Guest post by Mary Hladio, founder and Managing Director of Ember Carriers Leadership Group
U.S. companies, both large and small, spend millions every year on learning and development programs to encourage their employees’ advancement and productivity. But how do you know that these programs work effectively?
The Harvard Business Review recently published the findings from a research study conducted by Ferrazzi Greenlight, which identified seven challenges companies must meet to create development programs that work.
In summary, these challenges are to:
- Motivate your managers to coach employees
- Distinguish short shelf-life learning from long-term lessons
- Encourage employees to own their career development
- Offer flexible learning
- Provide for virtual teams and learning
- Create trust in the leadership
- Match different learning options to individual styles
Let’s take a closer look at how your company can strengthen your employee development programs.
Invest in your employees
When your business emphasizes that employee development is an investment in your workers, then your managers will be motivated to coach their employees so they can reach their potential. Your employees want to know that they are valued and that they are learning on the job. Repeat this philosophy often so that workers know they are worthwhile and needed.
Distinguish short shelf-life learning from long-term goals
Identify the skills and behaviors that need to be improved. With technology making certain skills and tasks easier to perform, your company needs to identify which learning is short-term, to fix a problem, and which knowledge needs to be imparted for long-term gain. Does your firm encourage a learning culture that trains all employees to become more productive in their skill sets?
Encourage employees to own their career development
While the training your company is offering has the support of top management, it is also important to let employees know that owning their career development is their individual responsibility. Your firm will want to have trainers who will work with your workers as individuals and realize that each may have different learning needs and styles. When employees own their career development, they are invested and progress rapidly.
Add goal check-ins to meetings
Nurture a learning culture by checking progress at every team meeting. It takes less than a minute using a quick poll. Everyone responds on their phones, and results appear immediately on the presentation screen. This helps teammates to keep goals in sight.
Offer flexible learning options
With the ubiquitous use of mobile devices, if you tailor your employee development programs to be used on devices that your employees can use 24/7, these flexible options will encourage their learning and their investment in the time spent to advance. In this way your company does not need to invest in training classrooms or equipment but can create programs that can be delivered digitally and be seen by employees on their mobile devices whenever they have the time to do so.
Don’t forget your virtual teams
If your company is like many today, you have teams of employees who do not work in the office but are in virtual locations around the country or the world. You can’t overlook what their needs are when you design training for employees and offer learning options that can be delivered via mobile devices.
Create trust in organizational leadership
You can motivate your employees to learn and invest in their individual training when they have confidence in management. Top managers should speak to the philosophy and importance of employee development often and encourage all layers of management to embrace these values. When your employees trust in their leadership, they are motivated to do their best, progress in their learning and be more productive in their jobs.
Give employees a safe feedback channel
Use an anonymous polling tool like Poll Everywhere to collect questions and feedback right there in the town hall. Address concerns immediately, or follow up via email. Everyone ranks the questions submitted, so you can instantly see what your team cares about most.
Match different learning options to distinct learning styles
People learn in various ways, often dictated by their age and generation. You know that Millennials are comfortable using cell phones and digital technology, but other generations may not be quite as adept. If you can offer options for your employees to be able to choose the learning choice that fits them best, this will encourage them to progress.
Track the results
Your company delivers reports about sales, revenue, inventory and other essentials. Your firm should also track data about your employees’ progress. You can survey them after implementing a new training program. Let your employees tell you what works and what doesn’t, and tailor your training programs based on this valuable feedback.
Conduct training surveys live
The advantage of a live survey vs. a paper/email survey: near-perfect response rates. Use a mobile survey tool like Poll Everywhere to get honest responses, while employees are still in the room where training occurred. You’ll have all that data ready in your reports, right away.
As an executive, you want to illuminate the link between the training your company is offering and the contributions your employees can make as they advance in their learning. When your employees see that their training and development will help the company’s bottom line, they can take pride in their contributions to your firm’s overall success.
Mary Hladio is the founder and Managing Director of Ember Carriers Leadership Group – an organization that focuses on helping individual leaders and teams become more effective by improving their people skills.