According to the Investors in People website, up to 85% of employees aren’t currently engaged at work, while some 71% of the UK workforce report being dissatisfied with their career opportunities.
This can be a challenge for employers, who may find it hard to recruit or retain their top talent if they’re unable to fulfil even their most basic career aspirations.
One way to resolve this issue is through employee development. Here are 10 effective ways to invest in employee development in the workplace.
#1. Conduct More Frequent, But Informal, Reviews
While annual reviews are a staple of most workplaces, Harvard Business Review has suggested that they can actually be detrimental to employee development.
The reason for this is simple; a heavy emphasis on financial rewards and an inflexible end-of-year structure fails to take into account improvement that may have been showcased more recently or provide a development plan that can be adjusted in real-time.
A preferable strategy is to conduct regular employee reviews on a more flexible schedule, perhaps on a quarterly basis. This allows for more accurate insights and development plans while maintaining more open lines of communication and removing the pressure that often surrounds end-of-year reviews.
#2. Engage Employees By Sending Them to Industry Events
Often, it’s senior leaders and managers who are invited to attend industry events and tradeshows, but it may be that employees at all levels of your company may benefit by visiting events.
Certainly, such events often enable attendees to learn new trends and stay on top of those that are most relevant to their particular industry, while providing important opportunities to network and build crucial contacts within the marketplace.
When sending employees throughout the business too, you can create far higher levels of engagement and create a scenario where staff members outside of the senior leadership team can feel valued as crucial members of the organisation.
#3. Create Opportunities for Mentoring
Mentoring is an age-old and longstanding technique for developing in-house talent, while it’s also a method that helps to engage employees and equip them with crucial skills for their career development.
This certainly helps employees to gain knowledge and key skills in their industry, which can be used to simultaneously benefit your business while helping individuals to advance through the business over time.
Interestingly, approximately 70% of Fortune 500 companies have a formal corporate mentorship program, suggesting that this is an excellent way of developing people at different levels throughout the business.
#4. Make Use of Experiential Learning and L&D Programs
When actively training and developing staff members, there are many techniques you can use to impart knowledge and build practical skills.
Not all of these techniques have been created equal, however, so it’s important to find the right one to realise the full potential of your workforce.
A particularly effective method is experiential learning practised via business simulations, which create a simulated environment in which employees can safely develop and practice precise skills.
Experiential learning describes a process that’s focused on gaining knowledge and skills through practice, rather than being passively exposed to the same information over time. By learning by doing in a carefully controlled environment, you can understand topics much quicker and benefit from a greater retention of knowledge in a shorter period of time.
It can also be argued that the immersive nature of experiential learning creates positive emotional markers with the experience, giving participants an engaging learning experience.
Over time, business simulations and experiential learning of this type will help to drive considerably higher levels of knowledge retention when compared with traditional training methods, while creating a positive environment in which learners are empowered to take risks and push the boundaries of their knowledge.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that many of the leading Fortune 500 companies leverage experiential learning to equip current and future leaders with the requisite skills, with a growing number likely to embrace this over time.
Make no mistake; experiential learning can really drive more effective learning and development programs across a broad range of applications, helping your employees to cultivate relevant skills quickly and forge an upward career trajectory.
This is also a key methodology to effective leadership development, thanks to the engaging nature of experiential learning and its ability to impart even complex soft skills.
#5. Create a Hybrid Working Environment
Remote working became incredibly popular through 2020, against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures. However, more recent studies suggest that employers would prefer a so-called “hybrid” working environment, which requires them to split their time between home and the office.
In fact, a recent Gallup poll suggests that 90% of remote-capable employees prefer some degree of hybrid work, while 60% of the workforce specifically identify this as their preference.
By creating a flexible hybrid working model that enables employees to split their time accordingly, you can drive significantly higher levels of engagement while boosting productivity in the process.
This can also make them more likely to engage in company training and development, especially if this can also be delivered in a flexible and immersive manner.
#6. Lean on Consultants and Experts When Imparting Skills
Employee development is a broad term that can include a number of different skills, some of which may be job-specific and others that are universally beneficial throughout your business.
When it comes to the latter, you may benefit by bringing in outside expertise to deliver talks and education, ensuring that employees are given the best possible guidance when learning how to do things such as speak publicly or improve customer service company-wide.
For example, the professional social networking site LinkedIn offers a monthly speaker series that enables employees to access inspiration and ideas from some of the most innovative thinkers in the world. More specifically, this ensures that staffers learn from influential CEOs and innovators, boosting both their skills and mindset in the process.
On a more fundamental level, you can also bring in expert consultants to design, deliver and enhance your development programs.
#7. Fund Your Employees’ Personal Development
While investment in people and staff development isn’t always financial by nature, there are innumerable benefits of creating a discretionary fund that can enable employees to pursue their own career development.
This type of financial stipend can be provided on a quarterly or annual basis as required, while it could be accessed by employees to cover the cost of relevant educational courses, provide books or pay for attendance fees at a particular event.
Not only does this help to equip staff members with new skills, but it allows employees to make proactive decisions about how they shape their own career development over
#8. Provide Cross-Training Opportunities
In the modern age, there’s a far greater crossover between the different jobs and departments that comprise businesses. This probably has much to do with the fact that most private sector ventures are now classed as small businesses, which account for 99.2% of the total business population and typically operate in a flexible manner.
Because of this, it’s prudent to offer cross-training opportunities that expose target employees to different roles and areas of the business, enabling them to broaden their skills and gain greater insight into how the venture functions on a day-to-day basis.
At the same time, this increases the value of each individual employee, while making it far easier to cover for absences and work flexibly over time.
#9. Create a Strategy
Before you start adopting various ideas on this list, it’s important to ensure that you consider each one as part of a wider development strategy for your employees.
Make no mistake; it’s crucial that you’re able to create a structured and scheduled program that can cover the needs of individual employees, creating formal blueprints that make it easier to roll out development plans at scale.
With this type of outlook, you can build an effective development strategy that’s capable of benefiting every single employee.
#10. Finally – Walk the Walk as an Employer
On a final note, you should remember that everyone has the scope to develop and improve their skillset. This includes you and your senior leadership team, which should remain open to employee feedback and constantly willing to learn new skills and capabilities over time.
This is also why creating a strategy is so important, as it creates a culture of development that incorporates senior leadership structures and ensures that managers aren’t treated differently from their employees.
Ultimately, it’s important to practise what you preach and are seen to be investing in your own development, especially if the development of key skills will enable you to take management decisions more effectively and lead teams.