One of the biggest factors to keep employees engaged and committed is the opportunity to grow. Successful managers don’t only consider workshops, classes, and conferences for developing their teams. Successful managers are constantly on the lookout for learning opportunities on the job as well. Improve employee engagement by prescribing and providing training opportunities and help employees apply new learning to the job right away.
Here are 6 tips for managers and organizations to boost employee engagement through professional development opportunities.
1. How much does development cost? A culture of continuous learning must be part of an organization’s DNA. This means there is clarity for employees on how to access funding for professional development. . What internal development opportunities do employees have access to? How can employees access funding for continued education outside the workplace, whether it be to finish a technical, college, or master’s degree? Both employees and the organization take responsibility for finding and providing learning opportunities.
2. Take away risk, take away growth. Learning organizations and managers view mistakes as learning opportunities, not failures; they are not risk averse. It’s natural to have setbacks when developing new skills. There cannot be a punitive attitude toward stumbles.
3. Build an environment of constant feedback. Establish direct and candid feedback with your team, especially if there is a new program. Feedback must be given in a timely matter, respectfully, and should always be tied to organization and performance goals.
4. Make the workplace a classroom with action learning. Give front-line managers and employees a high-stakes problem that relates to the organization. Give them time to analyze the problem, develop solutions and test them. This can go over a period of several months. Together, after the deadline to solve the problem has past, meet with a group and analyze what worked, what didn’t. Action learning stretches employees to learn in a real-world classroom, so to speak.
5. Give employees opportunities to grow with a job assignment strategy. The best way to develop skills and grow your team is by doing. Development doesn’t necessarily mean “new.” It means assigning a job to someone who doesn’t have all the skill sets to get it done. Through this assignment, new skill sets will be acquired. This requires people to step out of their comfort zones and take risks.
6. Not everything can be done in-house. Be strategic about looking for learning opportunities for employees: conferences, workshops, even forming alliances with local community groups and non-profits. Outline and discuss individual development plans with each employee. Where do they want to go? How will they get there? Each development opportunity will involve risk and stretching that comfort level.
Fostering learning in the workplace and creating opportunities for your team to develop and grow will keep them challenged, growing and engaged. Employees who feel stunted, who feel they have no room to grow, already have one foot out the door. It must be part of the organization’s essence to encourage and provide learning opportunities.