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Ways to support growth and development in the workplace: A step by step guide

A universal issue facing companies and employers in this era is retaining skilled employees. Well, that is not actually true. It is not a universal issue, there are many employers and companies that can retain and develop their employees. Replacing employees is said to cost around seven to eight months’ average salary and then there is the fact that many employees become restless and begin to look for new employment at around the three-to-four-year mark. So, what are these companies that are successful at retaining their employees doing, that you are not? 

I am pretty sure that almost all of these companies have specific development plans in place for all of their employees. Development plans keep employees engaged and provide them with new or more advanced skills for their current job as well as providing opportunities for developing new skills to take on new positions or roles. At the end of the day, if you break it down, it is all about growth opportunities, job satisfaction, and future challenges that will convince your employees to stay employed by you. 

So, now you want to know how to get the development plans for your employees rolling, yeah? 

Here are the steps to put into place. Get them planned and then execute the plans. Keep in mind that you can’t force an employee to develop or better themselves. Something about a horse and water. You will have a few employees that are just not interested and are happy to carry on with the same job for as long as they can stand it. Something I have learned (was taught by business psychologists) is that you can get anything out of even the most hard-headed or stubborn staff member if you approach them the correct way. This piece is not about that though. There are plenty of guides for how to do that online. With a bit of practice, you will eventually find out what makes that employee tick and how to get through to them.

Let’s get to the steps that I mentioned before going off-topic. 

Get a skills analysis done and identify the gaps 

In order to get a development plan rolling, you first need to figure out where there are skills gaps that need to be plugged. You need to figure out which employees need to be upskilled and with what type of training. Once you really focus on getting this information it will become apparent which of your employees you will need to focus on first. Keep in mind that everyone has strengths and weaknesses so do this without judgement, for now, it is what it is and this is exactly what you are trying to find out. 

Keep your company goals in the centre and work your plan around this so that in the end the development plan is aligned with your companies’ goals. When you identify where you need to develop and where you are already strong, the training and implementation of the development plan are streamlined and the training you provide will have the highest impact on the employee.

Which employees are suitable for career promotion, and which are suited for leadership roles?

You will quite quickly be able to spot which of your employees are hungry for new skills and growth in respect to their positions. These are the employees that you should focus on initially. Remember the goal is to upskill and re skill but also to provide leadership and management mentorship and training. The remarkable thing about this step is that employees that are restless and looking for greener grass will likely realise that you are interested in their personal development and would like to see them grow in your company. This is a fantastic motivator for the employee to stay with you. You just retained some of your top-performing and talented employees. You are welcome. 

Make sure the employee and the company are working towards the same goals.

So, you now have a map of what skills are lacking and, you know which employees are interested in growing and developing, you need to make sure your goals are aligned. Again, keep in mind you cannot force this. Forcing this will achieve the opposite of what we are trying to achieve. 

Your best plan of action here would be to set up one on one meetings with each employee and have a completely honest discussion about how satisfied they are in their current role and what they would like to learn, what they need to learn, and how this learning will take place. 

Grow together

A vital aspect of the development plan is not only what you need now, but also very much about what you will need in the future. Where is the company heading in the future? What skills will you need then that you could already begin developing now? That IT guy that fixes your networks also has next-level coding skills. Maybe your company will be growing into a new space where applications and specialised tech will need to be built. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get that IT employee some more formal and up-to-date training so that in the future when the time is right, that employee can lead the new tech team you are going to need? Is it not a great idea to not only upskill and re-skill that employee but also mentor and provide leadership training for when the time comes? You know he or she has what it takes attitude wise but there is training that is still needed. 

This is the talent that will look after your business in the future and who will be pushing towards the company’s goals because they are aligned with theirs. The employee also has something real that they are working towards. The growth potential is there, it is just in the future, so the employee is likely to stick around and work towards that growth. 

Create two different development plan templates.

Two? Yes, you read correctly. You will need one for each employee and you will need one for future growth for your company. Let’s have a look at what each one should contain. You can add anything specific to your and their needs. 

For an individual development plan, you need to identify where the employee is strong already and if there is room for more growth with regards to their strengths. You need to then identify where the weaknesses are and where training is needed. Finally, you need to agree on what type of training is needed and how it will be provided. It is important to create this template with the employee during the one-on-one meetings so that you have the employee’s buy-in. This is all about the employee and their future. Getting them to be the best they can be. Trust me, this is great for your company. 

For a succession plan or future skills needs plan, figure out where the company is headed, what will you need in the future skillswise? Identify if those skills already exist in your company so that you can develop them further or if they need to be developed from scratch. Which employees are suitable for the future role? These are the employees you need to get trained up so that they can move your company forward. Think about things like new departments, new products, and new teams that you will need. This will give you guidance on what should go onto the template. 

Make sure the type of training is suitable for the learning opportunity. 

There are many ways to skin a cat (no offence to any cats reading this, it is just jokes) and some are more effective than others. When you are developing an employee for a management or leadership role, you would implement training around mentorship, coaching, and techniques for managing reports. These are areas you would want your employee to be confident and trained in. This is the type of training that will benefit both you and the employee the most. 

Upskilling and reskilling are most often provided differently. To upskill and reskill an employee, you would provide skills training in the form of refresher courses, more advanced courses to get to that next level, on-the-job training, and of course cross-training and job shadowing. This could be in the form of short courses, formal education, correspondence studying, and sharing of skills and knowledge across departments. 

Now you have a plan that almost everyone is engaged with and excited about. 

Keep track and adjust where necessary

Nothing kills a development plan quicker than not following through. Follow through monthly with each employee. Discuss where they are in the plan, what they need, and how it is going. Ask the employee how they feel about their journey. Adjust where you need to and follow through with the plan. There will almost always be something that needs to be adjusted and meeting regularly allows just that. Plus, this shows that you are genuinely invested in the employee’s growth and them reaching their potential.

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