How to Improve Employee Engagement: Encourage Development

Part 6 of the Employee Engagement Series

Have you ever jumped out of bed to your alarm up, thought about going to the same space, sitting in the same chair, making the same pay and decided to crawl back in bed and hit snooze permanently?  Have you ever thought “I need a change!” and started looking at a new job because you were afraid your current employer wouldn’t support the transition? I have! And I know I am not alone. Recent data from Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report shows that a lack of development and career growth is the No. 1 reason employees leave a job. Seeing as only 30% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they have someone at work encouraging their development, organizations are in desperate need of a shift in focus.

Let’s, make sure we are on the same page.  When I say, “development and career growth” I am not saying “promotion.” Gallup defines development as,

“a process of understanding each person’s unique talents (naturally recurring patterns of thoughts, feelings or behaviors that can be productively applied) and finding roles, positions and projects that allow them to combine their talents and abilities with experiences to build strengths (the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific activity).”

Make sense? Development is about the journey, not the destination.

It’s also important to understand that the organization/hiring manager/management team is not solely responsible for employee development. Employees are just as accountable, I would argue even more so, in determining their wants and needs and voicing them to build the ideal career and skill set for themselves. I assure you, today's growing workforce (read: millennials), understand that. What they want from you, is someone to lend them a hand. They want someone to step up, help them navigate their career and learn the skills they need to advance.

How do you prove that you’re their new go-to?

  • Define goals for the employee and monitor their progress
  • Make the discussion surrounding their growth an ongoing and collaborative process
  • Create opportunities for employees to be challenged and acquire new skills

Do all of this while providing a safe and strong support network, and you’ve got the foundation of a great employee development program.

Take it a Step Further

While goal setting and regular conversations surrounding their career are perfect starting points, it’s not the end all be all set of engagement tactics. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends the following employee development methods:

Mentoring

By matching a new hire or less experienced employee with a more skilled member of the team, you provide the employee with opportunities to absorb tribal information, gain connections and visibility within the organization, and hone their skills; not to mention help foster (business) relationships. As an added bonus, you’ve also created a career path. Be a mentor! Mentors are provided more responsibility and the opportunity to have an impact on the more tactical functions of their department or team.

Formal mentor programs that are implemented as early as the onboarding process reduce turnover and improve performance and productivity. Just be sure to keep these things in mind:

  • Match mentors and mentees based on complimentary skill sets and needs
  • Set goals and track them appropriately
  • Hold mentors and mentees accountable for their time and commitment
  • Link mentoring to business and talent management goals

Cross-training

Do you ever find yourself doing something that seemingly has absolutely nothing to do with your role/responsibility? There’s a name for that, cross-training! Training employees to do tasks that aren’t normally a part of their day-to-day, seems to be unavoidable in today’s hyper-connected workplace. I know that in my position, I’ve been trained on everything from designing landing pages and staffing trade shows to supporting our clients and their new hires when they need a little technical assistance. Heck I even role play with sales! This training has put me in contact with every department in our organization and I have a better understanding of how I fit because of it. As an employee, I have new friends, new skills, and a healthier respect for the amazing technology that we’ve put out into the universe. As an employer, Click Boarding now has a highly-skilled brand advocate and actively engaged employee.

Cross-training provides employees the opportunity to learn new skills.  It showcases opportunities for career growth and skill alignment to employee and employer. It proves to employees that organizations are willing to support their growth rather than keep them pigeon-holed in a position may have fit a year ago, but clearly doesn’t now.

"Stretch" assignments

Ever feel like you’ve been dropped at the top of a black diamond ski hill and you’ve never gotten off the bunny hill? One of two things can happen- you may wipe out and break a leg on the way down, or you take the hill dead on and make it to the bottom all limbs intact. Either way, you make it to the bottom. It might not be graceful, it might not be easy, but you make it. Projects that aren’t necessarily in your wheel house, stretch your imagination, highlight your weaknesses, test your patience, and force you to learn. It’s not the most comfortable process, but it’s extremely effective. On-the-job training provides a chance to learn and develop skills while doing real work, gaining real connections, and having a tangible impact that can be useful as employees advance in their careers.

Online employee development

Online development programs empower employees to own their own process. The best programs break content into small, easily consumable chunks that are delivered in a guided experience. Organizations can try to boost participation in training and online employee development by offering incentives for completing courses, or providing employee recognition opportunities.

Now, we can talk about this for pages but, I have to save more for next week! I leave you with one more thing to remember.  Employee development doesn’t end once an employee gets promoted or masters a skill. It goes well beyond that. Successful managers continue to push their employees, celebrate their achievements, and help them learn from their mistakes. Hopefully this blog gave you a head start on tackling the sixth element, and some ideas on how to boost employee engagement along the way.

 

Stay tuned as we count down to engagement element 12!

 

If you missed the preceding articles in the Employee Engagement Series:

How to Improve Employee Engagement: Start with Expectations

How to Improve Employee Engagement: Focus on Productivity   

How to Improve Engagement: Allow Employees to Do their Best Work

How to Improve Employee Engagement: Give Praise

How to Improve Employee Engagement: Show You Care

 

Available as a complimentary download:

Infographic: The Impact of an Unengaged Employee

Infographic: 21 Tactics to Engage New Hires

Report: State of the American Workplace report

Kathy Moening

Written by Kathy Moening

Kathy is a marketing associate at Click Boarding and directly responsible for brand, web, events and communications. She helps drive company growth through integrated sales and marketing programs that boost brand awareness and generate revenue opportunities.



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