What has developing employees got to do with business? The simple answer is everything.
Hiring new employees is only just the first step in starting up a business.
You also need to know how to develop them.
Here, we’ll dive deeply into the concept of developing employees.
- What it means to develop employees
- The importance of developing employees
- The necessary steps you can take to develop employees
Without further ado, let’s get started!
How To Develop Employees
Employee development is an integral part of running a business and something that every CEO should take seriously.
It is already common knowledge that your employees are the greatest assets you have in your organization aside from your customers.
However, individual employees have unique skills, talents, and abilities.
Of course, before hiring your employees, you assessed their skills to a certain degree, and you decided they were best suited for the roles.
However, it is not just enough to depend solely on what abilities and qualities each of your employees have.
The largest room in the world, they say, is the room for improvement, and that room must be adequately utilized if you want to maximize productivity/grow your business.
Therefore, it would be fine to ask yourself:
“Are my employees the same as they were when I hired them?”.
In other words, have you been able to take an employee or group of employees from point A to point B since they began working with you?
If you’re not, and your employees suffer stagnation professionally and personally, you are not doing great in developing employees.
On the other hand, when your employees have moved from where they were when they first joined a better position, you are doing plausible things.
The truth remains that you cannot hide away from employee development.
This can affect your business for good or for bad.
In a moment, you would see what effects having a system to develop your employees can have on the organization.
But first, let us understand the concept of employee development.
What Does it Mean to Develop Employees?
The word ‘Develop’ is quite a straightforward one.
And it’s one you must be very familiar with as an entrepreneur or business owner.
In fact, if you do not own a business yet, you probably have used that word several times repeatedly in everyday interactions.
The idea of development conveys the process that occurs when someone or something grows, progresses, or changes from one stage to another.
This change is not retrogressive, though.
Instead, it’s a positive and progressive change that puts one in a better place or position.
With that in mind, when we speak about developing employees, it means enhancing your employees’ skills, talents, and abilities.
This does not just involve enhancing an existing skill but also helping the employees to acquire new ones.
Furthermore, this process is usually a conscious effort of the employer or management.
It could be that there is an obvious gap in your company, and this might jeopardize the chances of achieving the business goals.
In that case, an employer might need to develop existing employees in areas that can help them fill this gap.
This could be in acquiring new knowledge in a different field or learning relevant new skills.
Sometimes also, the employees might make deliberate efforts to develop themselves personally.
This is because they understand that it is essential to continue to be of value to the organization they work for.
In a nutshell, when you make conscious efforts to contribute to the growth and progress of employees in an organization, you developing them.
Why is it Necessary to Develop Employees?
Should you really be concerned about the fact that you have employees who have no notable signs of progress even after years of working with you?
Also, is it really worth it to invest in the development of employees to fit into a role when you can just hire new qualified ones?
Well, the answer to both questions is a resounding ‘Yes.
You would soon find out that whatever you invest in developing your employees is well worth it, whether materially or otherwise.
As a matter of fact, if you do not do it, there are serious consequences.
Here are some of the benefits and importance that come with developing employees in the workplace:
Increased Ability to Attract Top Talent
One of the self-evident goals of any organization committed to getting to the top and staying there is recruiting the best hands.
There is a consensus that when you work with the best people available, they can help you get the best.
Therefore, you wouldn’t want to jeopardize your chances of reaching this goal.
Sadly though, if your firm has a culture of impeding the growth and development of employees, you lose your advantage in this regard.
With the availability of social media and its exposure nowadays, it is not really difficult to know which organizations have this culture.
On the other hand, a job seeker who is talented and brilliant will do his research.
And if he sees your business supports and encourages growth, they will be happy to work for you.
Giving employee development the attention and focus it deserves would definitely increase your chances of getting the best in the industry, and who wouldn’t want that, really?
Business Growth is Faster and Consistent
Since the employees make up the business, it is only natural that their growth will inevitably influence the growth of the business.
You really cannot give what you do not have, as the very popular saying goes.
When you have a team of employees that are not getting better in their field and not dynamic enough to learn new ones, the input they give remains the same.
In fact, over time, when it gets redundant, the input might start to drop, following the law of diminishing returns, and with that, the business has no chance of growth.
However, employees who undergo steady and consistent development can contribute more to the organization.
It is these contributions that will eventually propel the business to the great heights you so desire.
Employee Development Increases Engagement
Another impact that developing your employees has on your business is that it can either drop employee engagement or increase it.
Employee engagement is a measure of the amount of passion, motivation, and commitment your staff has towards their work and the business as a whole.
Studies have shown that when you prioritize the growth and development of employees, they are generally happier.
Also, you would agree that this happiness plays a very vital role in increasing engagement among employees.
Therefore, sometimes when you get low engagement from your workers, the problem might be deeper than you think.
There might be an underlying issue of a lack of employee development.
Your Customers are Safe
As a business owner, the last thing you would want is to have underqualified employees handling customer queries and concerns.
Many of your customers are very enlightened and have high expectations of your organization.
Imagine how they will feel when they approach your employees for support and get a sub-par service.
Definitely, they will be frustrated by that.
With time, they might even walk away from your organization and go for another that can give them what they want.
But then, this doesn’t have to happen.
When you develop your employees, it is as if you are equipping them with the right tools to be the best they can ever be.
That way, they are always prepared and ready to interact with customers and blow their minds.
As such, you do not need to worry too much about losing customers.
It Prepares your Employees for Every Eventuality
As business owners or employers, we often limit our employees’ knowledge and skill to their job roles.
That means we feel that the only thing the employees need to know is what they need to do their jobs.
Due to this, there is no effort made to orientate these in other organization departments and keep them versatile.
The result of this is that you have a team of employees that are not adequately prepared to handle emergencies.
What would happen if, for some reason, the ‘professional’ in a particular role is not available to carry out his/her responsibility?
Will another employee in a different department be able to step up and save the day?
However, with employee development, you have staff that really epitomizes the meaning of the word ‘team.’
They do not house the idea of ‘this is my job, and that is not mine.’
Instead, they have at least the basic knowledge of the roles of every department in the organization.
Hence, when unforeseen occurrences happen, they are ready to jump right in seamlessly and handle the situation.
This is the reason why a football team might lose a defender in a match, and a midfield player steps into that position, fit seamlessly, and they still go on to win the match.
A big advantage of development right there.
Increased Ability to Retain your Employees
Do not believe the rumors and the myths.
Insufficient pay or salary isn’t the only reason employees leave their employment for ‘greener pastures.
Many employees who have had to resign from their jobs have admitted that they do this because they no longer love what they do.
Granted, there might be many reasons why an employee doesn’t get satisfaction from a job.
However, lack of development is one of these.
Not all employees are just satisfied with working and picking up their paycheck.
Some actually want to grow and progress as an individual and also professionally.
And when this is not forthcoming in the organization they work for, they could leave.
In fact, sometimes, you as an employer might be forced to fire an employee that is not developing himself.
This is because you understand the negative impact of stagnation on your entire team and the business itself.
So, whichever angle you look at it from, whether in an employee resigning or asking them to go, good development would help you cut down employee turnover and retain them better.
You can Cut Down on Expenditures
Do you remember how many times you have had to outsource a job to a professional in a field that your full-time employees know nothing about?
How much did you have to pay to get it done?
How about the last time you had to spend a lot fixing a problem that resulted from mistakes made by an inexperienced and unqualified employee?
Or did you have to replace an employee in recent times because he/she doesn’t just live up to the expectations you have of them?
All these things cost a whole lot of money.
Why use so much money on those when you can prevent it just by making a simple choice to develop your employees?
The truth remains that when you develop employees, you can get the best out of them and cut costs in many areas.
That is more bucks in your pocket, by the way.
It Creates a Learning Culture Within the Organization
You can also subconsciously create a very healthy learning culture within your organization if you focus on employee development.
Learning is an indisputably essential process in getting new skills and getting better.
Therefore, employees are encouraged to take it seriously.
Before long, you will find that your entire team now sees learning not as a difficult task.
Instead, they see it as a joyful and satisfying one.
This type of culture would definitely benefit your organization in many areas.
The Inter-Relationship Between your Employees will Improve
One of the aftermaths of gaining new knowledge is the zeal to share this knowledge with others and share opinions with similar knowledge.
You will also get this result when your employees receive relevant training to aid development.
Likewise, the more they interact with their fellow employees on their progress, the stronger the bond between them.
This bond is non-negotiable in building a healthy and conducive office place and boosting productivity.
It Increases your Competitive Advantage
You can be sure that the competition is rife, regardless of whatever industry your business belongs to.
There is a host of other businesses waiting around for you to slack off so they can take your customers and steal your patronage.
Not only that, there is a big chance that your competitors are working on new things that they hope will give them an advantage.
Wouldn’t it be better to have that advantage swayed to your own side?
Well, how best to do this than with your greatest assets, your employees, by developing them.
Developing employees sharpen their knowledge and horizon, and they are more creative and innovative.
That means they can develop solutions to problems when they arise and work on new products and services.
This would then offer you a competitive advantage over your competitors in your industry.
You wouldn’t get this, though, if you do not have employees that are properly developed.
How to Develop Employees – What Can You Do?
As a leader in your organization, you have been tasked with guiding your employees on their personal development journey.
You also have to take the initiative or make a move to develop your employees using work methods.
What are those effective methods?
Take a look at some of them:
Focus on Self Development
Before you can effectively develop your employees, you as a leader must first focus on developing yourself.
The truth remains that a mentorship role is not inbuilt and neither does it drop on you magically.
Instead, it is something that you need to work on building and developing in yourself.
Additionally, if you do not show the example of self-development, your employees are less likely going to.
This is because people learn better from observing actions rather than listening to words.
When you show a fine example of one who constantly wants to improve and acquire new knowledge and skills, it is easier for your employees to follow suit.
Accept the Responsibility of Developing Employees
Oftentimes, some employers might feel that the job of developing employees isn’t theirs.
They could conclude that individual employees should take the responsibility of developing themselves.
It might also be that they assign this role to other employees like the human resource department.
Well, it is expected that each person works on developing himself.
However, the primary responsibility rests on the shoulders of the employer, who is the leader.
In that case, you need not shy away from this responsibility or leave it for others.
Accept the fact that you are responsible for the growth, progress, and development of your staff.
This is actually one of the primary steps toward helping employees develop.
Know your Employees’ Strengths, Weaknesses, and Interests
Another very important step in employee development is first to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your employees.
The basic concept of development is working on something already present to get better.
Or it could also be bringing a new thing that wasn’t there before to existence to support progress.
In these two areas, you cannot effectively make a change if you do not understand what needs to change.
Note that the underlying strengths of each of your employees differ, and so do their interests.
In fact, their values and career goals are also not the same.
When you assess each of your employees to understand what these interests, strengths, and weaknesses are, you can better develop them.
Coach your Employees
Coaching for employees is a deliberate effort to help an employee make improvements in particular areas or gain new knowledge/skills.
You can either do this by having a professional coach your employees in the area you want to enhance their skills.
This professional might either be another employee in the company, maybe a senior staff, or external personnel.
Actually, where you get the coach from is not really the important thing.
What is important is that the person is skilled in the area and you, as the leader, make the structured arrangement.
Provide Training for Employees
Training is similar to coaching, only that with training, you utilize whole more resources in doing this.
This is one of the most common and effective processes of helping your employees develop.
You can provide hands-on training for your employees or train them using other tools like blogs, videos, online tutorials, e.t.c.
Whatever the method used, though, the goal remains the same; to help your employees develop their current skills or get new ones.
Mentor your Employees
This method has worked to tremendous success for many years when it comes to helping employees to develop.
You can provide mentorship as the leader in your organization or give it to other trusted staff.
Mentoring employees simply involve placing an employee with a lower skill set, experience, or qualification under one who has higher.
The more experienced one, which might be you as the business owner or another senior staff, will then guide the junior along the way.
This form of employee development program is usually very effective.
Especially when you want an employee to take over from another who is leaving his position.
The outgoing staff will be able to help his replacement fit in easily into his new role.
All thanks to the mentorship.
Implement Swapping of Roles/Rotation of Jobs
Many successful organizations have achieved rapid development of their employees through a process known as cross-training.
This is done by taking employees away from their regular department to work in another department for a period of time.
Sometimes, this is done to address an urgent need or be a regular part of a company’s routine.
The latter reason is vital for developing employees.
When you let your employees have a feel/taste of different departments and work functions in the office, it can help them learn new skills.
These skills would then assist them in their personal development and come in handy when you need someone to cover a vacant position.
You might even find that you are spending less on replacing staff.
Because you already have people within that can cross over and still perform.
Delegate Assignments and Work to your Employees
It is not uncommon to find many experienced and seasoned business owners wanting to do ‘everything’ by themselves.
They might sometimes struggle with trusting others to handle certain tasks, especially those they see as delicate or sensitive.
However, you need to face the truth of the matter: you cannot do it all by yourself.
If you try to, you will, for one thing, wear yourself out, and also, you will be depriving your employees of an opportunity to grow and develop.
Therefore, make it a practice always to delegate tasks to your employees, starting with the ones they are very familiar with and other difficult ones.
Yes, they might not get it excellently at first, but they will surely learn along the way.
You are affording yourself a much-needed rest, and what more, you also develop your employees in the process.
You can also help individual employees in your organization to develop by encouraging a work environment where teamwork is a part of the culture.
One thing worthy of note regarding employees is that they have different areas of strengths and expertise.
When you only have employees working in isolation as individuals, they might become limited in what they know and do.
On the other hand, when you involve your employees in working together as a team, they are more likely to pick up many skills from one another.
In fact, in something as little as grammar and vocabulary, an employee can develop his or her just by interacting and working together with another.
Give Room for Mistakes
As your employees go on in their professional journey, they are bound to make mistakes along the way.
You as an employer, how do you react to these imperfections and errors?
Do you have zero tolerance for mistakes, such that when they happen, you spit fire and make the office environment unsuitable for everybody?
If you do this, you might be limiting the chances of helping your employees to develop.
A CEO once said: “Always try, even when you are not sure a hundred percent. If you break something, we can fix it, and you will learn, but if you refuse to try, you will never know”.
This mindset encourages taking calculated risks, which might assist your employees in developing new knowledge and skills.
Granted, some mistakes might be made along the way, but if you focus on the positives, you will see that they are worth it.
Be Generous with Providing Feedback
We know that as a great employer, you are interested in seeing your employees grow and develop.
However, you do know that your employees cannot know what to work on or adjust if they are not informed about it, right?
You shouldn’t be like some business owners who leave their employees in the dark about what they need to do to develop and get better.
Some would even prefer to fire someone who is lacking in a particular area.
This, too, rather than letting the person see the problem.
On the other hand, if you provide frequent feedback to your employees, they can be aware of their weaknesses and work on them.
Working on these weaknesses will then help them to become better professionals and develop rapidly.
Encourage and Support an Employee’s Effort at Self Development
While it is true that the primary responsibility of employee development rests on the shoulders of the leader/employer/business owner, the employee still has a part to play.
There is just an extent to which you can help an employee to develop. Much of the decision to let it happen rests with the employee.
Therefore, look around your work environment and see those making active efforts to grow and develop their knowledge and skills.
Encourage these efforts, and when possible, you can even compensate them for what they spend on the training they embark on.
Also, make provisions for leave periods that allow your employees to pursue a course or learning program for self-development.
If you do this, you will be contributing your quota in another way to the growth and development of your employees.
Bottom Line on How to Develop Employees
Make no mistakes about it.
Employee development is one of the most satisfying and rewarding things you can do as a leader.
Whatever you have to invest in it, be it time, energy, or even money, is well worth the investment.
This is because employees are an essential part of your organization.
And it is in your best interest to have them at their optimum.
Keep under-developed employees, and your business becomes stagnant.
Whereas, if you work at developing your employees individually and collectively, they can also help transform and grow your business.