Last week we talked about the three main areas to focus on that will improve your company culture, and put you firmly on the path to being an employer of choice. The first was environment.
This week, we’re talking about Development.
Sure, you hear the term employee development all the time – but isn’t that just a fancy phrase of promotions? Well, yes, promotions can be a part of it – but it’s not the only part. These days, people want to grow. You know, I recently heard a great phrase – the YOLO generation. It’s the You Only Live Once generation – and don’t fool yourself, it’s not just a generation – it’s a movement.
People are taking stock, looking at what they’ve been doing, and how they’ve been doing it and asking questions. Am I doing something that gets me fired up? Am I living my life to the fullest? Is this meaningful? Am I happy.
Now, I’m well aware that these are huge, life questions – and you can’t expect your employer to answer the meaning of life for you. But if we, as leaders, don’t recognize that these are the questions floating through out team members minds – we might easily find ourselves on the wrong side of the Great Resignation.
So, how do you address all this? Well, understand that developing someone’s skills, so they can make the next promotion, is important. But as I said, it’s not everything.
Let’s deal with the promotion question. Yes, people want to know what career growth possibilities exist for them. Is there a clear path they can follow – you know, if you do this then you get that. I know for us, as leaders, there are so many things to come into play around promotions – do they have the hard skills, what about the soft skills (like communication and judgement), does the company even need that next level job.
“…the You Only Live Once generation … it’s not just a generation – it’s a movement“
Well, remember that the next rung on the ladder might be an interim step, with a bit more responsibilities – vs. some huge promotion to a VP level job they aren’t ready for and your company doesn’t need. But you do need to make space for that next incremental step. So build it into your org chart – it’s all about planning. You have to recognize that as people become seasoned in what they are doing, they may want to take on a bit more. And that only does good things for your company, because as they take on more responsibilities, the company now has more opportunities to grow as well.
What are those projects that you always knew needed to get done but never had the time or resources to make it happen; what about responsibilities that are just taking up time in your day – why can’t they go to someone else. And don’t bother with the argument of – well it’s not just about training, it takes a certain judgement. That’s the point. Build a training process the incorporates all the elements you need for that person to succeed in an expanded role. Skills training, shadowing you or another team member, outside classes, webinars or seminars, doing demo projects – it’s all part of a robust training development program.
But again, internal promotion training is only one type of employee development. Think about, and show that you care about, the whole employee. Why not offer classes that support creative, or other non work related endeavors. Give a subscription to SkillShare, Udemy or MasterClass.
And remember, development doesn’t just mean growing to the next thing – it means getting better at what you’re doing too. All that to say – don’t forget about your managers. Give them training and opportunity to brush up their skills too. What about an internal or external mentoring program that pairs your manager with a more seasoned executive. Or providing learning around how to manage remote teams.
The list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t address compensation and autonomy. There’s no soft way to say it – employees today are expecting both. In case you didn’t notice, the market is moving, and so are salary ranges. You have to make an effort to stay on top of what is the market for the jobs in your company, and make sure you aren’t too far behind. And yes, that might result in right sizing salaries for some of your employees. It’s a reality you are going to have to face – either now, or later. Because someone is out there, looking for people exactly like the people on your team. And while compensation isn’t the top of the list on why people change jobs, it is ON the list – so if you’re too far out of sync with the market – it will be a big problem for you.
Now, on the subject of autonomy – no, I don’t mean just let everyone do whatever they want. But I do mean open the reigns a bit and give them more flexibility in how they’re getting things done. You never know, your team member may have a brilliant idea that you just don’t know about, because you keep telling them to put that square peg in that square hole.
Try giving them a fuller picture, tell them what needs to be accomplished, and see if they have any ideas. Collaborate on the process – in fact, that’s a great way to grow judgement. When you give them all the pieces of a puzzle, and tell someone why this may be a challenge, or what areas to think about when they are forming a solution – you’re training them, you’re developing them. Basically, you’re killing both the development and autonomy birds with one stone (wow, that’s an awful analogy – but you get what I mean)
OK – will all this take a bit of work – yes, it will. I won’t try to lie about that. But it’s a lot less work than finding someone new, training them and taking the time to get them up to speed. And here’s a pro tip – why not make the research, design and implementation of some of these programs part of a development program. Meaning – assign it to someone. They’ll have an amazing experience creating something new, and they’ll grow in the process.