Top-Shelf Tip No. 46:

"An organization’s ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage."

Jack Welch

Insanely Simple Ways To Develop And Retain Employees

Over the course of my career, I've worked for nine different companies. These moves have helped me take on more responsibility and continually earn higher salaries. For most people, changing jobs is the most effective way to accomplish career growth and increase earning potential. In fact, a 2015 survey by Gallup found that when 93 percent of Americans advanced in their careers, it was by taking a job at another company. Just seven percent took on new opportunities within their current organizations. That's a lot of institutional knowledge that walks out the door when employees leave.

It's important to develop career paths for employees so that there is better engagement and more shared knowledge within the organization—and to help retain good employees. But many companies struggle in their efforts because of limited budgets or by not having a clear understanding of what to do.

According to Gwen Moran, contributor to Fast Company and other publications, it doesn't take a formal program for employees to work on the skills they'll need to remain relevant and advance their careers. Business leaders can integrate development into every workday, as we explain in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Start With Your Employees' Goals. The first step in creating an effective employee development plan is to find out about the employee's career goals and match them with your organization's needs. Moran shares three areas in which this conversation should be focused, according to performance improvement consultant Julie Winkler Giulioni:

1. Hindsight. Recognize the employee's background and what they have accomplished in their careers so far, as this gives you baseline information for the development conversation.

2. Foresight. Look outward and forward at the needs of your organization and the direction of the industry you are in to determine where and how the employee can fill the gap.

3. Insight. Finally, explore where the first two conversations intersect. Where do the employee's skills and interests intersect with where the company and industry are going? Where does it make sense to focus development efforts to ensure the two are aligned?

Find Everyday Opportunities. Moran says there are most likely opportunities for employees to grow in their current roles on a daily basis—you just have to identify them. Moran uses the example from Diane Belcher, senior director, product management, at Harvard Business Publishing in Boston. For example, when Belcher and her team come out of a meeting, she asks them what they learned and how it can be applied to their roles, or how they can apply what they learned to better serve clients.

She also recommends that if an employee attends a formal learning program, then he or she should transfer that knowledge to the rest of the team and extend the value of the company's investment.

Use Career Calisthenics. Moran also refers to the concept of "career calisthenics" from Beverly Kaye, founder of Career Systems International, a Los Angeles-based career consulting firm. That means looking for mentoring or shadowing opportunities, stretch assignments and other learning opportunities throughout the organization.

Is there someone higher up with whom you can connect employees to work on a stretch assignment or use as a mentor? Are there opportunities for them to learn new skills from their peer group? And are there opportunities for them to mentor those who are newer to the organization? Kaye says having this type of connection throughout the organization keeps information and knowledge flowing, and creates a culture where development is not only encouraged, but also expected.

Another key tactic is to give employees some autonomy with their discretionary time so they can develop certain skills and have input. Employment attorney and HR consultant Sharon Reese gives the example of one organization that invited employee input into the board's organizational strategy so that workers would have a say in the initiatives and programs on which they would be working. That kind of ability to control at least some of their work helped create a highly engaged workforce.

Make Room To Grow. It's important to ensure employees don't feel like you're simply getting extra work out of them without the trappings that come with advancement, such as new titles, raises and bonuses, says Moran. It's important to figure out ways that, as you are introducing new responsibilities and growth opportunities, you're also clearing their plate of more mundane tasks.

Try these tactics to improve your employee development opportunities.

Source: Gwen Moran writes about business, money and assorted other topics for leading publications and web sites. She was named a Small Business Influencer Awards Top 100 Champion in 2015, 2014, and 2012 and is the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans, and several other books.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

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