What is Employee Development?
Employee Development in an organization is a whole set of activities aimed at improvement of qualifications and motivation of employees so that their professional potential increases, allowing them to improve the performance of their current and future tasks. Employee Development activities should contribute to achieving company goals.
Employee Development versus Learning & Development
Responsibility for employee development within the organization lies with the Human Resources or Learning & Development Department. It is also often associated with the activities of L&D or HR department, aimed at employee development. In such a case, Learning in Learning & Development refers to knowledge acquisition, skills mastering, and modeling of attitudes. Development is the deepening of knowledge related to development goals of an employee.
What is the difference between learning, training, development, and education?
The terms learning, training, development, and education are sometimes used interchangeably but do not refer to the same thing. Let’s take a look at the differences.
- Learning – refers to the gaining knowledge and skills, modeling attitudes through experience, education, or study. It is a component of both training and development, and education.
- Training – intended to transfer knowledge, skills, and attitudes that can be immediately applied on a specific position. It can be aimed at improving an employee’s performance in their current role or embracing change in the future.
- Development – It is long-term, and designed to deepen knowledge linked to the employee’s development goals and the goals of the organization. It is usually voluntary.
- Education – a more formal way of acquiring knowledge that does not relate only to a narrow specialization. It usually takes a longer period of time. It is especially useful when the employee in question does not have much experience in a particular area.
What are the benefits of employee development for an organization?
Among the top of the list of competencies of the future, published by the World Economic Forum in 2020, ranked second were Active Learning & Learning Strategies. It is worth noting that as many as 5 first skills from the list are soft skills, now more often called “work-life skills”. Their development requires group work (social/collaborative learning), and therefore the importance of learning with and from others is growing. According to WEF experts, as many as 50% of workers will also require retraining by 2025. Organizations are already facing the problem of attracting new talent and have been looking for years for effective ways to support the development of those with whom they already have a relationship. Are these efforts producing the intended results? It depends on many factors. Yet a good employee development plan that aligns with company strategy can be the driving force for the organization. What benefits does the company get from developing its employees?
- High adaptability.
- Higher employee retention.
- Ease of attracting talent.
- Greater involvement.
- Better performance of employees.
- Leaders up to the challenges of the new, difficult times.
- Increased competitiveness of the company.
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Knowing that we live in uncertain times is one thing. Accepting and adjusting to a new situation, however, takes time and preparation, and often a complete mindset change. The pandemic has forced organizations and their employees to adapt quickly to the “new normal,” but we already know that this “normal” means constant change. The concept of life-long learning no longer means taking steps toward lifelong personal development. Now that is a process that for many employees means undergoing complete retraining, at least several times throughout their careers. And this disrupts the sense of security and requires different competencies than before, which can be effectively supported by Learning & Development policies.
Organizations that want to build their market advantage cannot ignore the well-being of their employees. Research shows a strong correlation between feelings of security and job performance. While in a crisis such as the pandemic, companies can count on a short-term commitment of “all hands on deck!”, this will not work for a long-term strategy. According to the well-known Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a sense of security is already the second tier, just above physiological needs.
For years, business has used motivation theory to its advantage. The crisis caused by COVID-19 exposed how much influence organizations have on the sense of security of its employees. Many international experts and market researchers emphasize that companies today cannot focus solely on profit. It is their responsibility to care for the mental health and well-being of their employees. Hence the shift from controlling management, to empathetic empowerment-based management. It is difficult to imagine such a change without leaders who are trained and well prepared for their new role.
Feeling safe is not just about the absence of external threat and the provided support. It is also the inner sense of agency and self-awareness of one’s competencies and their constant empowerment.
The components that make up psychological safety in an organization are outlined in Timothy Clark’s model:
Learner Safety (a sense of safety related to learning) – means that the employee feels that they can explore new issues, ask questions, experiment, learn from mistakes, and seek new opportunities related to learning and development.
Challenger Safety (sense of safety associated with questioning the status quo) – makes the employee able to question the current state in the organization, express opinions and share ideas, point out existing problems and ongoing changes.
Collaborator Safety (also known as Contributor Safety, a sense of safety associated with collaboration) – exists when an employee can engage in their environment and is not restricted in any way, when they are free to interact with their co-workers, can have an open dialog with them, and can exchange constructive insights.
Inclusion Safety (sense of safety associated with inclusion) – when it exists, the employee knows they can contribute to the company and are valued. Additionally, they feel that their experiences and ideas matter, everyone is treated fairly and included in the initiatives of the organization regardless of their position.
What allows employees to work more confidently in a rapidly changing environment is access to knowledge, support in acquiring it, and the ability to test it “dry”, in a safe environment. Change is inevitable, but self-awareness, creativity, and the ability to think analytically allow you to confront it without feeling afraid.
In the era of digital transformation, flexibility of organizations has proven to be one of the key elements to survive, and then to swiftly return to the upward trend. Fast responding, flexible companies are those that are able to deliver:
- Cognitive and emotional agility of teams in adjusting to a new reality.
- Digital tools that enabled them to carry out their daily duties and ensure continuity of operations and smooth communication and collaboration within and across teams.
- Up to speed training in the use of these tools.
As the dust slowly settles from the changes caused by the pandemic, it is time to equip employees for the future with the skills to deal with similar or quite different emergencies. Learning new skills (reskilling) and upgrading skills (upskilling) will be crucial in this respect. Flexibility here means openness to change and the capacity to adapt for the organization and its employees. In the VUCA world, only companies focused on continuous development and drawing conclusions have a chance to succeed.
For years, creativity has topped all rankings for the most important competencies in an organization. In practice, however, it turned out to be necessary in only a few departments, such as marketing and communications. For many managers, it was even problematic. Firstly, it is difficult to manage and measure. Secondly, creative employees have a constant need to grow. Lastly, many companies lacked space for it.
It was not until the pandemic that we largely realized that creativity is basically about problem-solving skills, not just artistic creativity or scientific and technological discoveries. Creativity understood in this way is essential in times of crisis. And moreover, there are ways to stimulate it. The most important thing is to create a safe space of openness, where ideas and creativity are valued. And only then can you plan to develop in this area. Why? Because creativity in the workplace:
- Helps to generate more solutions to a given business problem, thus improving the performance of the organization.
- Increases employee engagement by, among other things, giving them a sense of agency.
- Opens employees to different viewpoints and encourages discussion.
Research conducted by Adobe found that we are inspired to be creative by taking personal initiatives (art, books, or films – 28% of respondents), online activities and interactions (30%), and the environment we are in (as much as 35%). A good development plan, prepared by companies and their Learning & Development departments, will provide employees with tools that stimulate creative thinking (e.g. through microlearning, projection techniques, creative exploration, etc.), and promote a business environment that values ingenuity while being open to making mistakes.
Being able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances means constantly learning the things necessary to perform daily duties. L&D departments had their hands full in the pandemic, providing training on how to use tools like Zoom and MS Teams. But development activities, focused on the development of hard (including technical) skills, must also be planned over the long term.
In the Global Human Capital Trends 2020 survey, as many as 53% of respondents said that within three years half of their employees would need to retrain. At the same time, only 10% of companies were ready for it right away. The years to come will therefore be challenging for most L&D departments, as they will need to find an effective way for their organizations to continue to function and grow in line with the adopted strategies. Learning hard, practical skills quickly in the coming years will be more important than certifications, university degrees, and formal training. Development is to be or not to be in this case. Be one step ahead or behind the competition.
Higher employee retention
Companies that nurture the development of their employees can expect to increase employee loyalty through a culture of learning, and in turn, reduce absenteeism and turnover. In one survey, as many as 94% of employees said they would stay with companies longer, if those invested in their development. Whereas Work Institute estimates indicate that employers could prevent as many as 78% of voluntary resignations, and one of the most important reasons employees resign is precisely the lack of development opportunities. At an assumed cost of employee turnover ranging from 33% to 200% of the leaving employee’s salary, there is a lot to fight for.
Attracting and retaining talent
In 1997, Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company first used the term “war for talent.” A quarter of a century later, the term is not only still relevant, but each year it takes on another dimension. Also as much as 60% of companies have or have had trouble finding the right employees for at least 12 weeks. And recent reports from companies like McKinsey and Deloitte agree that this is a growing problem. Now, up to nine out of 10 directors admit that their organizations have talent shortages or predict that a problem will arise within the next five years (according to McKinsey Global Survey).
It is the Learning & Development policy that can be the driving force for the fight against the growing skills gap and be the bargaining chip in attracting the best and most motivated employees. If companies make good use of knowledge about the needs of their employees, they stand a chance of gaining a competitive advantage. Why is it important? There are considerable differences in development needs and learning styles among different generations of employees. Research shows considerable differences in attitudes toward organizational learning, depending on age:
- 71% of Generation Z employees expect to learn in the workplace primarily from their peers (social workplace learning experiences, including peer learning and experiential learning). Only 54% of the “Baby boomers” and 56% of Generation X expect the same.
- As many as 76% of Generation Z employees believe that learning is crucial to their career development. Statistics show that 83% want to learn new skills to improve their performance at work, but also 73% want to learn what they are interested in out of work.
- 72% of Millennials expect to collaborate and exchange opinions in various forms with instructors, teachers, and other course participants, compared to 59% of Generation X employees.
- Millennials value development more than a raise.
- As many as 87% of Generation Y employees are motivated by development opportunities when choosing where to work.
So, development is important for each generation of employees, but they have different ways of acquiring knowledge, different habits, and expectations of the learning process. However, skills gaps and talent shortages are harsh and costly reality. In the McKinsey Global Survey 2020, as many as half of the respondents agreed that the most effective action in this situation is to proactively manage opportunities for individualized and autonomous employee development.
Increase in employee engagement
Engagement surveys have been a source of concern among most of the global leaders for years. The most famous ones, by the Gallup Institute, prove that as many as 85% of employees are not engaged in their work. To change this, you need to focus on cultivating a positive Employee Experience.
What is Employee Experience?
According to the Gallup Institute, Employee Experience is any interaction an employee has with an organization during their lifecycle with that organization, and experiences related to their role in the workplace, the supervisor, and their well-being.
In the context of employee experience, very relevant is Josh Bersin’s Irresistible Organization model, which delineates the areas responsible for a complete, positive employee experience. These areas are the following:
- Work that matters – employees have autonomy and agency, they belong to a team, they find their role, they have time to focus, rest and recuperate, and the work is distributed among small, agile teams.
- Active and supportive management – employees are set clear objectives and given tasks that stretch beyond their current scope of responsibilities and competencies. These are the so-called stretch assignments. They also get regular coaching and feedback, and the leaders are knowledgeable and empower employees. Performance management is conducted in a transparent and uncomplicated manner.
- Productive work environment – employees are equipped with the tools and systems to do their jobs and are valued and rewarded. They can work flexible hours and anywhere, and the organization is diverse, inclusive, and based on a culture of belonging.
- Health and wellbeing – safety in every aspect of work is ensured, health, including mental health, development of physical fitness and well-being is promoted, and financial and family support is provided to employees.
- Development opportunities – this area involves development opportunities within the organization, career progression along different paths, formal and informal learning, and a learning culture is present at all levels in the organization at all times.
- Trustworthy leaders – the mission of the organization is more important than business goals, the company is characterized by trust, transparency, empathy, and continuous investment in people. It is socially responsible.
One way to ensure a positive employee experience is to provide employees with effective tools that will reduce the complexity of their work. These can include new communication and collaboration technologies and tools improving the quality of development experiences, including training that facilitates the continuous exchange and growth of knowledge and skills in a given field. Positively shaping the Employee Experience, at every step of the organization’s journey has a huge impact on engagement and sends a clear message to employees that they are just as important, if not more important, to the company than the customer.
Better performance of employees
All processes that relate to an employee’s functioning in an organization translate into personal experiences. Many of these have a significant impact on an employee’s performance, although in many situations this is difficult to measure. For employee development, the connection should be obvious and easily measurable. It is helpful, if not essential, here to properly define development goals and L&D analytics, which should be an ongoing part of the development strategy within the organization. The key to success here, however, is linking strategic goals to training goals, and development goals more broadly. However, research shows that compliant in this area are only 40% of companies.
Impact on leadership
The role of leaders in building the culture of a growth-oriented organization is essential. As many as 75% of employees would attend the training suggested to them by their manager. L&D strategy is also critical in shaping leaders, and those leaders are essential in its development. This is especially evident in times of crisis. Companies that invest in leadership development at a time when the company is undergoing significant change are 2.4 times more likely to achieve their performance goals. Recently, of course, the biggest test of leadership for them was the pandemic. The success of companies in times of lockdowns depended largely on leaders – their competence and capacity to adapt to change quickly and to read the needs of their employees.
Increased competitiveness of the company
Development activities that align with employee and organizational needs have a real impact on engagement. And this in turn translates, for example, into better customer service. The strong correlation with greater profit for the organization is clear here. This relationship, actually, works both ways: companies that excel in customer service have more engaged employees. Furthermore, investing in employee experience impacts the customer experience and can generate a high return on investment for the company.
What are the forms and methods of employee development?
Josh Bersin identified 4 types of development in large organizations, referred to as the pillars of corporate learning. These are:
- microlearning (short forms of learning – videos, articles, microlearning programs, work-based learning)
- macrolearning (e-learning courses, e.g. MOOCs – massive open online courses, simulations, also involving AR, VR)
- group learning university (online conferences, innovation sessions, leadership development programs)
- learning on-the-job (coaching, developmental assignments, mentoring)
Within these categories, the following forms are distinguished:
Training and training programs
Training is certainly the most common form of employee development. Its purpose may be the acquisition of new skills, the deepening or broadening of knowledge or the acquisition of new professional qualifications. Depending on the needs and goals, there can be open and closed, individual and group, soft and hard training. Soft training is about developing soft skills such as communication, creativity, assertiveness, time management and leadership skills. Hard training is any training that deals with specific, specialized knowledge (e.g., technology) necessary to perform the duties. The thematic spectrum of application of trainings is huge, and there are at least several types available.
Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, most training led by an instructor, teacher, trainer, or manager typically took place in training rooms. COVID-19 has forced L&D departments to move completely online, and it takes a lot of time to return. It is predicted that they will largely stay there, and the digitalization of training processes will be improved more and more. Statistics prove the scale of the phenomenon – Deloitte estimates that more than 24 million people have tried online learning.
Offline and online training can take many forms, the most popular of which are workshops and lectures, often combined. Their great advantage is the possibility to adapt their form to the needs of participants and the possibility of exchanging knowledge or asking about unclear or problematic issues. Online instructor-led training is also known as synchronous e-learning.
Asynchronous e-learning training is not just a byproduct of the pandemics, of course. In 2019, digital training, including e-learning specifically, accounted for 56% of all training activities. They rely on previously prepared materials without a “live” teacher present. They can take many different forms:
- Audio and video recordings
It is hard to name an industry that does not currently use this form of training. Its main advantages are:
- Accessible from anywhere, anytime – they can be used on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices (telephone, tablet),
- Ability to present content in an interesting and appealing way, tailored to the audience,
- Interactive – it is possible to adjust the pace of the course to the participant’s preferences and abilities, to return to the material covered, and to quickly test the acquired knowledge,
- Easy to update and personalize – modern training platforms allow you to quickly update content, add and remove content, and tailor it to specific audiences (e.g., different training versions offered to different departments),
- Option to schedule learning in the form of short training sessions over a longer period of time, which increases their effectiveness – microlearning.
- Wide audience – without the limitations imposed by the capacity of the training room,
- Easy to monitor progress and report.
Virtual reality and augmented reality
Adopting modern technology in employee training means a whole new experience and constitutes an interesting, but also valuable contribution to employee development. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) involve using digital content and images (in the form of visualization – VR and immersion in virtual reality – AR) with the help of 2D or 3D glasses. They have been used successfully for several years in many sectors, such as industry. This type of training works well wherever:
- There is a lack of qualified staff and time to train them, as it allows technical skills to be practiced in a safe environment without an instructor present.
- There is a need to retain and share knowledge that only a few employees have.
- Training effectiveness should be increased – virtual reality helps employees to immerse in the world created for the training and disconnect from external stimuli, providing specific knowledge on a single topic.
- Work requires repetitive activities.
- Step-by-step, real-time on-the-job training is required.
VR and AR are the technologies of the future and will continue to evolve and appear more and more often in the context of employee training, either as its basis or as a supplement. They also work well with a dispersed structure when it is difficult to invite all employees to one place to rehearse practical skills. Woodie’s, a chain of Irish DIY stores, used VR during its regular training roadshow. It trained 1,000 employees from across the country in practical plumbing skills. Such examples are endless and with the current talent shortage situation, they will become a necessary element in many companies.
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Social/Collaborative Learning is not so much a technique as a complex process grounded in organizational culture. It originates from Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, Kolb’s learning cycle, or Peter Jarvis’ adult social learning theory. In today’s organizations, social learning is a key element in building competitive advantage and talent development strategies. It is based on combining the strengths of the individual with the team and allowing them to establish relationships and networks. Social/collaborative learning fits into experiential learning and social learning – the “70” and “20” in the 70-20-10 model.
Social learning components
How to implement the social learning process? It is worth taking care of the five basic principles that allow organizations to succeed in this area:
- A healthy company culture where employees feel supported and not afraid to make mistakes. Collaborative learning and creativity can only thrive when they are part of a common strategy and employees are allowed to question the status quo and have an open discussion.
- A focus on continuous development, supported by internal values.
- Access to formal and informal tools for knowledge exchange – statuses, meetings, retrospectives, brainstorming, collaborative planning, and revision, but also shared meals, hackathons, space to exchange books, thoughts, views, and best practices, going out for drinks together after work, etc.
- Well-organized space.
- Digital tools – intranet, social media, learning platforms, forums, knowledge bases, etc. facilitating and accelerating knowledge sharing while supporting relationship building.
In such a structured work environment, in an atmosphere of mutual trust and security, the flow of knowledge at every level is continuous. Social/collaborative learning should be continually promoted and rewarded to be effective.
This type of training is usually part of the process of induction to perform new duties. On-the-job training is conducted in the workplace under the supervision or support of a mentor (manager, trainer, or other person designated for this role, e.g. a buddy). It is rooted in Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, which proves the importance of learning through observation. It is on-the-job learning that includes both experiential learning and social learning in the 70-20-10 model. Its advantages primarily include:
- Opportunity to practice skills, in a working environment under the guidance of a professional,
- Social and cultural aspect – familiarizing the employee with the organizational culture and other employees comes more naturally,
- Development of trainer competencies in mentors, also growing their skills,
- Mutual growth through opportunities to share opinions and ask questions,
- Positive reinforcement of Employee Experience – employees get a clear message that their role in the organization is important since another person is giving them time and attention,
- Highly efficient, making onboarding go faster than “dry” knowledge transfer,
- Personalization – allows customizing the scope, time, and level to the participant,
- Increased job safety and ability to eliminate errors quickly,
- Time and money savings.
A limitation of this type of training, of course, is the need to delegate a qualified employee to “take care” for another one. Yet it is still one of the most effective tools for onboarding new employees, as evidenced by companies like McDonald’s, using it with great success for years.
As defined by International Coaching Federation, coaching is a partnership-based process designed to be thought-provoking to maximize the personal and professional potential of the person being coached, helping them to achieve their goals. In the organizational space, it takes place individually or in groups, with an external or internal appropriately qualified coach. The process, despite what it may seem, is structured, and its goals must align with both personal and organizational goals. It can be an extremely powerful and effective development tool, provided that both parties are involved, and the process is focused on the client, not the coach (coaching is not a motivational speech!).
What benefits can coaching bring to an organization
Coaching is to focus primarily on customers and their needs, but cannot ignore the needs of the organization. What can a company gain by developing its employees through coaching?
- Interpersonal skills development: leadership, crisis management, empathic management, interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, team management, etc.
- Higher employee engagement.
- Enhanced employee self-awareness – their strengths and areas to work on.
- Increased efficiency and productivity.
Although coaching is used by quite a few organizations, it is still considered a nice-to-have tool rather than an essential employee development tool. Its biggest limitation is the lack of standardized tools to measure its effectiveness. L&D departments, for now, are slowly but effectively doing their homework by paying more attention to data collection and analytics of development efforts.
Structured within a formal program or informal – usually between a junior and senior employee, aimed at learning and development in line with the organization’s goals and its culture. Mentors are persons worth being role models who can effectively support the professional lives of their mentees. The example of Sun Microsystems shows that retention rates can be significantly higher for those in a mentoring program (72% for mentees and 69% for mentors compared to 49% for the remaining employees). Furthermore, employees who have a mentor are more likely to be promoted and better paid.
A survey conducted among 3,000 people by Olivet Nazarene University, Illinois, shows that:
- 76% of those who have a mentor find this relationship significant to their overall success.
- Only 36% of respondents had a mentor in the organization where they work.
- 49% of them work according to set, formal goals.
It’s a type of mentoring where a junior employee plays the role of guide and support person to a senior employee in respect of their position and seniority. Reverse mentoring is very often used to improve digital skills.
Benefits of mentoring
The benefits of mentoring extend to the mentees, the mentors themselves, and the organization:
- Increased retention rates by reinforcing a positive Employee Experience,
- Enhanced lifelong learning culture and learning organization,
- Development of leadership skills,
- Succession Planning,
- Established work environment based on mutual trust, support and knowledge sharing.
In reverse mentoring, the benefits that accrue to both mentor and mentee are, according to the study:
- stronger identification with the organization’s mission,
- greater willingness and ability to consider the future of the organization in the decision-making process,
- greater sense of fulfillment at work,
- enhanced loyalty and organizational commitment,
- higher morale.
A mentoring relationship can be difficult at first, especially if the pairs have no prior experience in building such a relationship. The role of the support departments is to provide the right framework and structure, also to maintain consistency of goals and values that are important to the organization. Proper understanding of the mentor and mentee roles is important. During the first conversations between mentor and mentee, it is helpful to clarify responsibilities and verify expectations.
It’s an effective, though less popular, development tool used in recruiting, onboarding, and promoting employees to new positions. Its key premise is to “follow” and observe another employee performing their duties. Job-shadowing is not just a passive activity, however – it incorporates conversation, questions, and discussion.
Job-shadowing is also sometimes used in organizations with job rotation. Its function is then to extend the knowledge and expertise of a person from another department about the principles of the job. Main advantages are:
- Expanding competencies to work in multiple positions.
- Building knowledge of how the company operates.
- Build mutual understanding and trust between departments, resulting in better collaboration.
- Development of soft skills such as flexibility, conflict resolution, and adaptability to new conditions.
- Increasing the chances of internal recruitments.
All of these activities result in higher employee engagement, which in turn affects the quality of customer service, and the company’s revenue.
Growth-based businesses need to ensure proper knowledge management. Considering the fact that their employees spend as much as 20% of their time searching for information, knowledge bases and repositories become indispensable. What can they contain?
- Forms, documents, and internal procedures.
- FAQ – a list of questions and answers to the most frequently asked questions by employees.
- Process Guides.
- Training materials, presentations.
- Videos and audio recordings.
- Articles and coverage of important company events.
Today’s knowledge bases are usually digital tools that help you find the information you need quickly and efficiently. This could be an intranet, training platforms, sharedisks, or dedicated knowledge base tools. Research indicates that as many as 72% of organizations are using them, but still few are able to fully realize their potential. It’s a great loss, as experts from McKinsey Global Institute have calculated that they can increase their productivity by 20-25%.
The perfect employee is motivated, committed, and sets more and more ambitious goals for themselves. Practice shows, however, that few can achieve complete consistency, and personal development is approached by them in leaps, rather than taking a long-term approach. There is nothing wrong with that. Yet organizations have tools that can effectively motivate systematic self-development. How?
- By mutually agreed goals, development plans, and career paths.
- By attending conferences and networking events – participating in all internal and external initiatives helps build an inspiring and supportive network.
- By providing tools to enable development.
- By feedback and employee evaluations.
- By fostering creativity and sparking curiosity (e.g., by participation in interdepartmental projects).
- By promoting personal development, and by the personal development of leaders and sending clear signals that this is expected of everyone in the organization
- By being open to learning independently – fostering a learning organizational culture.
Using outside consultants is a valuable contribution to employee development. Experts from consulting firms have valuable management knowledge, and their main task is to find a solution to the client’s problem. However, the scope of their activities is very broad. This could be making a diagnosis, making recommendations, helping to implement solutions, or teaching customers how to solve similar problems in the future (Harvard Business Review). When working with a consulting firm, it is a good idea to encourage employees to participate in the consulting process and utilize the expertise of consultants to the extent provided for in the contract. It is also a dose of inspiration, making a valuable contribution to employee development.
Blended learning (B-learning)
Although the concept may sound strange and incomprehensible, it is one of those employee development methods that has been used successfully for quite a few years. B-learning is nothing but hybrid learning or integrated learning, in which social techniques (e.g. offline workshops or project work) are combined with remote learning (e-learning, webinars, video conferences, multimedia materials). This approach has many advantages, including adaptability to the needs of the participants, time savings, high efficiency, the possibility of exchanging knowledge and views between participants, and the possibility of measuring learning progress. There are plenty of blended learning options that can be customized to fit the organization’s needs and capabilities. In each case, the main goal is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the undertaken development activities.
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How to plan employee development in a company?
Does employee development planning in an organization make sense? After all, its situation changes dynamically, as do the needs of both parties. If the Learning & Development area is to effectively achieve its goals, which after all should be consistent with the strategic objectives, it cannot play merely a supporting role. Yes, flexibility is essential, but planning ensures that services remain competitive by fostering employee engagement. How to manage employee development area so that it actually serves its purpose? It is worth grounding it on five important principles.
#1. Defining goals
Alignment of development goals with organizational goals is still not always the starting point in L&D strategy planning. At least 60% of leaders do not realize this. Meanwhile, a well-prepared strategy can not only address the development needs of all employees but also leads to a business goal. It can be for example an increase in innovativeness supported by training in the use of modern digital technologies and stimulating creativity workshops. Creating a development strategy without a strong foundation in business objectives reduces the role of L&D to a supporting function and a nice-to-have category rather than a must-have.
Questions to ask yourself
What goals does the organization have?
Which of these are priorities?
What challenges does the organization face?
How might the goals change over the next few years?
A development needs assessment should always take place in the context of needs of the organization, including skills gaps and performance management. It is also worth asking the employees themselves: “How do your development needs support your company’s goals?” It must include all employee groups, including management and leaders, whose development should be a priority.
#3. Identifying skills gaps
If a development strategy is to be effective, it must address the needs of all areas of the organization and anticipate difficulties where they are not yet apparent. It is estimated that the U.S. industrial market alone will be short of 2.4 million professionals by 2028. And that means huge financial losses, which can largely be prevented by strategic talent management and development policies. Collaboration between L&D, HR, and the rest of the organization can effectively target niche or missing competencies that will also provide a competitive advantage in the future.
#4. Development as a project
Development planning should be treated like any other strategic project in the organization. Since the average organization spent an average of more than $1,300 per employee on development in 2019, the return on such a large investment also matters.
The elements that every project should include are:
- SMART goals.
- Deadline and timeline.
- Communication plan.
- Success metrics and criteria.
- Risk analysis.
- Probability of success assessment.
#5. Gaining allies
They are the ones who will support the goals. As much as employees will happily support any action if you promise to meet their needs, the key to success lies elsewhere. The main recipient of development services, and therefore the key stakeholder, will be management. Therefore, development goals should be directly linked to the goals of individual business areas. What matters here is partnership and mutual trust. The board, senior management, or line managers like to speak the language of numbers, not promises. It is worth taking care of the form of presenting plans and proper reporting on the progress of activities, both before, during, and after the completion of projects.
How to structure an employee development plan?
Crafting individual development plans is one of the most important elements of your overall development strategy. On the one hand, it sets a clear direction that is consistent with the organization’s needs and goals. On the other hand, it helps keep the employee on the right course while giving them a sense that their needs and development are important for achieving strategic goals. An individual employee development plan also strengthens engagement.
For 43% of employees, the organization’s contribution to their professional, overall personal development is very important, but only 32% are satisfied with their current situation in this regard. This is probably partly due to the organization’s limited capabilities, but employee-manager communication is also failing. Introducing individual development plans helps validate the expectations, needs, and capabilities of both parties, giving them a broad strategic context.
What roles do each party play in the process, and how to get down to the work on creating a plan?
Starting point – how employees learn
The starting point for creating an effective developmental plan is understanding how adults learn. Understanding this process will shift the focus from structured learning to changing the entire work environment and shifting to culture even closer to a learning organization. This is described in the 70:20:10 learning model, which recognizes 3 methods of acquiring knowledge:
- We gain 70% of our knowledge from experience, carrying out daily duties, and taking on challenges.
- 20% of knowledge is learning from others, including coaching and networking.
- 10% of knowledge derives from formal learning – such as courses or training.
A well-prepared employee development plan should include all the ways that will lead employees to their goal.
What should an individual employee development plan include?
- Employee’s development aspirations, for example, for the given year.
- Determination of the extent to which development aspirations align with company goals.
- Prioritization of development goals.
- Up-to-date assessment of the so-called skills triangle, that is knowledge, skills, and attitude, and the level they want to achieve (goals).
- Steps to achieve goals.
- Success metrics.
- Time to achieve milestones and goal.
- Resources needed and supporting people in the organization.
What is the basis for succession planning in an organization?
Talent management is inherently linked to succession planning and career path mapping. Before a manager sits down at the table with an employee and learns their expectations, they need to know what they can offer them by doing an analysis of their potential. It includes an assessment of current performance and engagement and a prognosis for the future. One of the most commonly used tools for this purpose is the so-called nine-box grid. This relatively simple tool allows managers to categorize employee potential into 9 categories, spread out on a grid. This, relatively simple tool, should always be used based on the requirements of the given position, and assessments related to the individual goals of the person assessed.
Responsibilities of people involved in creating an individual development plan
Any time to create an employee development plan within an organization is a good time. Typically, this process is tied to the employee’s annual evaluation, which gives it a specific time frame. Yet it can be created at any time, and importantly, it should be kept up-to-date according to the changing needs. It is not a unilateral document, imposed by one of the parties, but rather the result of an agreement between the manager and the employee.
Role of Employees
The responsibility for the development and implementation of the plan is always with employees. This is because the best motivation in adult learning is intrinsic motivation. The organization can support and provide tools, but it is the employee who knows best in what direction they need to grow, what goals they want to pursue, and in what time frame they can do this.
What are your development goals?
Why are they important?
How can my goals make a difference for the company and my coworkers?
How do your goals support the strategic goals of the organization?
Knowledge in what area do you want to deepen and what skills and attitudes do you want to develop?
Which of the established goals are priorities?
In what time frame do I want to accomplish them?
What tools and resources will help you achieve your goal?
Who will help me achieve my goal?
Role of Managers
The main role of the managers in this process is to support employees and verify the compatibility of their priority goals with the goals of the organization. This is a difficult task, where the needs of both parties need to be identified, balanced and taken into account, verified against the budget, employee potential (e.g. assessed according to 9-box-grid), time and organizational possibilities. An important role of the manager is also to check progress and give feedback, especially on the completion of new tasks or the application of acquired knowledge in practice. In this way, the manager often becomes a natural mentor.
What strategic goals do the organization and the area you manage have?
What skills in the team do you lack to achieve these goals?
What is the priority of the development goals set by the employee?
Whose help can the employee use, and what experiences, knowledge, skills, and circumstances can be used to achieve the goal?
How will you know if the goals have been met?
It is worth remembering that the manager should be supported by HR or L&D personnel. They set the framework for the process – advising, assisting in monitoring progress, and providing the tools. They also ensure proper information flow and communication concerning the entire development process.
Employee development plan – example
You can use the template of an individual employee development plan that we developed together with L&D experts to help define development goals in accordance with the SMART concept (it assumes that each goal has a greater chance of being achieved if it is: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound).
Download interactive PDF
In our proposal of an individual employee development plan, the development aspirations take into account the aspect of personal development, development of others and of the company – this way we can make people feel not only responsible for their own development but also understand the co-responsibility for the development of others and the company.
Personal development can include forms such as stretch assignments (assignments that go beyond their current responsibilities and skills), and adjacent skill development (development of skills that are close to those they already have). As part of the development of others, a person may, for example, become a mentor or initiate or moderate a community of practice. Meanwhile, to contribute to the company’s growth in aspirations you can add improving a particular process or becoming a member of the recruitment team.
In the section “Milestones and Success Metrics – How will I know if I have met my development goals” you can compare the expected results (such as course completion or process mapping in the case of organizational development goal) with their impact (i.e., the actual translation into employee or organizational development). It is important here to determine how the result will be measured. It is worth asking yourself what benefit the completion of the course will bring to your employees and others in their daily work, what benefit the mapping of the process will bring and what it will translate into in terms of organizational development).
If you have questions about our Individual Employee Development Plan template and are looking for tools to help you implement it, email us.
Employee development tools
It is difficult to achieve ambitious development goals without a good technological base. We already know that companies that are committed to providing a positive experience for their employees, including shaping their digital experience, are more likely to attract valuable and engaged employees. This is invaluable in the race for greater profits. In the case of L&D activities, digital development platforms take care of such experiences.
Employee Development Journey – much more than a platform
Employee development planning is a multi-step process that requires attention and commitment on the part of the employee, manager, and additional support personnel. It is also a big machine for managing the entire process, which, thanks to technology, can be optimized and become even more efficient.
Basic features of the development platform
The main function for which digital training platforms have been developed is Learning Management. The more advanced ones, however, offer much more, enabling:
- Comprehensive planning and management of training programs.
- Creating and monitoring individual employee development plans.
- Managing all development processes within the organization.
- Supporting internal communication.
- Training Budget Management.
- Advanced data analytics to monitor the effects of L&D activities and report them in a way that is understandable to the entire organization.
- Creating and managing a knowledge base.
- Quick management of offline and online training calendar.
- Building communities that encourage knowledge sharing (e.g., through discussion groups).
- Conducting post-training tests.
- Performance review process management.
Plan an Employee Development Journey. Discover the platform that will keep your employees growing while you keep all your processes under control. Book a demo with our expert.
How to create a positive Learner Experience
A training platform is the main tool for L&D departments to save them time and money. And a well-designed, agile and flexible tool can do much more – address the needs of developing employees. In most cases, companies can not answer them all, but the wide range of training and development opportunities is confirmation that development is an important aspect of organizational culture. In remote work systems, in dispersed locations, in the end – in the rush of everyday duties – employees get a tool in which knowledge (even if it is in a nutshell), is just one click away.
When planning development processes, it is worth remembering that wise and agile management of the employee development process in an organization should have a profoundly human dimension. Increased productivity, streamlined processes, higher profits – all of these are the result of engaged employees who feel they matter. This deeply humanistic approach, and the empathetic management that comes with it, will set management trends for years and even decades to come.