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Training to win

There's no downside to employee development

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Newspapers, radio, television and the Internet are full of reminders that the annual return-to-school trek has begun.

Some parents are agonizing about their college-age students leaving home for the first time to begin a new life. On the other hand, many parents are carefully examining the growing costs of extraneous school-related paraphernalia being marketed to students and wondering if these expenditures are worth the investment.

Program catalogues for community and continuing education are arriving in mailboxes and are tucked into newspapers, ready for perusal. Their inspiring cover pages encourage people to search for opportunities for new learning activities. Courses, certificates, diplomas and degrees and online programs are ready for the taking. It's an exciting time of year.

However, I'm not certain the business community sees the annual back-to-school season as an equally good time to plan for their employee-development needs.

Nor do I believe all leaders view employee training and development as a valuable investment. In fact, some leaders unfortunately harbour a number of misperceptions about employee development.

Some leaders believe they don't have any responsibility beyond ensuring employees can do their current jobs. I've met many a manager who will say employee development distracts people from their jobs and they simply don't have time for training and development.

Some managers fear employee development will only equip their employees to move on with their careers, leaving the employer high and dry. Finally, one of the key areas of neglect in employee development is the view that technical experts can become good leaders without training and development.

Each of these negative beliefs about employee development has proven unfounded.

For instance, we now know employees who have engaged in learning a new skill that can be immediately applied demonstrate significant increases in productivity.

As well, it has been proven that employee development improves employee confidence, teamwork and quality of work and at the same time creates a sense of empowerment that leads to a more fully engaged workforce.

From an organizational perspective, training and employee development help reduce corporate risk and liability and ensure employees are aligned with the corporate vision, mission, goals and objectives.

Training helps employees more clearly understand where the organization is going.

As well, employee development increases the overall internal intellectual talent pool, so when opportunities arise, management can move employees into other roles without having to recruit from an external candidate pool.

Employee development has also become known as a valuable recruitment and loyalty tool because candidates are attracted to organizations that invest in their employees.

Studies show organizations with good employee-development programs and engagement efforts experience 51 per cent lower employee turnover and approximately 12 per cent higher profitability.

So if employee development is critical to the ongoing health of an organization, how can this accomplished?

-- Confirm your business goals. Review your mission and vision and confirm the strategic directions and objectives that will ensure the accomplishment of your goals. Review these goals and determine the key competencies required to align all levels of employees with your organizational needs. Create a competency map for each job category.

-- Conduct employee assessment. Review the skills and capabilities of each employee with respect to current and future skill needs. Meet with management as well as employees to confirm skills and priorities. Compare this information to the competence map developed for your organization.

-- Identify employee interests. Employees must understand development is a partnership. Individuals need to identify what they are good at and how they want their career to go within your organization. Review their accomplishments and identify what they are proud of. Help them identify the skills they feel most comfortable with and work with them to set specific career goals.

-- Set training priorities. Determine which training will give you a quick win on your investment. Set priorities from a corporate perspective, then set them for individual employees. Be sure to prioritize those training programs that directly affect the culture of the organization and train employees in the core competencies of your workplace.

-- Create individual development plans. Create one- to three-year development plans that outline courses and programs and the learning opportunities each employee will engage in. Ensure some of the programs are mandatory versus discretionary and all designated learning is directed toward achieving your mission.

-- Select a combination of methodologies. There are a multitude of training methods available, ranging from instructor-led classroom programs to Internet webinars to lengthy online certifications. Research the variety of opportunities and select the most appropriate for your organization.

-- Share learning accomplishments. If an employee has attended an external course or conference or has completed a certificate paid for by the employer, have the individual prepare a presentation for other staff members on what value was gained. Refer again to mission, vision and strategic direction in terms of how the program assisted the individual to gain new insights.

-- Consider alternative work assignments. Learning can occur anywhere within an organization, so it's important to consider tactics such as delegating leadership of a special stretch project or other learning opportunities such as joining a new project team. Be sure to build in specific goals and objectives and progress milestones plus an evaluation of the skills and competence gained through the experience.

-- Establish formal feedback loops. At each milestone of a work-related project, check in with the participants and determine what progress has been made toward learning the objectives. Offer assistance, discuss goals and objectives and assess how you might stretch the assignment for further learning.

-- Establish a mentoring/coaching model. Every organization has known experts who can mentor or coach others as part of a training program. Many times, these individuals have never thought of themselves as mentors or have never been asked to participate. This activity in itself is a developmental and employee-engagement tool.

Fall is the season for focusing on education and employee development. Develop both short- and long-term plans, link them with your strategic plan and measure and monitor success. Guaranteed, your investment will be worth it.

-- source: Employee Engagement -- From Buzzword to Business Value, Maria Ogneva, CMS Wire, March 28, 2013

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2013 H1

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