Smart, strategic leaders have a keen understanding of the fact that the people who work alongside them every day are the business’ single greatest resource.
Unfortunately, this valuable asset is also one that is often underdeveloped and underutilized.
Creating types of employee development plans and proving opportunities for growth and development for them as professionals is not just a nice idea, it is a necessity to ensure a business’ long-term success.
Lacking professional-development opportunities in their current employment, many high-potential employees will move on to organizations that do foster their growth, costing organizations that are unwilling or unable to support strategic training and development methods for their staff in both immediately tangible and unforeseeable intangible ways.
The money and time that it takes to recruit, orient and train new employees are often better spent on developing and encouraging the talents and interests of current employees, especially when they are otherwise happy in their work.
Three Employee Development Methods
Depending on the situation, there are several different approaches that these important employee development methods can take: employee training, effective coaching, and leadership mentoring. Training may be seen as the “purest” form of employee development, as it is usually used to transfer core job knowledge, skills, and information to employees in a formalized way.
1) Employee Training
The information employees receive in training sessions is of the type required to do a certain job competently. Training methods for employees help establish the basic knowledge that all employees at certain levels or working in certain positions can be expected to have; it is also the standard remedy when employees lack a certain skill-set required to do their jobs well.
Certain training and development methods also help build camaraderie and relatability in the workplace. Interactive training programs can provide employees with opportunities to collaborate and learn with their coworkers. As employees learn the new material together, they will develop task-related skills and a better understanding of how to work together more effectively.
From an employee-development standpoint, coaching usually follows training. Once an employee is trained, certain assumptions are made about his or her abilities, and if it becomes obvious that the employee still has gaps in his/her knowledge or skills, a coaching session may be in order.
2) Effective Coaching
A popular assumption that leaders often make about coaching is that it is a technique that is only useful in confronting performance issues and other negative situations with their employees. To the contrary, skilled coaches can use a huge variety of situations they encounter with employees as coachable “teaching moments,” some of which are intentionally crafted and some of which arise organically from the daily routine.
Although coaching situations that develop as a result of undesirable employee behaviors are arguably much more common than the alternative type, coaching can also be used to encourage and support behavior that is beneficial to the individual, the team, and the organization. Even so, coaching is most frequently used to help train employees to understand the impact that their behavior is having on others and why it is important and necessary for them to make a change for the better.
Unlike coaching, scolding, criticizing, or reprimanding an employee will often make them feel ashamed, humiliated, and defensive, all of which have the opposite of the intended effect. When deftly used, coaching will help employees see the impact that the behavior has had, feel personally responsible for the outcome of the current situation, and commit to making a positive change that will improve the situation in the future.
3) Leadership Mentoring
Mentoring is another type of employee development method, but tends to focus more exclusively on the expertise, experience, and network that mentors can share with their mentees, professionals who are often younger and less experienced than the person acting as a mentor.
The goal of mentoring is to share information and connections that may assist mentees as they establish themselves in the professional world. Generally speaking, the mentoring relationship is less formal than the coaching relationship and its desired outcomes are more abstract, but the potential power of a well-established mentoring relationship is immeasurable.
Each of the employee-development activities outlined above has a different purpose, but each one also has the ability to change an employee’s life for the better. When deciding on the tactic that is most appropriate for a given employee, take careful stock of the current situation as well as the desired state of the future. Once you have made your assessment, you may find that one, two, or all three methods are appropriate for your specific situation.