What Is Employee Development?

Employee development, also known as professional development, is learning that is focused on gaining the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to further one’s career and any future positions. Essentially, learning to become a better professional. If you’re in middle management, it could involve learning how to manage a bigger team, how to properly manage, learning the most up to date technology so you can teach your team. Employee development is more than just another step in training and onboarding, it’s a continuous process. Managers should always have this topic in mind when thinking about their staff. For remote staff it’s even more critical.

Why It’s Important

It’s difficult to stay invested in people who you don’t see everyday. It’s also hard to build a solid working relationship with people outside your office. Employee development gives you a chance to interact with your staff and allows them the same opportunity. On top of what it does for morale, as your staff learns new skills to help them work, they also learn best practices and are able to stay relevant with all the new technologies and trends floating around. It might come as a surprise to you, but employee development, when done correctly, saves you money. Companies that have some sort of employee development program have more motivated, more empowered, properly trained employees. All those factors improve employee retention, in fact it makes workers take the initiative. When AT&T switched from cable lines to cloud systems, they had to figure out the HR nightmare of what to do with their tenured employees who had no experience working on new technology. Instead of a mass firing/hiring situation they decided to upskill everyone and created a culture of constant learning. Your staff sees employee development as their employer’s way of showing that they care about their staff, after all, time and money is invested in developing people. In the long run, word of a well thought out employee development program can actually attract new talent to your company.

How To Do It 

Step 1: Plan It Out

You need to create a plan in order to roll out an effective employee development program. Take a top down look at your company and its current state. From there, compare what you find to your goals and where you want to be in the future, with those items in mind, you should have a rough idea of what you need to do to get there. If need be, bounce your ideas off your managers and see what they say. Try to fit the following in your plan to raise the chances of success:

  • Opportunities for staff (in office and remote) to advance
  • Opportunities for staff to reach personal goals
  • Measurable benchmark with KPIs to go along with it

Step 2: Coordinate And Customize

You need to coordinate with your managers for this step to work, especially if they’re remote, or if your company is still in its infant stages and there aren’t too many employees yet, you have the option to do it yourself. Note that doing it yourself is not sustainable, and you will eventually have to delegate. Your managers have to be on the same page as you, explaining why you’re making this change is important to having everyone onboard with your plan. This step involves customizing the employee development for each employee. 

How this is done is simple – find out where they want to go professionally. In the event that someone doesn’t know what they want to do there is an easy way to figure that out with them. Questions to ask to help figure out future goals in the company:

  • What do you enjoy?
  • What do you struggle with?
  • What are you NOT interested in doing?
  • How do you hope to progress?
  • Where do you see yourself in the future?

After the staff’s goals are quantified, your managers should be able to create an action plan around it. For example, John talks to his manager and says he sees himself becoming a supervisor, he enjoys interacting with others and helping them succeed, he struggles with the software used by the company, he’s not interested in micromanaging, he hopes to one day be a manager, and he sees himself leading a team in the company one day. A rough action plan based on this would be to have John take leadership training coupled with more training on the company’s software. These training sessions would round him out, he’d become a better leader and would also know how to operate the software, those two in combination would make him a great trainer for the software if he masters it. The training has to be custom for each employee, people with goals to become better developers don’t really need to learn better animation techniques, time is valuable so finding and tailoring a development plan to them is important.

Managers would need to be encouraged to meet with their staff regularly in order to actually have the plan work. It should be scheduled in an effort to not only do it for a couple of weeks before being forgotten. Once it is ingrained in your culture everything will flow a lot smoother.

Step 3: Giving Feedback

If giving feedback is already a part of your work culture, this part should be easy. If not, it’s always a good idea to create a feedback style culture. You should give said feedback when the event is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Normalizing feedback in your company is part of the process. In whatever way works best for your company, you’re going to need feedback on how the development process is working. This is to fine tune everything to make sure that it becomes a sustainable practice within your company. Surveys are always the fastest way to get feedback in big companies but it isn’t very personal.

Step 4: Allotting Time For Training

While this really isn’t a step, it is important to mention. With your plan in place, make sure you allot time for your staff to actually learn or do training. It could be something like 1 hour every day or one whole day every month, the choice is yours, but you do have to give time to your staff. There’s no real sense in developing an entire process for employee development if they don’t have a chance to develop.

Setting up a dedicated employee development strategy will boost retainment as well as having your entire staff upskilled and able to perform a variety of tasks. Scheduling when these will happen is important as these types of things fall through the cracks in operations all the time. If the cost of training someone scares you, AT&T decided to upskill their crew instead of massive layoffs as it would save them a substantial amount of money. There are also a lot of free training programs online that you can check out, otherwise you can tap into your network and see if anyone is offering any training someone is interested in and you can work from there.