures, training resource libraries, where employees can quickly and easily find information about the company and their jobs, FAQs, where they can explore commonly asked questions, and knowledge bases, which can serve as a go-to hub for on-the-job information and training.

Using Employee Engagement Platforms to Support Development

WorkHound’s anonymous feedback platform is another solution that is helping organizations use engagement to achieve remarkable improvements in recruitment, retention, and overall employee satisfaction.

With anonymous feedback, companies are able to address employee concerns before they escalate into cultural problems and turnover challenges.

For example, in just one year of using the WorkHound platform, BCB Transport has already seen a 15% improvement in retention and a measurable boost in employee satisfaction. And they’re not alone. With a high-functioning feedback loop, national carrier PS Logistics was able to use WorkHound to solve problems for its drivers, reducing turnover by over 50%.

Encouraging a Culture of Continuous Learning

The Importance of Leadership in Fostering a Learning Environment

A learning culture that drives business forward is fundamentally anchored in the behaviors and attitudes of its leaders. Positive, motivated leadership teams tend to lead positive, motivated employee teams. And conversely, negative, toxic leaders tend to develop negative, toxic workforces. Knowing this, leaders must embody the curiosity and development mindset they wish to instill in their teams, demonstrating that continual improvement is a core organizational value. By actively promoting learning opportunities, encouraging experimentation, and openly discussing both successes and failures as learning experiences, leaders can foster an environment where continuous improvement is celebrated.

Implementing Learning and Development Initiatives

By acting on feedback captured on the WorkHound platform, organizations have launched targeted development programs that not only address current skill gaps but also prepare employees for future challenges, thereby contributing to a culture of continuous learning and adaptation where workers feel appreciated, valued, and want to continue working.

Before implementing WorkHound, Wilson Logistics faced a challenge with “comebacks,” where drivers would return newly prepared trucks due to various issues, ranging from mechanical failures to concerns over cleanliness and even the color of the vehicle. This issue led to logistical and cultural problems within the company, pitting mechanics against drivers. After utilizing feedback through WorkHound, Wilson’s leadership addressed the issue by sharing driver feedback with mechanics, helping them understand how their work played a bigger role in operations. They also incentivized high-quality truck preparation with an official program, resulting in a significant reduction of comebacks — from 2 in 10 to zero over a year — enhancing operational efficiency and building a more cohesive workplace culture.

Recognizing and Rewarding Growth and Achievement

Effective Recognition Programs to Motivate Further Development

Recognition is a powerful tool for motivating employee development and reinforcing a culture of continuous improvement. Gallup’s research shows that acknowledgment and recognition programs can have a direct impact on employee engagement and productivity. Effective recognition programs are tailored to celebrate not just outcomes but also the effort and progress toward personal and professional growth.

Measuring the Impact of Development Programs

After all the strategizing, planning, implementation and delivery, don’t forget the more important part of your employee skills development initiatives: measuring success!

Key Metrics for Assessing Program Effectiveness

    • Turnover: Decreasing turnover is a signal that the workforce feels valued and supported by leadership. Conversely, elevated attrition levels can signal various problems in your process and a lack of growth opportunities to keep workers engaged and satisfied.
    • Recruiting: Your success in recruiting is a reflection of your hiring processes. Measure your success by looking at metrics like the duration to fill positions, hiring costs, and the origins of successful candidates.
    • Workforce Engagement: How have your efforts changed how employees interact with leaders? Engagement can help you measure employee enthusiasm and dedication to their roles and the company at large using indicators like job satisfaction, regular pulse surveys and anonymous feedback.
    • Professional Growth and Education Programs: Measure the participation rate in training programs and the outcomes of evaluations on employee competencies and skills.

Integrating Employee Development into Your Company Culture

Making employee development a cornerstone of your company culture helps you foster an environment where innovation thrives and employees stay engaged and motivated. From identifying skill gaps and crafting targeted training programs to leveraging technology and fostering a supportive environment, every initiative plays a crucial role in shaping a positive work culture.

To learn more about how WorkHound can support your employee development, contact us today for a free demo.

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