Employee Development, A Solid Investment

Why invest in employee development? The people of an organization collectively form its most vital resource and should be made to feel valued, relevant, and needed. Employees that are nurtured and developed can prove to be the foundation of an organization. Employee development also goes a long way towards building an attractive employer brand – showing an environment that many would strive to join. Yet, if I’ve heard it once from managers, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “all I want is for people to come to work and do their job.” Is that really all there is?

Good leaders develop exceptional people

People will generally come to work and do the job they are paid to do but if your intent is to be a competitive, progressive organization, you must be committed to developing your employees into exceptional contributors and performers. This is the very core of your job as a leader.

Employees of all backgrounds, generations, and professions want to feel that their managers genuinely care and are committed to developing and supporting their professional advancement and even their personal growth. Even if they do not express wanting (or are unclear of) a path to advancement, most employees want support, coaching, and the opportunity for betterment.

I was fortunate to have a great thought-partner, manager, and mentor early in my career. I learned from her:

  • the value of the diversity of people, ideas, and perspectives long before diversity was a buzz word;
  • that a true leader concern themselves with the holistic experience of their employees;
  • that putting people first does not mean putting the organization second, because they are one and the same;
  • that a part of being a leader means also leading your people to success and being as proud of those successes as you are your own; and,
  • if you are not willing to develop your people and bring them along the journey, then you should get out of way and let someone else do the job.

Employee development tips

Employee development is a long-term commitment and should not be confused with new employee orientation. When practiced consistently it inspires loyalty, increased engagement, and a culture of high performers. When assessing how to get the most from your employees, start with some of the basics:

Offer Professional Training

The world is changing daily; make sure your employees are keeping up with the times. You want your team to be equipped with the latest and greatest innovations your industry has to offer, it only makes you stronger in the long run. Professional training doesn’t necessarily have to be specific to the employee’s current job or directly related to performing a task. It could be for a job that they may one day occupy. It could even be for training to develop one’s ability to work strategically or hone their business acumen. If training is not a line item in the budget, start your program by requiring your employees to listen to one or two podcasts per week to keep up-to-speed with marketplace trends and new practices, strategies, and tactics that are tried and true. Start small by creating your own knowledge base of critical information and best practices to pass on to new hires as you grow your team. This will be time-consuming and maybe even a bit tedious at first, but building a successful talent pool takes time. 

Incorporate coaching & mentoring

While both are key components of developing your employee for the next level of their career both are often neglected; thus, valuable knowledge, skills, and insights may not be passed on to the detriment of your organization. This should be a part of any leader’s core job responsibilities. If they don’t want to do it, they don’t deserve the honor of being called a leader. As a leader, start engaging your employees. When coaching, remember to focus on concrete issues, (e.g. managing more effectively, speaking more articulately, learning how to think strategically, etc.). When mentoring, start by creating a safe environment where the employee is comfortable sharing whatever issues impact their personal and professional growth – an environment where they are not intimidated to provide feedback. Start the relationship by asking a few simple questions:

  • What are your career objectives and how can I support you in meeting them?
  • What would you like to learn that could help you maximize your performance?
  • How can I support you in your personal development?
  • What motivates you?

[Mentor or coach? Here’s why you need both]

Be intentional about having regular dialogue to allow employees to reflect on their accomplishments and where you can support them in achieving their true potential. Start building your internal mobility and mentorship programs. This is where strong employer brands are made.

Never underestimate the value of EQ

For those that don’t know, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is our capacity as humans to recognize and validate the emotions of others as well as our own; and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviors. Emotional Intelligence is a gift and even though it drives everything that we do, the importance of EQ has been minimized in a great number of organizations. You have an opportunity to re-introduce this concept into the fiber of your organization. Self-awareness, empathy, and self-regulation should be desirable skills when identifying potential leaders. Get the ball rolling by asking questions like:

  • How do you feel about your work?
  • What are your current obstacles?

Your workforce needs to be seen, heard, acknowledged, validated, and cultivated, all needs that go unmet in too many work environments. The most supportive leaders are skilled at listening; and staying present to employee challenges can help elevate them both professionally and personally. Employee development is as critical as any technical skill; and it goes a long way towards building a cohesive successful team.



Picture of William Wiggins

William Wiggins

William has held consulting and strategic HR roles at Mercer Human Resources Consulting, Kaiser Permanente, and Williams-Sonoma. He is an industry leader when it comes to building strong collaborative HR partnerships and leadership teams that focus on staff engagement, retention, career development, and staff recognition programs. William’s training curriculum includes Crucial Conversations, Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace, and EEOC 101.

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