How to support employee growth
Does an employee need to develop?
Personal development is one of the needs of every person. At the same time, it is a process that lasts a lifetime and is conducted in various spheres. One of such areas is work, where usually the most important type of personal development is that of a professional nature. Every employee needs to develop, but the question can be asked: what does the employer get out of it? Is it profitable for him to invest in human capital?
It turns out that employee development brings quite a few benefits to the employer – providing and supporting employee development positively affects their engagement, their work motivation and satisfaction, and their retention in the organization and the success of the company. Why does such development affect engagement? Just consider a simple example and consider whether, if the employee knows that in some time his position in the company will not change at all, and he will not gain any new competencies, will he be able to fully engage in work and act at an important level and go beyond the scope of his duties? Of course, there will be people for whom this will not be a big problem.
However, because development is a need, it turns out that many employees in such a situation will feel as if they are locked in a dead end, and this certainly does not have a positive impact on their well-being and engagement. For most, the lack of development opportunities is a demotivating factor
Four keyways to support employee development
Employee development is not only, contrary to quite often expressed opinions, the responsibility of the employee himself, but also of his managers and the company. Naturally, the best option is when the employee himself/herself shows willingness to acquire new competencies, undertake new activities, and at the same time the company actively supports his/her development. Acquiring new skills is crucial in employee development.
However, we must remember that not every employee is aware that they have a chance for personal development at work. Lack of proper communication, culture and support will result in constant stagnation and growing frustration. On the other hand, sometimes it is the employee who tries to develop at work, but the organization or the managers inhibit this desire, for example by saying that it is not a priority for the company and that personal development should take place in free time. So, what can a company do to support employee development? So how should an employee development plan be created? There are many ways, but it is worth discussing a few key ones
1.Finding out if the employee feels that the job is an opportunity for growth.
A frequent problem is the lack of proper communication in the company. The employee does not know whether he or she has opportunities for development, and the manager does not know whether his or her subordinates feel that they can develop at work and how he or she could help them to do so. Open communication should always be the starting point for development activities. Periodic conversations are usually an opportunity to discuss such topics, but their frequency may be insufficient, so the superior should also raise the topic of the employee’s personal development on other occasions. Based on periodic evaluation, we have a chance to plan the development path for a particular employee.
In addition, a helpful solution, and a significant help in supporting the development of employees may turn out to be the research addressing these issues. The issues related to personal development may be included, for example, in employee engagement studies, an example of which is Enpulse, in which development and knowledge is one of the key research areas.
2.Building an organizational culture that encourages development.
A crucial element that supports employee development is a company’s organizational culture, which includes principles, values, and communication patterns. Organizations usually understand that they need to develop themselves to keep up with market changes and customer needs. However, sometimes companies forget that the value that should be nurtured is also the development of employees, because without this it is difficult to achieve positive changes at the company level – after all, its fate depends on the people who create it.
That is why it is necessary to build in the organization an atmosphere of openness to innovative ideas, support open communication, thanks to which the employees will not be afraid of independent initiative. In addition, it is also necessary to remember about creating opportunities for development, for example by organizing training, developing career paths or promotion criteria. In many companies, a talent development program will also prove useful. Supporting the unique abilities and predispositions of individual employees results in more effective performance of their duties and going beyond them. To a significant extent, this translates into the involvement of each employee, achievement of objectives and higher profits for the organization. Employee education, external training and other forms of development should be supported by appropriate employee development tools.
3.Individual support of employee development by a direct manager.
A frequent practice, especially in larger companies, is to entrust matters related to employee development to specific individuals, such as from the HR department. They take care of the training offer or talent management, conduct special questionnaires among employees to learn more about their development needs. However, this should not relieve direct managers from the responsibility for the personal development of their subordinates. In fact, they know them best, they can observe their daily activities and communicate with them on an ongoing basis. It is also extremely important that they know the needs of the organization combined with the knowledge of the specificity of work on a given position. Thanks to this, they can also properly direct the development activities of their co-workers, so that they support their career growth.
It is crucial that the relationship between the employee and the manager is based on honesty, openness, and mutual respect. The employee must feel that he has the support and trust of his immediate superior. Only in such conditions, a subordinate will not be afraid to talk to hers/his manager about hers/his desire to develop, about the possibilities which she/he has before her/him.
However, just watching and listening is not enough. Support for the employee’s development should also consist in the fact that the manager is able to properly respond to the developmental needs and will try to answer them by offering training, participation in a new project or offering the employee greater flexibility of working time due to his additional studies, courses. Professional development paths should be selected individually, so that they support the development of skills and lead to the achievement of set goals.
An important task of the manager is also to encourage employees to develop, because not everyone is able to come up with such an initiative on their own. Sometimes it is even necessary to look for the path of personal development together with the employee. Forms of development should also be discussed during a conversation with employees. However, the tasks of a superior do not end here. He should support the employee during this process, for example by appreciating successes, but also by trying to practically use the competences gained by the employee in his everyday duties. Thanks to this, the development will not only be the realization of a personal need, but it will become a motivation, because the employee will see that his efforts in this area make sense and bring additional benefits to the company.
4.Supporting employee development through stimulating work.
Personal development is a process and is usually seen as something that is done outside of one’s daily responsibilities. But such development is not only about training, studies, courses, developing individual plans or career paths. An employee should feel that everyday work is also a chance for him/her to gain new competences, experiences. Performing only routine activities may cause discouragement, frustration, decreased motivation and boredom, and this usually results in a decrease in the employee’s commitment. That is why it is so important to entrust the employees with tasks, engage them in projects that pose new challenges, stimulate them to look for innovative solutions, and thus allow for development.
It must be remembered, however, that the challenge must be interesting for the employee, it cannot be just an attempt to break the routine, or what is worse, to hide under the pretext of development the desire to burden the employee with more responsibilities. Of course, such development, participation in new projects often means that there will be more tasks, but if they correspond to the real development needs of an employee, they will not be perceived as another boring constraint, but as an inspiring challenge.
It is therefore crucial to have a promising idea of what the person wants or at least to know which areas do not interest him at all. It is also important to analyze in which forms of development the person wants to and can participate. One more issue cannot be neglected – the challenge must be achievable for the employee, as burdening him/her with a task that is too difficult, or that will require him/her to acquire new competences too quickly, may be a source of stress and frustration.
Supporting employee development is an important, but still quite often underestimated element of building employee engagement. In companies, various tools that can support such development are being implemented more often, employee development plans are created, training sessions are organized, and during periodic interviews not only achievements are evaluated, but also key development areas of organization members are identified. However, it should be remembered that the activities supporting employee development should have a permanent character and be expressed not only in the appropriately selected tools, but also in the organizational culture, everyday actions of the superiors, appropriate communication, and stimulation of development through everyday work. Only such a comprehensive approach will have a real, positive impact on the engagement of employees and their motivation to work.
It is also worth mentioning that it is the employee’s willingness and proactive attitude that plays a key role in their development. Regardless of how hard the employer will try to create the best work environment, what tools he will implement, everything depends on the persistence and willingness of the employee himself. Of course, both the employee and the employer should work on motivation (both external and internal), but this is a separate topic that will be discussed next time. It is worth investing in the employee because it simply pays off. Development plans, appropriate atmosphere in the workplace, participation in trainings, improving employees’ qualifications are the key elements helping the employee to become a specialist in his/her field and the company to gain an advantage on the market.