The importance of recruiting (and retaining) the best employees goes without saying. However, the human resource management journey doesn’t end there. Once you have successfully on-boarded your new employees, your next priority is to engage them in the right people development activities to take them to the next level of performance.
Managers and organisation leaders who focus on delivering effective people development activities are able to tap into their employees’ talents and strengths. Unfortunately, many companies approach people development from a purely technical angle i.e. providing access to training for software used by the company in its day-to-day operations and e-learning on topics such as project management.
Much as these are very important and quite effective too, there’s way more to people development than just sharpening your employees’ technical skills. Here are five ideas for people development activities for company leaders out there looking to take charge of their teams’ career growth.
Continuing education opportunities
This is one of the commonest and most obvious people development activities. The modern job market requires more degrees for one to advance their career up the corporate ladder so many employees today juggle studying for their next degree and maintaining their full-time job.
More and more employers are encouraging this trend by reimbursing tuition costs and offering more flexible work schedules that enable their employees to find a healthy work-education balance.
Coaching and mentoring opportunities
This is another one of the most important people development activities. It doesn’t matter if your company has a formal mentoring program or not. The key is to start small and then build from there.
Mentoring and coaching greatly improves quality of work, enhances team cohesion and raises employee engagement and job satisfaction levels. It also helps employees grow their communication skills.
Coaching might seem daunting at first, particularly for managers that have little to no experience but you can ease into it by asking the employee you’re looking to coach some simple questions every week:
- Are there any hurdles you are coming across in your job, and can I help?
- What one thing can you do next week to improve your general performance?
- What would you like to learn that could help you perform better at your job?
Think of a business as an ecosystem with the various departments that compose it as independent but symbiotic organisms that help each other grow and flourish just like plants and animals in nature.
Cross-departmental training enables employees to gain a hands-on understanding of how other elements in the company work and how they can co-operate better with them for better overall results.
Whether this cross-departmental training is in the form of job shadowing, job rotation or lateral moves, the important thing is that employees get to learn crucial elements of other jobs, while further developing in their own as they navigate new challenges. It is also a great way for employees to safely explore possible career pivots, without necessarily having to leave their current job or your company.
Soft skills development
Unfortunately, many companies tend to overlook the importance of soft skills, preferring to focus entirely on technical skills. In fact, the name “soft skills” in itself doesn’t help either, as it creates the subconscious impression in leaders’ minds that they are not particularly necessary – just nice to have.
And yet this couldn’t be further from the truth. Soft skills are just as important as the “hard skills” (the intellectual know-how) of how to execute the tasks under any given job description. Emotional intelligence elements such as self-awareness, self-discipline, motivation, empathy and social skills all play an incredibly crucial role in effective leadership and performance at all levels of the organisation.
Consider regularly bringing in an EQ expert to teach your employees about things like body language and effective communication. They may not seem as important as learning how to use some HR software or how to manage a project but the improvement they make in your team’s communication and cohesion is priceless. Remember: the more harmony a team has, the more it can get done with less effort.
It’s important to keep in mind that your employees don’t just exist in the professional realm. They are not machines but rather whole human beings with experiences, expectations and emotions that transcend the workplace. This is why your approach to people development activities should be holistic.
The human basic emotional needs of being seen, heard, acknowledged, and validated often go unmet in most workplaces and professional settings. An emotionally intelligent manager who knows how to actively listen can help employees get through a rough emotional patch by asking simple questions:
- Do you (still) feel fulfilled with your work lately?
- Are you struggling with any issues in the workplace lately?
- Are you struggling with any issues in your personal life lately?
You can also look into having an in-house therapist for employees to see when they need professional help to navigate certain issues, or at least an affiliated therapist you have a special arrangement with. This is more important than ever today people become more aware of the power of good mental health.
Offer employees free gym membership and actively incentivise them to actually use it on a regular basis. You can also offer classes in other highly beneficial physical disciplines such as yoga, tai chi and qigong. You should also ensure that the office pantry is always very well-stocked with only healthy food options.
The earlier-mentioned continuing education opportunities shouldn’t all be about business. You should make sure to provide books, seminars, classes and courses for your employees around non-business matters such as personal finance, how to build healthy relationships and even their personal hobbies.
Beyond just being equipped with the right tools and training to do their jobs well, employees really appreciate when their employers support them to improve their careers and their personal lives as a whole. They feel appreciated and are not only likely to stay longer, but they will also deliver better results in the duration of their stay.
Furthermore, companies that pay enough attention to their people development activities are able to build stronger employer brands which in turn attract and encourage the best talent available in the job market to join them.
About the Author
Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn’t writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.