Coaching and Development

Your Employee Development Program Needs Attention

One of the biggest problems with conventional employee development programs is that they're often cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solutions. But a more thoughtful development program can improve productivity, retention, customer satisfaction, and much more.

One of the big problems with conventional employee development is that it can be pretty one-size-fits-all and cookie-cutter. Why is this a problem? Well, if you’re training 15 people in a room, they’re going to be different. Here are a few different ways:

  • Gender
  • Culture
  • Job in company
  • Years of experience
  • Family composition
  • Learning style
  • Personality traits
  • Connection/passion for specific industry
  • Etc.

And yet, oftentimes, this is what we do: put 15 people in a room, despite those differences, and train ’em up the same way.

Why do we do this? Because it’s easier and more cost-effective.

The notion of “employee development” is a thing we say matters, but how much it actually matters varies greatly by company. This doesn’t leave us in a good place.

What do you mean?

Check out these stats:

55% of executives said a major constraint to investing in training was that they did not know how to measure success. Almost half (49%) said that it was difficult to ensure a return on investment (ROI). And in another survey, 87% said they cannot calculate quantifiable returns on their learning investments.

Just think about that: 87% of people can’t determine ROI on something, even though “determining ROI” is literally all that matters to decision-makers evaluating spend.

If you approached an exec and said “There’s a 87 percent chance we won’t know whether this works,” well, I hope your LinkedIn is up to date. Job search time! But yet, this is exactly what’s happening.

Why is it happening?

Two main reasons:

  1. L&D often resides in HR. It’s not revenue-facing. The people with clout do not care as much as they normally would.
  2. Work is about execution. That’s how you scale, that’s how you get promoted, etc. Things like “learning” and “thinking” should have a major role in organizations, but oftentimes do not.

OK, so how do we make it better?

We start by thinking about it in terms of data.

Maybe you have some data around 1 or more of the following topics:

  • Turnover
  • Hiring/recruiting costs
  • Project completion/successful projects
  • Revenue generated per employee

What you want to do is start mapping “These are skills people need” (employee development) and “This is why people leave” (turnover).

Now, set up training whereby the necessary skills are tied to the potential challenges.

Pro Tip: Check out this 3-step team communication activity that you can run anywhere

An employee development example

Let’s say you know the No. 1 cause of turnover is relationship with manager. (This is common.) You go deeper and find that the No. 1 issue in managerial relationships is communication. (This is also common.) So now you know that employee development — at both the managerial and execution level — needs to have some focus on communication.

But you don’t want to cookie-cutter it, so now it’s time to talk to people and figure out what needs to be involved in the training experience. For example:

  • Specific challenges in the past 30 days
  • Role plays
  • Modeling
  • What to do when ________ (multiple situations)

Normally in these situations you’d get managers bellowing “I need executors who listen and do what I say!” and employees saying “I just want to be treated like a decent human being,” but … that kind of feedback can still inform what the employee development experience can look like.

Pro Tip: There’s a strong link between employee engagement and turnover. Here’s how they’re related.

How a focus on employee strengths hit the bottom line

Bunch of research from Gallup on employee strengths in this article from Harvard Business Review. The study looked at 49,495 business units encompassing 1.2 million employees. It was done across 7 industries and 22 countries. Not a bad sample size.

When a company focused on employee strengths, here are the metric increases they tended to hit:

  • 10%-19% increase in sales
  • 14%-29% increase in profit
  • 3%-7% increase in customer engagement
  • 9%-15% increase in engaged employees
  • 6- to 16-point decrease in turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
  • 26- to 72-point decrease in turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
  • 22%-59% decrease in safety incidents
Improving engagement isn’t the only way to reduce employee turnover. Download this infographic to discover 5 additional methods for turnover reduction.

If you went to a senior leader at a company and said “You can drop turnover by 16 percent and increase profit by 29 percent,” how quickly would it be until they hugged you? I’d guess maybe 1.5 seconds? I might be off on that.

… and that’s the bottom line!

If you truly believe that we live and work in the Knowledge Economy, well, hate to break this to you but … uh … er … you need to actually develop knowledge in your workers. I know it’s often easy to dismiss as a “HR thing” — you have products to roll out and leads to nurture, of course — but it actually has huge revenue ties if you do this right and don’t just half-ass it.

Makes sense, right? Smarter, more connected, more engaged employees probably (a) work harder and (b) treat customers better. People who have no path to development or growth or knowledge ultimately don’t care anymore.

As they look for a new job — which can take upwards of a year — they’re phoning it in for you. Isn’t that, uh, a bad thing?

Anything else you’d add on employee development? Let us know in the comments!

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