A solid employee-development program can mean the difference between a successful company and one that struggles. Indeed, your company's chances for growth are closely aligned with its commitment toward fostering employee development. More and more workers are looking for employers who can help them increase their knowledge and skills.
It's no longer enough to offer a conventional benefits package. Companies that want to attract -- and retain -- valuable people on staff need to actively participate in their employees' growth and development. It's rewarding for employees to expand their knowledge base and take on new challenges, as it makes coming to work about more than just a paycheck.
Here are some concrete ways to encourage and maintain a work environment that fosters learning and a desire to constantly improve:
- Implement a mentoring program. Pairing newer, less experienced employees with more experienced employees is a great way for people to learn from one another. Mentors can serve as a sounding board for younger employees, and can provide job coaching, advice on career development, and introductions to other professionals in the industry. Mentors often help their charges to see the "bigger picture" when it comes to their working life. And, at the same time, mentors themselves can gain valuable insight from their protégés and become better managers.
- Launch employee-training programs. Investing in your employees' continuing education demonstrates that the company values its people and wants them to grow. Even after an individual joins an organization and the "honeymoon" period has passed, companies should continue to provide training on an ongoing basis for any skills that may be pertinent to the employee's job. Read Ten Employee Training Tips for good advice on how to get started.
- Reimburse tuition costs. Helping employees finance their education is a tangible way to demonstrate a company's commitment to fostering a workforce full of skilled and talented people. This form of employee development also benefits the company as a whole -- better educated employees increase your firm's chances for success in a competitive marketplace. Adding tuition reimbursement to your benefits package also makes your company a much more desirable place to work, and can help you attract top talent.
- Hire and promote from within. Employees appreciate job security, but in order to grow professionally, people want and need new responsibilities. Giving your employees opportunities to grow within the company lets them know that you value their past contributions and have faith in their abilities to take on greater challenges. Let people know when new positions are available in the company before opening up those jobs to outside applicants, and be sure to give first consideration to in-house candidates.
- Reward star performers. Don't make the mistake of neglecting employees who do great work and don't need much managing. Some managers make the mistake of believing that star performers don't need occasional pats on the back, but disregarding their hard work can be demoralizing. Call them out for their efforts or else they may come to think no one notices, and their performance may suffer as a result.
- Foster creative learning processes. Often, employees want to make suggestions about the way things are done but don't have a way to voice their ideas. Develop a method that makes it easier for staffers to share their creative ideas or suggestions with top management.
Leslie Levine is a writer, speaker, and author of three nonfiction books. She is also the president of Leslie Levine Communications, which offers workshops in employee development and communication as well as public relations and marketing. Based in Chicago, she blogs regularly for AllBusiness.com on the topic of employee development.