why is employee engagement important, employee engagement

Why is Employee Development Important?

Employee development is essential to sustainable business growth and success. Organizations spend a lot of time and resources to bring the most suitable recruits on board, and then let the ball drop when it comes to their continual development. That seems counterproductive.

In a working environment that keeps changing due to the incorporation of new technologies, business leaders can’t afford to disregard the need to develop and nurture their employees. COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives in company operations, and businesses need employees to upskill their digital capabilities in order to leverage these technologies. Research has also found that the new world of work needs people with softs skills.

Besides, the group that makes out the largest proportion of the workforce, namely millennials, demands career development. According to several research reports, the opportunity to learn and grow is the most important job attribute for this demographic.

​Gallup’s latest report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, revealed that 59% of millennials said opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when applying for a job. 

Employee Development Defined

Employee development involves a collaborative effort between an employee and a manager to improve the skills and knowledge of the worker. This may involve training on new technologies, leadership development opportunities, or any training that can improve performance. Since constant change has become a reality in the workplace, employee development is something that’s never done and dusted.

Benefits of Employee Development

Business leaders who see to it that their workforce is properly trained, put their business at a competitive advantage because they have a high-performing and engaged workforce that executes their tasks expertly. Here is a list of some of the more important benefits of employee development.

1. Attract Top Talent

Ambitious professionals who want to excel in their career always look for a work situation that will offer them growth opportunities. These are people who can help your organization reach its goals. When posting job openings, and throughout your recruitment process, make it clear that the business is committed to the continual development of staff. This way, you will draw people who are ambitious and enjoy a challenge.

2. Increase Employee Engagement

Engaged employees are worth their weight in gold. What you don’t want is workers who are physically present but mentally absent. 

Staff development contributes to worker engagement because they feel valued and gain confidence in their skills through training and career development initiatives. Engaged employees are more likely to be motivated to work towards company goals and are less likely to be bored or unhappy at work.

Employee engagement is one of the top business strategies for many business leaders and employee development is one strategy to achieve that goal.

3. Improve Performance and Gain Competitive Advantage

Employees who are trained properly can increase their performance and positively impact the performance of the entire enterprise.

2017 CSO Insights report, looked at the impact of employee development on performance and found that sales manager development can drastically improve performance metrics such as quota attainment, revenue attainment and win rates. For instance, an investment of $500 in employee development improved the win rate by 46%.  

Improved performance helps companies to outperform competitors. Companies also gain a competitive edge because ongoing training and development ensure that employees are up to date with developments in the industry and can contribute to innovative solutions.

4. Train Future Leaders

Employee development programs are the ideal opportunity to target workers with potential for future management positions and train them to fit the organization’s needs. 

Organizations that want to grow and thrive in the new work era will need a highly-skilled workforce led by strong leaders. However, leadership skills, for the most part, don’t develop organically or just because a worker is brilliant at their work. Leadership is something that must be taught and carefully honed.

According to Deloitte, organizations that develop strong leadership achieve a 9% increase in profit margin and a 37% rise in revenue per employee. 

Keep in mind that research also suggests that effective managers can improve employee engagement, which is key to a company’s success.

5. Retain Current Employees and Save Money

To keep up with developments in their various industries, organizations need to make sure that they employ staff with the skills necessary to give them a competitive advantage. Training new staff is very costly. According to one study, the cost of hiring a new employee can be as high as $7,645.

Telecom giant AT&T decided to upskill its workforce to the tune of $1 billion because the company came to the conclusion that hiring the skills they needed from outside would cost too much. The company estimated that the median cost to replace a worker would be 21% of an employee’s salary. Retraining current employees for new or more highly skilled jobs also means the company can keep valuable company-specific knowledge in-house.

How to Develop Employees

Employee development can have more than one goal: to enable employees to upskill so they can continue to perform their tasks as they evolve, or to prepare employees for greater roles and more responsibilities.

Here are nine ways to develop employees so they stay engaged and loyal to the company.

1. Be the Example

Current leadership must show that they take steps to keep growing professionally. Employees learn from this that continual growth is part of the company culture and that stagnation is not advisable. 

The world of work is changing fast. Due to artificial intelligence and automation, many workers will have to upskill in order to transition to new jobs. Company leadership will have to take the lead to navigate these upcoming challenging times, which will require high-level training and upskilling.

If employees see that leaders need professional development, they’ll draw the conclusion that they too would do well to improve their skills and commit to professional development.

2. Individualize Employee Development

A one-size-fits-all approach will no longer work in today’s diversified workplace. Development programs should take into account every employee’s personal career goals, specific skills, technological ability, and learning approach.

To this end, a conversation needs to take place between the manager and the employee to agree on attainable goals and timeframe.

3. Leverage the Capabilities of a Corporate Learning Management System (LMS)

These tools facilitate the organization and management of individualized training programs across the company. The system allows managers to deliver training content and monitor student progress.

A corporate LMS acts as a centralized location of learning content for managers and employees. In addition, the system features a course authoring system for the creation of learning content. 

These systems make the delivery of tailored learning experiences at scale possible.

4. Assign Stretch Assignments

Stretch assignments are special assignments that take employees out of their comfort zone and challenge them. The purpose is to develop their skills and abilities. Stretch assignments help employees grow by facing them with something new. 

There are two points to remember here. First, keep the assignment relevant to the employee’s professional goals. Second, the assignment should be challenging but not daunting. It must be possible for the person to perform in your estimation. Be sure the employee has access to all the necessary resources to succeed.

5. Target soft skills

Soft skills are more important than ever. Remote workers need listening, collaboration, presentation, and communication skills to perform their tasks effectively. 

In light of current technological advancements and the advent of automation, the modern workplace needs resilient thinkers who can communicate effectively and help organizations navigate change successfully.

Soft skills are applicable in all sectors regardless of the industry and benefit professionals no matter what their career trajectory.

6. Consider Mentoring and Coaching

Mentoring and coaching have put many employees on a path to success. Consider mentoring for junior staff that show potential as future leaders and reserve coaching for skills development of less experienced individuals. Mentoring and coaching programs are proven methods to boost professional development.

Both these methods can broaden an employee’s scope of insight and abilities, but they are time-consuming and there’s a risk that the employee will learn only one perspective and one way of doing things.

7. Create Networking Opportunities

One way to help employees to develop and grow is to help them expand their professional circle. All successful professionals have had doors opened for them and received introductions to inspirational role models, mentors, and subject-matter experts. Do the same for those in your charge and watch them fly.

8. Broaden Their Exposure

Expose employees to a wide range of interactions with different people in and outside the company. Different learning opportunities can hone an individual’s communication skills, and expose them to varied knowledge and insights. As far as possible, let employees attend and participate in workshops, lunch and learns, conferences, committees, and working groups.

9. Training simulations

This is a fairly new addition to staff development. It has proven to be very effective because people learn in a fun and memorable way.

Training simulations put staff in a virtual setting where they are faced with real-world problems. Organizations have used training simulations to give customer service staff practice in handling difficult customers. Companies have also recreated emergency situations like armed perpetrators on the premises to let employees learn how to handle emergencies. 

Final thoughts

Over the past few years, the world of work has been, and continues to be disrupted by advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and automation. The pandemic has accelerated this disruption. Preparing employees through training and development, could be the difference between thriving and merely surviving through the challenges of this new and changing world.