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13 Ways to Encourage Employee Development (and Strengthen Your Team)

Posted May 8, 2017 by Caroline Whitney in Managing Your Team
Employee development is about more than picking up a few skills. It's also about increasing employee morale and building a strong business.

Boost Employee Development

In your company's day-to-day routine, professional development activities may not seem like a priority. After all, the workday should be focused on, well, working!

But it’s important that your employees continue to learn and grow professionally. According to go2HR, 40% of people who receive poor employee training leave within the first year. Employee development not only benefits the individual, but it will benefit your company as well.

So, how can you encourage your employees’ professional development? Here are 13 simple ways.

1. Have Regular Reviews

Make sure supervisors are checking in with their supervisees, and that employees’ needs are being met professionally. Do they have enough work on their plates?  Are they being challenged? Are they able to excel and shine?

Maybe they’re ready to take on a new or different kind of project so that they can grow. Similarly, during your reviews, have them reflect on their own work. In what areas do they think they need to improve? And how can you help them do so? Consider having them set their own goals for the next year.

2. Recognize Accomplishments

Employee appreciation is immensely important, as we’ve written about before. According to a study by the APA, 93% of employees who feel valued are more motivated to do their best work. Keeping employees happy and appreciated is an easy way to encourage growth. They’ll feel excited about the prospect of learning more, because you recognize what they’ve already done.

Looking for other ways to build a strong team? Check out our free resources on employee happiness.

3. Allow for Growth Within the Company

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This goes hand in hand with regular reviews and recognizing accomplishments.  Strive for a company that has upward mobility. If an employee is doing well, allow for promotion opportunities that will give them a sense of accomplishment. Even if your company doesn’t have any higher positions at the moment, consider assigning your employee additional responsibilities. It will make them feel like they are succeeding — because they are!

4. Prioritize Professional Skill Development

Taking the time to focus on specific skills that could use work — and actually working on them — will help your team become better professionals. Maybe your employees would benefit from a public speaking expert coming in, or they could use a workshop to work on their writing skills. Honing in on employee development is not only important for them as an individual — your company will benefit from their improvements.

5. Encourage Outside Class Attendance

Employees can — and should — work on themselves outside of the workplace as well. Push your employees to attend classes, sessions, or conferences focusing on essential skills that are linked to your industry. Afterwards, encourage employees to discuss what they learned with their peers.

6. Encourage Networking

Most people think of networking as a necessary evil for finding a new job. But staying connected and knowing others in the business will help your employee grow in their role over time. Also, your employees’ networks can benefit your company as well. Who knows when a certain connection will come in handy for a business deal, or to fill a needed position in the office.

7. Consider an Office Mentoring Program

A mentoring program can do so much for your business and your team, from employee training for newbies, to building employee loyalty. A mentoring program can also build leadership and develop skills for both junior and senior employees. So tap into your resources!  Employees helping their peers to be even more skilled and talented is a concept you just can’t pass up.

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8. Implement Cross-Departmental Training

Allow space in your company for employees to learn from different departments.  They’ll understand the inner workings of your company better, and fresh eyes might notice something about that specific department that should be changed.  

9. Encourage Membership in Professional Organizations

...And help employees choose which ones they might join, depending on their chosen career path. It never hurts to keep a running list of who belongs where. Employees will build relationships this way, learn new skills, stay on top of new developments in their field. Basically, it's just another clever way to network and help your company outreach.

10. Give Them Resources

Make sure your employees know where to find valuable information.  Whether you have an online database of professional organizations they can join, classes they can attend, or you host monthly “lunch and learns,” your employees should have the tools to know how they can move forward.

11. Offer Tuition Reimbursement

If relevant to your industry, consider tuition reimbursement (or partial tuition reimbursement) for your employees’ continued education. It’s a fabulous benefit that will not only attract the best and the brightest talent, but will also allow your employees to grow and learn!

12. Be a Role Model

If you're engaging in some of the above activities, your employees will be more likely to as well.  Make professional development a norm at your company. Be a role model for your team.

13. Build a Collaborative Culture

All this learning and growing should be shared! If employees share the information they’ve learned and the activities in which they are engaging, others will follow suit.  If your workplace feels like an open one, it’ll be an environment conducive to growth.