Live and Learn: Developing Your Employees

Every manager wants their employees to grow and live up to their potential, but it doesn’t happen overnight.  Enter employee development — a top-notch manager will actively instigate development of their employees by pushing them to grow and learn. Here are six ways to spur on your team.

Education/training opportunities

Even the most astute and consistent employees can benefit from attaining new information and skills. And, employees are the most engaged when they are learning and growing, which is a key reason they will choose to stay with your company. By encouraging training and education opportunities, you send the message that ‘average’ is not the goal, and will remind your employees that complacency gets them and the company nowhere. Bring in outside experts, use e-learning platforms, and send employees to seminars, conferences, and workshops.  In addition to technical job skills, leadership, managerial, and soft skills are all areas for employees to increase competence.

Mentoring

Mentoring helps grow both the mentor and the mentee.  Encourage your more senior team members to provide pearls of wisdom to junior team members whenever possible.  Outside mentors are also a good option, as it can feel “safer” for some employees. Just like any sports team, the future success of your company lies in its future stars. You can hire an exceptional young prospect, but without an experienced player to share ideas and perspectives, and challenge views, that prospect has a tougher chance of panning out the way you want.  Internally, you can incentivize a mentoring system by having junior employees fill out questionnaires or critiques about what they’ve learned from senior players. Reward the veterans who have earned the admiration and trust of the less experienced employees.

Networking

Networking is a prime opportunity to kill two birds with one stone – to both grow employees, and also employ your team members as brand ambassadors.  If potential employees see that current employees are legitimately enthusiastic about why they work for you, as well as where and how they work, that’s an invaluable marketing tool. Don’t force your employees to prove their passion — offer them opportunities to represent the business at conferences, volunteer boards, recruiting events, write blog posts, or talk with job candidates when they come in for interviews. If you’re doing a good job creating a truly positive experience, they’ll likely be more than willing to help.

Stretch assignments

Stretch assignments/tasks of greater scope and responsibility are one of the best ways to help your employees grow. These types of tasks are designed to force employees to get out of their comfort zones. Beyond the obvious development benefits, this is a great opportunity to see how an employee behaves under pressure. You may find out if they have the skills and temperament needed to become a leader of people, or if they are better suited to remain an individual contributor.

Employee Autonomy

It can be difficult for some managers to delegate and cede control; however, this is how employees grow!  Give employees the autonomy to complete their tasks in the manner that they see fit, including the delegation of decision-making.  In addition to helping your employees develop, this sends a strong message that you trust your employees and that’s good for everyone.

Let them fail

Your employees will not step out of the comfort zone if taking risks and failure are not well tolerated.  Allow your employees to learn from their mistakes and fix them. You may experience a short-term dip in productivity, but the long-term benefit is that a capable employee will ensure the same mistakes are not repeated. Promote any instance of failure as an opportunity to study the lessons learned and move forward.

Getting your team to the ‘next level’ requires an eagerness from everyone in the company to give their all remain learners.  Inspire your employees to reach new heights and stay hungry for even better results.

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