Managers must understand what their team members need to create the most valuable learning opportunities. Think of this approach to employee development as “user-centered”. Smaller opportunities are best when an employee is unfamiliar with a necessary skill. Bigger opportunities that require employees to take risks are more suited to individuals who have prior experience carrying out a certain task.
The most obvious solution to increasing employee retention is to create effective training and development programs. As per the author’s experience, the most impactful development happens not through formal programs, but through on-the-job learning opportunities. Managers can create a learning environment that is catered to each worker’s unique needs and challenges. Here how:
- Begin by asking additional questions to learn more about employees: Managers must understand what their employees need to give them ideal learning opportunities. Start by scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with each team member. Ask them what skills they’re most comfortable with and which ones they would like to develop. Inquire about areas that feel especially challenging. Examples: What do you enjoy about your job? What areas are you currently struggling with? Do you have short- and long-term career goals? Do you want to be a part of any other projects, committees, or responsibilities? Is there anything more you’d want to know but haven’t had time to research?
- Create more on-the-job opportunities: “Learning moments” are an easier, quicker way to move the needle. Engaging employees in this way is key to helping them step outside their comfort zones. Classroom-style training is a stellar foundation, but it can lose its effectiveness if isn’t applied readily. Example: You can use role-playing to help your team member improve his communication skills. Role-playing a tricky conversation or writing down a step-by-step plan of action could help him overcome a problem. The next time he comes across a similar situation, he will have the tools to help him solve it. Treating every challenge as an opportunity for practice and growth is critical to establishing an environment in which people feel valued. Managers can help their employees effectively upskill and reskill on a case-by-case basis as new obstacles arise outside of formal training.
- Vary learning experiences: Consider whether the employee’s tenure, experience level, and adaptability are all variables that could impact an employer’s decision. Take risks and stretch beyond your comfort zones with these types of opportunities. It’s crucial to give employees a level of autonomy. When left alone, people will naturally find innovative ways to accomplish new things. Experimenting with autonomy also allows mistakes to be made just as much as it allows successes to be had. This will help you identify skill gaps and brainstorm ways people can fill them.
- Provide feedback on a regular basis: One of the best ways is to provide regular feedback on what they are doing well and where there are opportunities for improvement. Tracking personal metrics is also a helpful way for employees to measure performance and growth in their own time.
- Time management is essential: Take proactive steps to avoid ending up with an unmanageable workload. It’s worth noting that employee development can be overwhelming, especially when you have a lot of direct reports.
It’s time for leaders to open communication channels and address each employee personally. Any company can begin by making a few changes to their managerial practices. In some cases, you may be able to distribute employee-support tasks to informal mentors, other managers or senior leaders.
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