Employee Development Programs
Keeping up with the times in an ever-changing business scenery is vital in order to survive and thrive. To be able to do this, you need to be informed and constantly updated in every matter and department. This is where the development programs come into action, training employees and preparing them for any situation that lies ahead. Chosen or created accordingly, and implemented correctly, development programs are a great way of killing two birds with one stone. They quench an employee’s thirst for personal growth, and, in doing so, they supply companies with proficient workers, who lead the business to success.
1. How to choose/ create a program
Whether you’re resorting to outside help, by contracting external development services, or counting on your internal training resources, keep in mind the following tips. They will guide the decisional process towards the most befitting option in any given situation.
1.1 Consider learning styles
Even though the learning styles theory has gradually lost its importance, since it was shown that it was not supported by any scientific data, the idea that people prefer instructions and learning aids tailored to their preferences remains. Considering that, depending on the group or individual that is going to receive the training, you can choose a program that matches their preferences. If their inclination is towards visual, turn to charts and graphs, if they’re more into listening, hire a speaker, and so on.
On the other hand, it has been proven that continuously accommodating the learner’s predilections might do more harm than good, either because they do not match the learner’s information processing abilities (while him not being aware of that), or because it keeps him in too much of a comfortable position, lacking that jolt or motivational push towards learning.
Now that you know about how important the learning styles theory is in a training process, you will be able to take the right decision, in accordance to the targeted audience and the desired results.
1.2 Tune the program to the business strategy
You’re perfectly aware of your company’s business plan and objectives at all times. After all, it is your business and you know exactly where it’s going (or where you want it to go). Write down those objectives and break them down on skill categories needed to achieve them. Identifying the required competencies will help you choose both the departments that need the development program the most, and the topics that should be tackled with priority. Moreover, since you’ve started from the business plan, it will guarantee that the programs are in line with the overall direction of the company.
As a general recommendation, consider both the long term plan and the short term one. If you need someone to be able to carry out a certain task in two-weeks time, you clearly need a training program that fits this narrow window. If, however, your plan is to increase sales in a year, you’ll be able to offer your sales people more varied and dispersed programs over that period.
At this stage, it’s also imperative to set some clear objectives that each development program will aim for, alongside a number of KPIs to monitor throughout the entire process. Not only will this make it easy to supervise how the program is performing, but you’ll also thank yourself when the final assessment comes – after the program has been terminated.
1.3 Ask for feedback/ ideas/ requests
Last, but not least, it’s always a good idea to lend an ear to your employees themselves. They are the most connected to the business process and can easily spot what is missing or what could be improved. They are also the most adequate to voice their needs in regards to professional and personal growth. Plus, you’d be giving them an opportunity to make themselves heard, and that strengthens the employer-employee relationship.
2. How to implement a program
If you want something to run smoothly, you must make sure that each component in the machine is performing perfectly. When it comes to employee development programs, think of the following cogs and gears.
After establishing what the training needs are inside your company, it’s time you determined whether fulfilling them would be more easily achieved by holding an individual type of coaching, or if an instruction at organization level is more appropriate. This will further dictate the human and material resources necessary. If you do go for a course at organization level, you’ll also have to decide whether it will run on a department-specific basis, or across departments.
You now know which person (individual) or which group of people (organization/ department) the development program will serve. You also have the complete list of resources required to kickoff the operation. You’re ready to make a decision regarding who will be responsible to execute the plan – an internal person (or training department, if available), or an external company, that specializes in employee development. Outsourcing the process will imply a new set of planning and budgeting, so take that into consideration.
2.2 Unfolding of events
Once the program has been set into motion, you can sit back and relax. That’s what we’d say if you asked how you can set your program to fail. However, since no one wants to see their hard work go to waste, we’ll show you what you have to do while your training programs are active.
In the course of a development program, it’s crucial to create and maintain engagement. The fundamental condition for driving attendance is motivation. In order to spark the employees’ interest and make them attend, the best way to go is by making them understand that the benefits of the course are bilateral – yes, the company will profit from the work of highly-trained people, but the knowledge that they gain can be used as a stepping stone in their career. What they learn to do will never leave them, and they’ll be able to use that know-how in any situation, at any job, for the rest of their lives. They have as much to win from it as the company does.
When it comes to program scheduling, be flexible. Don’t implement courses that span over a large amount of time or that have mandatory attendance. The psychological burden of having to present at a certain time for a certain lesson can do serious damage on the employees’ engagement. Long training programs can lead to routine, and thus, to boredom and indifference.
As well as that, regularly check the KPIs set at the beginning. They will reflect on the health of the program and will enable you to make adjustments at the right time.
2.3 Don’t forget to give recognition
When a development course has been finished, its benefits should reflect both in the employees’ performance and attitude, and in the status of the business. A successfully run program will leave the employees more qualified, and considerably more prepared to take on harder tasks. As a result, the business will flourish. In those moments especially, it’s vital that you show your employees that their work paid off.
However, even if a course did not work the way you intended or expected, you should still take a moment to extend your gratitude for their efforts. You should also gather their feedback on how the course can be improved.
4. How to remove/ close/ quit a program
To ensure an employee development program’s success, you should also know how to quit while you’re ahead. Otherwise, you risk turning a time of learning into a bitter memory.
4.1 When to close the program
The most appropriate (and obvious) time to end a program is when it is no longer necessary. For example, if the course was meant to train people for a certain type of position, and that position has been dissolved, it’s clear that it is no longer needed. Same goes for the situation where the objectives have been achieved. If a particular program was introduced to tackle an issue that now is no longer present, then it can be shutdown.
Another case in which it’s better to remove a certain training course is when it feels that it has become more of a burden than an aid. When development is supported by constraint, there will be more damage, than progress. If you feel that the attendees act like they would rather not be there, taking that course, it might be time to close the program and give them back the liberty of choosing how they want to continue their evolution.
4.2 Evaluate the program’s efficiency
Remember those objectives and KPIs that you set when tuning the programs to the business strategy? Those will be your main guidelines when assessing how efficient a development program is (or has been) in your company. Include secondary guidelines, such as employee satisfaction, attendance, feedback as well.
Secondly, try to build a report reflecting the business impact that the program had. Include relevant metrics, such as increase in sales (if the course was sales-focused), cost savings (if it was dealing with budgeting skills), and so on. If the numbers look better and you employees are happier, you’ve got a winning development program, that you can repeat when necessary.
An engaging, genuinely useful development program can make the difference between losing or motivating your employees. Offering training programs, be them business-related or for personal growth, should not be just another ticked box on the company’s strategy. On the contrary, they should be regarded as a valid method of improving work quality, employee participation, and, surely, boosting the firm’s profits. Assigning these programs the importance they deserve is crucial for the prosperity of a company.