In this article you’ll learn how to provide your employees with professional development opportunities.
- Provide Proper Resources and Training
- Empower People to Use Their Strengths
- Teach Employees How to Network
- Teach Employees How to Develop New Business
Not only do these strategies increase your employees’ energy and enthusiasm, they also deliver a high return on investment to power your company’s growth.
1. Provide Proper Resources and Training
Studies show that staff without adequate resources and training are likely to leave within a year.
Have you recently heard someone complain about their job? Along with a frustrating boss and low pay, one of most common complaints about work is when a company’s expectations for employees don’t align with the technology, time, team or training they provide.
Jacob Morgan, owner of The Future Organization and author of The Employee Experience Advantage, recommends that companies make sure they have the resources in place to make it easy for employees to get their jobs done. “If you have technology from the 80s and 90s then you’re going to have problems on day 1.”
Study how your employees spend time throughout the day. (Let them know your goal is only to improve productivity for the organization, not scrutinize them personally.) You’ll probably notice repetitive tasks that can be automated.
For example, if you see people sending 4-5 e-mails to schedule and confirm a meeting, set your office up with Calendly. If you see people writing the same types of notes to customers, give them time to set up canned responses in Gmail or Outlook.
Eliminating repetitive tasks through office automation will relieve stress and monotony for your employees and help them focus their energy on growing your business. If employees still seem stressed, look into giving them more time, more team members, or providing more job training.
Training employees should never stop just because an employee is functioning effectively within their current position. Employees are more likely to stay with your company and transition into higher roles if you provide them with opportunities to learn and utilize new skills.
After onboarding new employees, continue investing in your team.
- Run courses and workshops in-house.
- Pay for employees to attend industry training events.
- Enroll employs in online skill development classes.
- Provides subscriptions to online skill development platforms.
Entrepreneur Magazine has a list of 50 professional resources that you can offer your employees to help them with career advancement, communication development, technology skills, leadership development, and analytical skills.
2. Empower People to Use Their Strengths
Every employee has abilities and interests beyond their job description. By giving your employees opportunities to stretch their abilities, step out of their comfort zone, and use their strengths, you can not only make their work more fulfilling, but also potentially create opportunities for employees to add value for your customers and increase your company’s bottom line.
Human Resources Director Kay Walter says that ProService Boise gives all employees 24/7 access to the company’s learning management software, SkillSoft. “We encourage employees to take online courses relevant to their jobs or even in areas where they have a new interest. We allow them to take courses on company time if their work is done.”
To get started, first aim to develop a better understanding of each employees’ talents and goals. Ask them what they’d like to accomplish in the next year or 5 years.
Next, find opportunities for your employees to use their strengths within your company. You can start by asking them for input on company decisions, then move on to giving them time to pursue new projects or job roles.
In many cases, your employees may need to develop new skills. You can help with this by assigning them to work with an experienced employee in your company. Alternatively, you can give them some time each week to work on learning a new skill online.
If you decide to sign an employee up for a course, select the course together, give them time each week to work on it, check in regularly on their progress, and let them know they can reach out to other employees in the company for help.
Once they’ve spent some time in a course, get their feedback on the experience and ask whether another method of learning might be more helpful.
When employees feel that they’re using their strengths to accomplish your company mission, they’ll have a stronger sense of purpose and commitment.
At Idaho Central Credit Union (ICCU), managers are encouraged to conduct individual 1-on-1 meetings each week. These meetings provide opportunities to celebrate team members’ successes, offer assistance in areas where they could use support, and connect on a personal level. During the meetings, managers establish goals to help team members gain skills and experience.
Deanna Turner, Business Relationship Manager at ICCU, observes, “The 1:1 meetings help employees find the right mentors within the company.” ICCU also encourages employees to join outside organizations like the Young Professional organizations run by the Chamber of Commerce to network, volunteer, and continue learning.
“We encourage life-long learning and provide a variety of options for continuing education,” Deanna says. “We receive outstanding feedback from team members who have attended outside development courses. By investing in them this way, employees feel valued and appreciate the support that we provide for personal and professional development.”
Recognizing employee’s unique strengths can bring value to any kind of organization. Real estate company Mid-Century Homes identified that one of their agents also runs an interior design company. Mid-Century Homes found that by having the agent represent the homes that her interior design company worked on, she was able to eloquently describe the design choices in a way that immediately interested buyers, leading to faster sales at higher prices.
3. Teach Employees How to Network
Get employees excited about their careers by helping them connect with your staff, build a mentor network, and grow their professional network within your industry.
The best way to start is by helping employees network inside your company. Encourage all employees, especially junior employees, to come to your potlucks and after-work events. Introduce them to your experienced staff and help them get to know each other.
Once your junior employees are familiar with your staff, the next step is to connect with them on an ongoing basis, ideally through a mentoring program. Because of the immense value employees get from mentors, this is a powerful way to attract and retain top talent.
Meghan O’Leary, Vice President of InstaViser recommends first identifying a specific objective (for example, for young women in your organization to connect with female executives), then recruiting mentors who are enthusiastic about the objective. Look for mentors who have a variety of skills and backgrounds so that they can collectively serve the needs of your junior employees.
The traditional approach of pairing one mentor to one mentee is challenging for today’s mentees, because one mentor rarely has all the answers. As a result, O’Leary cautions, “The forced match often loses steam after a few meetings or perhaps never gets going at all.”
Instead O’Leary recommends that companies create a flexible system that allows mentees to select from a variety of mentors on an as-needed basis. “Most mentees know what they need and are most interested in connecting with someone who can help them with that challenge and to grow in that specific area.”
Today mentorship software can help you automate your mentorship program. InstaViser, for example, makes it easy for mentees to book meetings, for mentors to connect using video chat, and for companies to organize an interactive member database and track success metrics.
As a next step, give your employees tickets to professional events and seminars. Accompany them to the events and teach them how to build relationships and follow up with contacts. Someday these skills will enable your employees to build new business for your company.
Deanna Turner at Idaho Central Credit Union finds that most employees enjoy networking when they are prepared. On the other hand, when employees aren’t prepared, events can be unproductive and cause anxiety for employees.
Prior to sending people to an event, Deanna helps employees set goals for what they would like to accomplish. “It can be as simple as meeting 5 new individuals or obtaining business cards from a certain number of people.” After the event, she advises following up with employees as soon as possible to learn what they accomplished.
Eventually some of your employees can build up the skills and contacts needed to successfully attend industry events in your place to represent your company.
Outside of events, help your employees to network online as well by sharing articles in your field on social media and encourage your employees to do the same. When you see an employee post an industry-related blog post or video, commend not it and share it.
4. Teach Employees How to Develop New Business
Often an entrepreneur focuses on growing new business while other team members focus on providing the products and services. But what if your whole team were involved in generating new business? How much faster could your company grow?
Deanna offers a few tips to help employees get used to client-facing roles.
- Confirm that your employee’s talents match their job responsibilities. This is important so that employees can truly enjoy building relationships and not be intimidated.
- Teach by example. Provide opportunities for your new hires to join meetings where you lead the process, but where you also keep them involved.
- Help customers understand your clients’ expectations and learn how to exceed them.
“One of my employees was a former Branch Manager and had very little knowledge about building business relationships. The training approach I used was to provide opportunities for him to join meetings where I lead the process, but kept him involved in every aspect of the client relationships from the initial meetings through follow up and onboarding.”
Deanna says that by providing a safe learning environment, coaching and support, the new employee developed client-facing skills quickly and began developing business with very little guidance.
“In his first year this employee reported $2 million in sales. After working as a business officer for 4 years, the employee reported sales of over $14 million and was promoted to be our department’s sales manager!”
Ivan Misner, founder of Business Network International (BNI), recommends including “networking” in every position’s job description. “Often,” he says, “if a new hire knows upfront that he’s expected to incorporate networking into his job, it will happen.”
Ivan also recommends giving employees a monetary reward for every new customer the employee brings to the company. Usually the bonus is many times smaller than the value of the new business.
To gamify referrals, you can also set up a program where you award a “Networker of the Month” with a free paid vacation at a nice hotel (or a different award that’s appropriate for your industry).
You can also share sales number for all staff. “Imagine the pride one competitive staff member will have,” Ivan says, “when he or she breaks your number.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed this series of articles on employee engagement.
Are you feeling exhausted from reading all of these tips?
You don’t have to implement everything at once! Every employee has different values and motivations, so learn who your employees are and what drives them. Then try some of our tips to see what engages them.
Never forget that your people are your most important asset. Since they serve your customers, taking care of them is one of the best ways you can ultimately take care of your customers and your shareholders.
Do you have a tip that we completely missed? Have you ever tried implementing one of these techniques only to find less than expected outcomes?
We would greatly appreciate if you contact us and share your experiences. We always strive to get perspectives from business managers from all industries and business sizes. We would love to learn what has (or hasn’t) worked in your company.