5 Ways to Spark Continuous Employee Development
In the last newsletter, we talked about how important it is to create a culture of continuous employee development. Thriving businesses have moved away from the idea that training happens once or twice a year through organized training events. Instead, they have come to realize the benefits of a continuous training and development culture that allows employees to grow and develop little by little every day. The benefits are tremendous. Employees feel valued and engaged. There is less turnover. The company benefits from employees who are serious about investing in themselves and in the organization.
Despite the many benefits, it can be difficult to incorporate continuous development into daily work life so that it doesn’t become routine and monotonous. In practice, however, some of the best ideas for developing employee skills and talents don’t even seem like training. Here are some ideas to help you think creatively about incorporating development opportunities into the culture.
At staff meetings, reserve a short period of time, perhaps ten to fifteen minutes, for a presentation by an employee. Rotate the responsibilities so that every employee will have a chance to present. The very act of preparing and presenting a topic is a valuable skill that would benefit any employee.
You can structure topics or keep them open by allowing the employee responsible to pick the topic. You might set some guidelines and limitations to prevent a free-for-all. For example, you can limit presentations to business-related topics. You might ask employees to present an overview of how their department or unit works, or a summary of major projects in development. You might consider a product demonstration. One company picks business development books and assigns each chapter to a different employee. Every month an employee is responsible for preparing a presentation on the next chapter in the book. After a few months, all of the employees have been exposed to the concepts presented in the book.
Whatever topics you choose, you can be sure your employees will become experts as they prepare and present their topics. It’s a low-pressure forum for learning how to give an effective presentation.
Company Brainstorming Workouts
A workout is a meeting with employees who represent all levels and functions within the organization. The goal is to identify ways employees in the organization can work together more efficiently and effectively, either to solve a particular problem or in a broader context. A workout can last anywhere between a few hours or several days, depending on the immediate need. You can also hold scheduled workouts several times a year.
In this context, employees come together as a group, voicing ideas and solving problems as a team. They can be an effective way to address far-reaching organizational change. Your employees will develop critical problem-solving skills and learn how different units within the organization function together. The company benefits when creative and practical approaches to resolving work issues are identified and plans to implement those ideas are developed.
Online websites like Khan Academy bring a fresh approach to education and training. These sites feature short videos with experts teaching on a wide variety of topics. You can take advantage of this trend by creating your own company university and let your employees share their knowledge with others in the company.
SnagAJob.com, a job-search company in Virginia, created such a program for its employees. Employees who are experts in various topics from finance to computer programming, self-defense, and even Texas Hold ‘Em poker, record their lesson in videos, from short five-minute clips to as long as an hour or so. The company encourages employees to spend a little time every day learning something new and has found that engaged employees are more productive. If you’re concerned about employees wasting time on non-work related topics, set some constructive parameters. Just remember that taking a break and doing something that’s not work-related during the day can have a positive and energizing effect on your employees, according to recent studies.
At the Dreamworks animation movie studios, creative ideas for projects come from everywhere because the company has created an environment where anyone can suggest a new movie idea. This not only includes the creative team of animators but administrators, accountants, and lawyers. You never know where the next good idea will come from. The key is to create an environment in which employees are free to bounce ideas off one another.
But don’t just install a suggestion box and be done with it. Create an idea or inspiration room in your office. This is a place where employees can come to brainstorm and debate ideas in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. Leave Post-It notes so employees can write ideas and stick them to the wall. Better yet, install whiteboards or paint the walls with chalkboard paint. Leave poster board pads around the room and colored pens.
To get ideas flowing, ask questions like “What If ….” or pose a challenge of the month to get people thinking about a specific business-related problem or issues. Float the ideas out there and let employees come up with collaborative and creative ideas.
More and more, companies realize the value that employees can bring to the company by using social media, to the extent that some companies require their employees to use social media during work hours to communicate about the company. These tools provide an easy way to communicate, share information, and build relationships. They can also be an important tool for fostering employee development.
Malcolm Knowles, an important researcher in the field of adult education, developed many theories about adult learners. One of his ideas was that one’s own life experiences is a rich resource for learning. When you are able to connect what you are learning to your own experiences, you are able to internalize these new ideas easier and faster. When you begin to connect with others and their life experiences, you can develop ideas much more deeply.
Social media allows us to do this. It enables us to share our experiences and connect with others to learn about their experiences. When we discuss ideas, they become refined and more developed. Employees who are discussing what they are learning will be more engaged with the ideas than those who simply attend a training class and never think about it again.
Consider ways that you can incorporate social media into your training and development strategies. Not all tools are a good fit for every company, so think about your company culture when deciding how to implement social media.
These are just a few ideas to help you think creatively about continuous employee development. Although there are a variety of methods you can employ, the important thing to remember is that you begin to develop ways for everyone in the company to stretch their talents and abilities. Training is no longer a one-time event. It happens on a daily basis with employees talking about and sharing their ideas.
In the next newsletter, we look at some more ways you can make training and development more meaningful and relevant while increasing employee engagement. In the meantime, don’t overlook more traditional approaches like classroom and online training. If you’re looking for Retail Pro product knowledge as the foundation for your employee development program, send us an email at email@example.com for more information. We can also help customize a training solution for you.
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