Written by Karen Triola, PHR, consultant
Previously published by PSI Talent Management or Cubiks, prior to becoming Talogy.
Do you have a hard time retaining and engaging talent? Is it challenging to fill key positions? Are you in danger of losing institutional knowledge?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you aren’t alone. And given the current market conditions, has it ever been more important to retain top talent than now? Retaining and engaging employees is a top concern for most organizations. Work gets done through people, and having highly engaged employees results in higher morale, lower turnover, increased productivity, and better business results.
The most important challenge facing HR professionals is developing the next generation of leaders. Even dating back to the 2016 Trends in Executive Development survey, respondents said that the most lacking competency in the next generation of leaders is the ability to create a vision and engage others.
Now, more than ever, it is important to place a priority on career development and investing in your employees. Employees want to know they have a future at your company. If they aren’t getting what they need, they will start looking somewhere else. Take the time to speak with your employees to understand their goals, interests, and expectations. What talent or skills do they have that they aren’t using enough in their work today? What type of support would help them do their job better? What are their career aspirations for both the short and long term? What training, skills, and development do they see helping in their career progression?
Creating comprehensive programs – rather than one-time learning events – can help to support leaders in engaging others and building skills needed for the future. Four keys to get you started when implementing a successful leadership development program are:
- Focus on what matters
- Invest time for development
- Provide opportunities to share learning with peers
- Make learning stick
Focus on what matters
Start by knowing what success looks like in your current role as well as your future role at the organization. Then determine what will be needed by leadership to support future business goals and organizational strategy. Once you have compiled those needs, define competencies for successful leadership and use assessments to add value in building leadership performance models. This will allow individuals to increase their self-awareness by understanding strengths they bring to the table and opportunities for development. At that point, you can work 1:1 with employees to create leadership development goals that serve as a roadmap for a personal development journey.
Invest time for development
We’re all busy. It’s far too easy to push off the wish list of to-dos while we attend to the daily demands of our job. The trick is to shift development into the necessity column so that it – and as a result your employees – receive the required time and attention. Some ideas to help outline a development strategy with your team include:
- Provide employees with multiple ways to learn by using e-learning with tools and resources along with virtual instructor-led webinars. Keep in mind not everyone learns at the same pace or the same way.
- Create programs that provide an integrated learning experience, one that values employees as individuals and brings peers together.
- Set clear expectations at the beginning of the program to share objectives, what’s in it for them, anticipated time commitment, and support the organization will provide in their development.
- Empower them to discover their full potential and put them in situations that will build their confidence and strengthen their self-trust. This will require managers to step back, observe, and provide feedback.
Provide opportunities to share learning with peers
Because we learn most effectively by reflecting on our experiences, a key to a successful program is the opportunity to share those experiences and to reinforce concepts learned. To change our behaviors, it takes time. Employees need time to practice and apply new behaviors in a work situation – such as being patient and asking questions of team members – to understand what motivates them so they are more effective delegators and provide the right level of support.
One platform that can be used to achieve this is through the above mentioned virtual instructor-led webinars where employees have the ability to talk about those “real work” situations and the results. They can also share what their personal challenges are in terms of their own development goals. These “round robin” discussions or “learning circles” lead to a feeling that they aren’t alone. It increases engagement across the cohort while enhancing their ability to solve problems, build relationships, innovate, and build confidence.
Make learning stick
It is challenging to change our behavior. As part of a comprehensive program, employees should be asked to focus on ways to sustain behavioral changes. Encourage them to gain input and feedback from their manager on overall progress made and align on key areas of development moving forward. Consider what has been the impact for them, their team, and the organization, and what additional support or resources will be helpful for their continued success.
Have specific strategies to make learning stick, including identifying a trusted accountability partner to turn to when they encounter roadblocks, need a sounding board, or to challenge their assumptions. It’s been said “When we teach, we learn,” so this approach can help to cascade the learning process. It also benefits others by providing them with new ways of thinking while helping the company to attract, retain, and engage both current and future leaders.
Reap the benefits of employee development
The time to invest in your workforce is now. Your employees are your greatest assets and they keep business moving forward for your company. If you better equip them to perform their jobs, they’re more likely to stay, they will feel valued, and your organization will have outlined a path for the future. In today’s job market where finding candidates is increasingly difficult, these outcomes can’t be overstated. To answer my previously posed question, no, it has never been more important to retain top talent, so pick up your pen now and add “get started on employee development” to today’s checklist.