While industries vary across the board, it’s fortunate that employee development programs usually exhibit common characteristics. This can help executive leaders and business professionals better understand what a successful employee-development program looks like—and how to measure it’s progress. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the common traits of an employee-development program that’s destined for business success:
Trait#1 – The program must be aligned with business objectives.
When your employees want to start contributing to the organization, it’s imperative that the employee-development program be as efficient as possible. One way to ensure such efficiency is to directly align their development goals with your business objectives. One business executive with whom I consulted once told me that he was having a hard time explaining to his customer-service team why they could not participate in his division’s bonus program. When I asked him why he believes they didn’t qualify to participate in the bonus program, he told me “all they do is answer the phone.” There was no alignment on how answering and catering to customer needs contribute to meeting business objectives. So, yes, unless those are aligned, and their positions justified to what value they bring, giving them a bonus cannot be justified, which in essence is a lack of preparation from the management and leadership team.
Trait #2 – The program must place employees in charge.
In charge of their own development, that is. Think about the role that a coach plays in the life of an athlete, an actor, or even an executive professional. It stands to reason that if your employee-development program approaches training and mentoring from the above mentioned perspectives, you’ll be much more likely to produce highly motivated, engaged, and enthusiastic employees.
This will not be successful by conducting massive seminars to “train” your employees. It goes back to my initial stand for organizational leaders to foster a culture of development and empowerment. Think of the last time you attended a lecture that droned on and on. Did you leave the lecture feeling fired up? Or did you feel like you stopped paying attention after the first hour slowly ticked by? When employees are lectured—rather than involving them in the development process—that is much more likely to create disinterested, disengaged colleagues. Employees are adults that are more than capable of learning how to become stellar players in the workplace. That’s why employee-development should focus on providing employees with the resources they need for enhancing their strengths.
What’s more, don’t limit these resources to what’s required for their current role. It may seem counterintuitive to train them for roles and positions that are well beyond what they need to know now, but making the investment now ensures that your employees feel valued. They’re more likely to leverage this information into managerial roles within your company. Employees who feel as though they’re stuck in their current positions without the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel are more likely to look for better positions in different companies. Offering them the ability to move onward and upward within your company negates the likelihood that this will happen. I’ll discuss strategies that can help your employee-development program effectively achieve these traits throughout the course of this book.
Trait #3 – The program must underscore employee strength.
One of the biggest mistakes I have observed in employee-development programs is when managers invest all their efforts highlighting something that an employee needs to improve. While the intention behind this mistake is certainly a good one, it only serves to subtly berate the employee for not living up to executive expectations. In order for an employee to perform a task, the willingness, skills, and ability have to be present. Hence, the importance of a good selection system, strengths and skills evaluation should have been assessed during the selection process. The employee was hired for a reason—hopefully their skill set for that particular job. Use that as leverage for the business results you need.
Trait #4 – The program must be championed by the leadership team.
As many of you may agree, certain processes are a no-brainer to organizations, especially those required by law, or adapted as an ethical “must-do,” “just because.” I am here to tell you that payroll processing can fall into that category; employee development can’t. In order for this process to be effective, it has to be championed, or, at the very least, be supported by and be held accountable for by senior leaders. By Senior Leaders I am not referring to your manager or director of Human Resources, especially, if that particular director has no clue which direction the business leaders want the company to go, and nor do they contribute to that vision.
Before you begin investing your company’s time, resources, and tools into an employee-development program, carefully assess how your organization stands up to the above criteria. Are you able to provide your employees with the opportunities they need to feel fulfilled, happy, and satisfied that they’re making an impact? Are you giving employees the ability to make valuable contributions within your company? Is your disciplinary policy working against you? Does your organization adhere to traditional hierarchal structures, or can your employees access top-tier managers and even executives? Does the program support the company’s vision?
By looking at your company within this framework, you can begin to understand how much work needs to be done before rolling out a new employee-development program.
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