There is a lot of pride to be had in recruiting a top worker for your company. A new hire — especially one with a great background — can be a badge of honor for an HR professional. If this person lives up to their promise? Even better.
But even if everything seems to go amazingly well, a new employee may still decide to leave relatively quickly. We all know this. Sometimes your organization isn’t a good fit, or a better offer may come along. Maybe boredom sets in, the employee grows disengaged, and you don’t even realize it before it’s too late.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take before any of this happens. Yes, opening up the company coffers (with or without a promotion) can help, but that’s often just a band-aid. The long-term solution is developing your employee and investing in their talents. The more an employee grows, the more they will be engaged — and the more your company will be enriched as well.
That said, no two people develop in exactly the same way. Your employees are unique, and nothing will make them feel worse than a one-size-fits-all approach to learning and development. Let’s take a look at a few ways to help both your workers and your company grow and prosper for years to come:
1. Know Your Employees
During the hiring process, you should be carefully evaluating candidates to understand their unique situations. What are their working styles? What are their interests? What are their aspirations? The answers to these and similar questions are invaluable to building the strong employee-employer relationships necessary to keep retention high and workers engaged.
This information will also help you tailor a professional development plan to your employees’ particular wants and needs. For example, there’s a big difference between the right plan for an employee who wants to move into the managerial track and the right plan for an employee who wants to grow within the same role going forward. Knowing exactly what your employees are aiming for is the first step in putting together a program that helps them reach their goals.
2. Support a Variety of Learning Styles
After areas of interest are identified, the road to professional growth can be determined for each employee. That said, individuals learn in different ways, so a variety of training options should be available.
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For many companies, eLearning is the easiest offering. Moreover, today’s workers are by and large comfortable with computer-based learning activities. That said, some workers do prefer the in-person, classroom-style approach — and not just older employees. Plus, instructor-led training has its own benefits: Burning questions can be answered, and employees can find strength in numbers when it becomes apparent that their coworkers are facing similar challenges as they are.
Of course, traditional learning is costlier in terms of both time and money, and you can’t take an instructor-led course on the train ride home like you can with eLearning. You also won’t be able stop the course and return to it at your leisure.
The right answer for most organizations will be a mix of these two delivery methods. The bulk of professional development might occur online these days, but classroom-style instruction shouldn’t be discounted entirely. Even if convenience wins out, there are still leadership conferences, business forums, and industry events to send employees too. A balanced approach delivered through diverse channels can enrich the experience and satisfy the needs of all your employees.
3. Offer Experiential Learning
There are other professional development approaches to consider, especially at large companies with varied departments, positions, and job duties. Many workers in these organizations are highly interested in making later moves and trying new opportunities in new departments. If you want to keep retention high, it is in your best interest to support these desires.
One simple way to do so is by instituting a shadowing program in which one employee can follow another to get a feel for a day in their life. This territory doesn’t just belong to students, interns, and young workers starting out: Everyone should be able to take advantage of job shadowing. If the worker doing the shadowing enjoys their coworker’s role, they could gradually begin to move in that direction professionally, possibly with the aim of gaining that role over time.
And if the employee doesn’t like it? Their current position will begin to look a lot better than it did before this experience.
You can even go a step further and allow interested employees to try their hand at some of their coworker’s duties. Of course, this should be arranged during downtime so as not to impact either employee’s responsibilities, and the coworker being shadowed should fully understand that their role is not in jeopardy.
As corporate structures are loosened around the world (think: unlimited PTO policies, work-from-home options, and flexible dress codes), companies that appear accommodating and progressive will have an edge on retaining talent almost every time.
Employees always appreciate the opportunity to enrich themselves professionally, and they especially like when development opportunities are tailored to their specific career aims and learning styles. Getting to know your employees and fostering their growth is a win for everyone in your company.
Joan Burns is executive vice president of human resources, marketing, and communications and chief diversity officer at IDB Bank.