Traditional employee development programs typically happen like this: intermittent upskilling has employees overperforming for a period of time. They get a raise or a promotion, and eventually settle back into comfort. The result? Growth stagnates or stops altogether — both for the employee and the business as a whole. Then the cycle repeats.
Traditional or sporadic employee development strategies can be beneficial, but only if you’re trying to reach short-term goals. Generally, this does very little to help accelerate your business in the long-term or prepare your workforce for the future.
Instead, organizations should consider focusing on continuous employee development. This approach to workforce advancement never stops moving the target forward. It aims to not only cultivate more productive and higher performing employees, but also to foster long-term growth for the entire business by facilitating a culture of learning within your company.
Let’s discuss how you can leverage continuous employee development to arm your workforce with the skills they need to succeed in the long run.
What is employee development?
Employee development is the process of supporting and investing in an employee’s current skills, as well as helping them acquire new ones to fill emergent needs within the organization. Effective employee development aligns business goals with the personal goals of your team members.
Continuous employee development is what happens when individual growth and improvement never stops. It’s not a “one and done” process that ends when the employee gets a raise or promotion. Instead, it’s ingrained into the culture of the organization and plays a unique role in each employee’s internal career path.
Key aspects of continuous employee growth and development
The most effective tactics of continuous employee growth will depend on the individual needs and objectives of your business. However, there are a few universal techniques that you can employ.
Encourage growth in employees
- Design a comprehensive onboarding program. Equipping employees with the knowledge and expertise they need from the start gives them confidence and a sense of belonging at your company.
- Support continued education. In a recent survey, research showed that 96 percent of business leaders agreed that workforce education programs are integral to driving long-term business growth. Investing in a workforce education program can provide your employees with the continuous learning and development opportunities they need, while also supporting your greater company objectives.
- Outline a clear path toward advancement. Having an employee development plan that has tangible steps will help build a qualified internal pipeline of talent. Plus, the opportunity for upward mobility is a significant motivator for employees.
- Recognize great work. Show your employees that you recognize their hard work and appreciate their contributions. This can look like increased responsibilities, higher wages, accolades or a promotion.
Emphasize soft skills and cross-functional collaboration
- Foster a positive culture of teamwork. De-emphasize competition and instead facilitate emotional intelligence, empathy and curiosity. This way, employees strive for group excellence rather than strictly personal achievement.
- Recognize the importance of soft skills. Time management and leadership skills are equally as important as technical knowledge. Cultivated soft skills are key to improved productivity and performance — as well as potential for advancement.
- Encourage free-flowing cross-level collaboration and communication. Better connection between employees at different levels and departments helps to facilitate an individual sense of importance and effectiveness and makes employees identify with and care more about your company.
Encourage personal development outside of work
- Offer the flexibility to pursue education. Provide employees with the support and flexibility they need to pursue higher education, certifications or other educational means of self-improvement and skill-building.
- Promote a positive work/life balance. Reducing stress and having the ability “leave work at work” helps employees to perform better when they are on the job. If it’s feasible, seek out general wellness benefits that help support employees during difficult times and can help them to find a healthy balance between work and personal life.
Provide continuous feedback, reviews and resources
- Schedule frequent check-ins. Have regular performance reviews and meetings to give constructive feedback, check in on progress and offer praise. Be sure to ask employees what resources they need to reach their goals and offer those resources freely.
- Ask for feedback. Cultivate a working environment where employees feel comfortable sharing feedback on management, company culture and other key aspects of their working experience. Continuous development is a two-way street that requires effort on both ends.
Certain tactics, such as onboarding or promotions, can only be employed during specific milestones. This means it’s important to leverage a combination of one-time and ongoing development techniques throughout an employee’s career journey to offer a truly holistic experience.
Benefits of continuous employee development
Continuous employee development helps drive the improvement of the individual as well as the organization overall. Here’s how.
- Helps to develop an internal pipeline for leadership. When your employees are continuously focused on skill-building and professional growth, your business is able to build a strong leadership pipeline. This means that you can make internal promotions more easily, and fill unexpected gaps or new roles without having to recruit new talent.
- Foster a culture of teamwork and collaboration. Although learning and career development is highly personal, it can also be a team sport. When you integrate learning into your company culture, it can help to foster a work environment of knowledge-sharing and collaboration across different teams and levels.
- Prepares workers for industry disruptions. From automation to artificial intelligence, many industries are on the brink of disruption with these rapid changes in technology. By focusing on continuous development, your company takes a proactive approach to skill-building and arms your team members with the knowledge they need to keep up with these changes.
- Boosts morale. By providing real rewards and concrete steps to take towards growth, employees have something tangible to work toward and trust that their hard work will pay off.
- Reduces turnover. When businesses show a commitment to their employees and compassionately support the growth of each individual, employees trust that they belong and are valued within their workspace. The more valued employees feel, the less likely they are to start looking for external opportunities.
The value of continuous employee development
Next time you’re re-evaluating your employee development efforts, consider making the shift towards a continuous approach. Employee growth shouldn’t stagnate just because someone received a promotion or completed a training course. Instead, employee development should be an ongoing process that equips your workforce with the skills and knowledge they need to take their careers (and your business) further today and in the future.
Ready to take action and learn how to further employee growth opportunities within your organization? Read our step-by-step guide on how to start reskilling your workforce today.