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When employees are deciding to remain in (or even accept) a job, they’re not just looking at salary and benefits. They’re also asking themselves questions like this: Is there room for advancement at this company? Is there an opportunity for professional development? Does my manager care about me as a person?
Research shows that employee retention and engagement are now the top problems faced by companies. So while offering a well-stocked kitchen and a generous PTO policy are great perks, investing in your employees’ development is the most important thing you can do to build a strong, satisfied staff.
Here’s how to get started.
1. Make coaching and mentoring a priority
It used to be the norm for managers to impart their knowledge and skills to employees. But whether it’s due to mounting workloads, shifting priorities, or some other reason, this doesn’t always happen.
These relationships are still vital, though, so create (and incentivize) a program that has managers working with either their direct reports or employees from other departments in a coaching or mentoring capacity.
2. Chart a course for development and advancement
When some employers interview job candidates, they consider it a red flag if the person inquires about the opportunity to move up, seeing it as a sign that the candidate will soon tire of the role. Instead, try looking at it as a sign that this person is interested in staying at the company long term.
Have managers sit down with employees to develop individual plans for growth, complete with skills they want to develop, projects they want to take on, and measurable steps for achieving their goals. It’s also important to address a career path at the company, especially if it’s a startup and a logical next role does not currently exist.
3. Schedule regular check-ins
It’s not enough to just meet with employees during annual reviews. Plan weekly, biweekly, or monthly one-on-ones with direct reports to discuss their current projects, ask them about any issues they might be having at work, and talk to them about life in general.
This is also an opportunity to deliver feedback — and that doesn’t mean just telling your employees what they’re doing wrong. Frame areas to work on with praise and positive messages. Try meeting at a coffee shop or somewhere outside the office so the meeting feels more informal and relaxed.
Getting together regularly helps you develop a relationship in which employees feel like they can be more open and honest with you, and it helps you work together to address any potential problems before they escalate.
4. Offer development programs tailored to the individual
The employees at your company all have different development objectives, availability, and learning styles, so it doesn’t make sense to expect the same training program to work for everyone.
To make these programs more appealing to employees (instead of just another thing on their plate), offer a variety of options, like mobile learning, online articles, in-person seminars, and more.
5. Lead by example
To send the message that continual personal and professional development is important, managers have to commit to it as well. Talk with your employees about the seminars you’re attending and the takeaways from the event.
When you create a dialogue about how to apply these lessons to your life and your work, employees see these development programs as valuable and not just another thing on their to-do list.
6. Support your employees’ overall well-being
There’s a reason why companies that offer options like flex time and working from home have become so appealing to job candidates: Employees have lives outside of work. So think about how you can enrich their whole person.
For example, you could offer discounted gym memberships or seminars on meditation and stress reduction. You could bring in financial planners to help people get started with saving, investing, or preparing to buy a house. And you can offer a flexible schedule or the option to work from home occasionally to allow employees to attend to personal matters.