Seek professional development opportunities
Participation in professional development opportunities is one of the best things a manager can do to help employees improve their skills and advance in their careers. Professional development opportunities can take many forms. Some examples include:
- Internal company-sponsored training events
- Job shadowing and mentorship programs
- Presentations by leaders within the company, or external thought leaders from other companies
- Online courses and learning resources like Coursera, Udemy, Khan Academy, edX, etc.
Professional development opportunities for your staff don't have to be expensive or elaborate to be effective. If you're not sure where to start looking for professional development opportunities for your staff members, consider the following:
- Find out about any internal programs that are available through your human resources department.
- Search online for employee skill training courses in your area (e.g., "employee skill training Boston").
- See if there are any upcoming conferences in your industry (e.g., "HR conference 2018") that offer relevant topics you'd like your team to learn more about!
Offer job shadowing or mentoring programs
- Develop a formal program. This doesn't have to be time-consuming or complicated. A simple form can be created to have new employees fill out asking what they are interested in, and then match them with someone who has experience in that area.
- Make it a two-way learning experience. Make sure that both parties understand and agree on their roles and responsibilities ahead of time and let both parties share their expectations for the program.
- Match participants based on similar interests. Giving your new employee the opportunity to shadow or mentor with someone who has similar interests can help maintain enthusiasm for the program, as well as ensure that both sides gain from the exchange of ideas.
- Provide a safe environment for learning. The goal of job shadowing is to give your new employee confidence and increase his/her skill set so that he/she is equipped to succeed in his/her role within the company. Being able to apply the learnings to a work assignment or project and getting feedback on it, is the best way to benefit from skill development.
Participate in an internship program
Internships are an excellent way to develop employees for your company.
Internships offer students or employees valuable opportunities to gain experience in their chosen field, while employers benefit from their energy and fresh ideas. When you set up an internship program, you can choose to accept full-time or part-time interns, or even work with local colleges and universities to employ students during their summer breaks.
Assign a mentor or supervisor to each intern so they have someone with whom they can discuss their performance and training needs, as well as someone who can help them learn the industry from the inside out. An internship can be paid or unpaid, depending on the candidate’s preference and your budget constraints. Again, make sure they can actually apply their skills and knowledge while learning.
Host a company-wide training
Hosting a company-wide training is a big commitment, but it's well worth it. Offering training to employees will build up their skill, both for the current role and beyond. It can also be hosted internally by your company, or externally by an external provider.
Here are some examples of training that could be run:
Internally hosted, in person:
- Sales techniques
- Excel basics and advanced techniques
- Microsoft Office tricks and hacks
- Best programming practices
- Social media marketing practices
- Management skills
- Learning how to use new software
Foster collaboration via team projects
These days, collaboration and team building are paramount to a successful business. For example, think of the iPhone—the revolutionary device that revolutionized the way we use phones. If it wasn't for the countless teams of developers, designers and testers that worked together to create this amazing device, who knows where we would be today? (Probably still using flip phones.)
To foster better collaboration at work and improve your employees' skills in this area, you should encourage everyone to work on team projects as much as possible. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
- Choose project leaders wisely.
- Set clear deadlines for your projects.
- Make sure your team is properly prioritizing their tasks with a task management system or tool like Trello or Asana.
Cross-training is the practice of training employees in different job roles, or functions.
Employees will benefit from learning new skills and having a better understanding of the job they are supporting. Cross-training also has many benefits for the organization, such as improved customer service, team building, and increased employee engagement.
You can adopt cross-training by:
- Defining clear objectives for your program and deciding what you want to accomplish.
- Making sure that senior leadership understands the importance of cross-training, is committed to its success, and supports it at all levels.
- Ensuring that staff members have time set aside for training so they don’t get overwhelmed with their existing workloads. Training sessions should be scheduled when there are no other distractions and with adequate notice so employees can prepare for them.
Develop a succession plan
Succession planning is when an employee works with their manager to determine where their career at the company is going. Succession plans outline short-term and long-term goals, as well as potential steps to achieving them.
For example, one employee might tell her manager that she wants to be promoted from marketing assistant to marketing coordinator within a year. To help her achieve her goal, they would work together on a succession plan. The plan might include things like taking classes, getting training, or shadowing coworkers in other departments.
It's important for your employees because it helps them stay engaged at work and understand how they can grow at your company. It's also beneficial for you because it helps you keep good employees by giving them what they want: opportunities for growth and advancement.
Develop a library of resources
You can create an online resource library that houses curated content on a range of topics, from development to productivity. This could include ebooks, training videos, podcasts and articles. It’s crucial that the resources you include are relevant to your organization and development opportunities available in the workplace.
Organize content so it’s easily accessible and searchable by employees. If new content is coming in regularly—for example, if you have company-specific information that changes often—you may want to update this section of your intranet weekly or biweekly (or more frequently, depending on how much new information is produced).
Allow learning time on the job
Learning time on the job is a good way to help employees develop skills at work. Employees can use this time to research new and emerging technologies that are relevant to their field. They can also read up on industry news and take online training courses.
A good time for learning on the job is during off-peak hours, such as early morning or late in the day. This helps minimize interruptions from customers or coworkers’ questions. It also allows employees to focus fully on their work during busier times of the day.
When people are learning on the job, it is important to have means of making the learning and progress visible. Having regular feedback or peer review sessions around the learned topics gives the employee a 360 degree view of their work and learnings and offers a great way to celebrate success. Adding a way to visualize the progress makes it even better!
Provide pre-paid training or education packages for higher education
Companies that want to retain their employees and keep them motivated should consider investing in development. This is a great way to address the issue of talent shortages. In addition, if you are looking at training your top people and staff, it's also a good investment because it helps you retain the best candidates as well.
Again, tying projects or work assignments to the studied topics will ensure that the return on investment is short. It’s a win-win situation; the employee studying the topic can apply the learnings to their work and the team and employer get updated information on the topic and potentially new innovations!
As we can see, there are multiple ways to develop one’s skills and talent at work. It should be in every company’s interest to ensure their people’s market value stays valid or increases – as this is a great way to retain and attract talents.
Whatever method you choose or a mix of methods, the most important thing is to ensure you and the employee have planned a way to implement the learnings into their work. Challenge them and offer them opportunities to even invent something new!