Employee Development: New Approaches To Investing In Employees

Richard Branson famously said that customers come second and employees first. And it’s certainly true that looking after employees can bring wider benefits to both the company and its clients. Happy, engaged employees tend to be more loyal and productive as well as providing superior customer service. Investing in employees, therefore, makes sound business sense. However, smart businesses nowadays are taking a much broader approach to employee development than the standard skills and knowledge-based approach of old. These businesses are realizing that if you want to attract and retain the best talent as well as addressing the skills shortage and the transfer of organizational knowledge, then a holistic approach to employee development is what’s required. To be really successful employee development needs to address the physical, emotional and intellectual needs of staff members. In this post, we look at why employee development is worth the investment. We then look at some of the fresh approaches you can take to ensure you get the maximum benefit from your employee development program.

Importance Of Employee Development

Quite simply, employees are your most valuable asset. Here are five compelling reasons why every company needs to invest in its staff.

1. Attract The Best Talent

attract-talentEmployee development enables you to attract and retain the best talent in the job market. Providing a comprehensive program of learning and growth opportunities for staff is a great way to differentiate yourself in the job marketplace. Professional development will be a high priority for potential new recruits. Having a reputation as an employer with a strong commitment to employee development is great for business both in terms of how customers and clients perceive your company as well as potential new recruits.  What’s more, new recruits are also more likely to stay in the company if they perceive that their ongoing professional development needs are being taken seriously. In fact, research recently published in Forbes reports that 86 percent of respondents would change jobs if it meant more opportunities for professional development.

2. Employee Development Helps With Succession Planning

The baby boomer generation is now entering retirement. This is starting to leave a big gap in leadership positions in many companies as there are no younger employees able to step up. Agile companies that are able to respond to this crisis are those which have invested in employee development. A solid employee development and training program means that you have an internal pool of capable workers ready, waiting and capable of promotion. Nurturing young talent now will help you meet any future succession issues and meet possible skills shortages head on.

3. Employee Development Supports Employee Engagement

employee-engagementIt’s logical that employees who feel happy, valued and invested in their jobs and companies perform better than their unengaged counterparts. Indeed the evidence suggests that organizations with engaged workforces have 22 percent higher profitability than those with low rates of engagement. One way in which businesses can demonstrate the sense of value they have in their staff is through a strong program of employee development. It sends a very clear message to staff that they are appreciated, valued and are critical to the success of the business.

4. Employee Development Saves Time And Money

It’s far more cost-effective to build and develop existing staff than recruiting from outside. A study published by the Society for Human Resource Management discovered that the average to hire an employee is $4,129. Aside from the time factor and direct recruitment costs involved, companies also need to consider that the average position takes 42 days to fill. That represents a considerable dip in production and extra stress on staff members carrying an additional load. Furthermore, onboarding costs to get the new recruit up to speed with company processes and procedures are also a big cost. Nurturing and building the skills and knowledge of existing staff members will, therefore, save you time and money in the long run.

5. Futureproof Your Business

An agile workforce that is on top of the latest industry trends and advancements in technology means that your business will be capable of adapting to change. A strong program of employee development fosters and supports organizational creativity and innovation. This will help to futureproof your business by equipping staff with the skills and knowledge they need to maintain a competitive advantage.

So, now that we’ve established the business case for investing in staff development, let’s turn our attention to how to do it. Businesses that are ahead of the game are those that have taken a fresh approach to employee development. These businesses have taken a holistic view with programs that address the physical, emotional and intellectual needs of employees. So, if you want employee development to deliver its maximum potential, then it’s worthwhile incorporating the following ideas into your program.

Approaches To Employee Development

Employee Wellness

As we have seen, companies at the forefront of employee development are taking a holistic approach. This encompasses a wider definition of growing and supporting the staff member and employee wellness is a central aspect. Research suggests that absenteeism costs employers $225.8 billion annually in the United States alone. Against this background investing in employee wellness obviously makes business sense.

employee-wellness-programBut what does an employee wellness program look like in practice? Some companies have gone down the route of providing information on work-related health and wellness to employees ranging from ergonomics, occupational safety and health checks to advice on eye health, diet and fitness. Other companies have taken it a step further with on-site fitness or yoga classes, lunchtime running clubs and subsidized gym membership. Others still have brought health professionals on site for check-ups or offer subsidized health insurance as part of an employee benefits package. A few forward-thinking employers are even providing financial wellness programs in recognition of the fact that financial worries can keep employees up at night and, therefore, can impact on their performance in the workplace too.

What form your employee wellness program takes may well depend on the available budget; however, even a modest program can positively impact on sickness and absence rates. A recent Gallup survey, reported that 44 percent of employees reported feelings of burnout at work. While another survey discovered that four out of five workers report experiencing a poor work-life balance. There’s no denying that employee burnout costs employers money in lost productivity, low engagement, increased mistakes and more safety incidents. Any steps you can take to support the health and wellbeing of your employees has to be worth the effort.

Mindfulness In The Workplace

Nowadays we hear much about the practice of mindfulness and the difference it can make to your ability to focus and concentrate. In fact, some of the big corporates such as Nike and Google are leading the way and are incorporating mindfulness initiatives into the workplace.

But if mindfulness to you means yoga and incense burning, then it’s time to think again. A relatively simple fix that encourages mindfulness is the introduction of a quiet space in the office. Some staff members will use the quiet space to practice meditation techniques or simply as a space to reflect away from the distractions of the office and the constant ping of emails and notifications.

employee-mindfulnessOther businesses have embraced the concept of mindfulness wholeheartedly and have introduced mindfulness team exercises. Breathing exercises are an accessible way to induct team members in the practice of mindfulness. A three-minute controlled breathing exercise first thing in the morning promotes a sense of calm and focus. It can counteract the effects of a stressful commute and helps to put staff in the right frame of mind for work.

Another tool to encourage mindfulness is the practice of writing gratitude notes. The idea behind the notes is to encourage staff to focus on the positives. Too often our natural tendency is to be negative in our outlook – we tend to think in terms of what hasn’t gone so well rather than the opposite. Getting staff members to write gratitude notes at the end of the working day is one way to encourage employees to think differently. It could be a positive networking event, successful achievement or an enjoyable lunch with a colleague. Maybe it’s to celebrate a new customer order or successful meeting with a client. Even simple things such as being one step closer to completing a project are worth acknowledging with a gratitude note. The aim is to get staff members to be more positive in their outlook. At the end of the week or month, employees can look back at a long list of positive achievements which will boost staff morale and company culture across the board.

Use A Variety Of Tools

A principal focus of any employee development program will, of course, be the skills and knowledge staff members need to get the job done. However, the difference nowadays is in the variety of media companies employ to ensure adequate knowledge transfer.

Every employee is, after all, different. We all have our own learning styles and preferences which means that what works for Bob in Marketing may not be appropriate for Jasmin in Accounts. Some of us are natural visual learners that need to see a process in action. Visual learners prefer to acquire knowledge through pictures, diagrams and videos. By contrast auditory learners prefer to listen to instructions and learn best by hearing information. Reading and writing learners have a preference for reading text and following instructions. However, kinesthetic learners are doers who learn by completing a task, getting their hands dirty and experimenting.

personal-development-plan

Businesses with the best employee development programs have embraced this notion of diversity and provide a range of learning tools to suit all preferences and styles. Visual learners will be drawn to how-to videos, webinars and infographics. Auditory learners will select podcasts and more traditional lecture or seminar formats. Reading and writing learners tend to opt for quizzes, checklists and wikis, whereas kinesthetic learners will naturally select work shadowing or mentor arrangements over other methods.

One thing for certain is that a one-size-fits-all employee development program with an emphasis on classroom-style learning should be a thing of the past. Online options which enable staff members to work at their own pace through a variety of media and outside standard business hours provide organizations with the flexibility necessary for today’s employees.

Personalized Employee Development

Once upon a time employee development consisted of a selection of in-house training courses, perhaps a choice of a couple of external tertiary courses and that was it. As we’ve seen, however, that approach no longer satisfies the needs of today’s employees. Those companies at the forefront of employee development are giving employees even more freedom with personalized, employee-driven programs. They recognize the value of empowering employees to make their own choices. To this end, these companies are giving staff members a budget and are asking workers what and how they would like to learn. Employees are given free rein so long as they can demonstrate how their plan will benefit the organization in the long run. Not only is this approach empowering for the individual employee, it also works for the organization. Employee-driven programs save the company time and effort, freeing up managers to get on with other income-generating activities.

Employee Development Methods

The bottom line is that employee development is the key to the long-term health and success of your business. Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s Soup captured this idea when he said:

To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace – Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s Soup 

employee-development-approach

Investing in a comprehensive employee development program is the key to ensuring you win in the workplace. Maximize the potential benefits by taking a fresh approach to employee development with the ideas we have outlined here and watch your investment grow.

Are you interested in finding out more about employee development? The MyHub Intranet can support employee development in your business. From knowledge management and knowledge transfer through to onboarding, training and employee engagement, our easy to set up and manage pre-built intranet templates will support employee development as well as delivering a whole host of other business benefits. Contact us today for a free demo or a no-obligation 14-day trial – no credit card is required.

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