Your bottom line may be your top priority and your focus, but your biggest assets are your employees.
Engaging and retaining top talent is critical to your bottom line and the growth of your company, but many managers are struggling in these areas.
Part of developing your manager mindset is by instilling a manager mindset in your employees. One way to do that, while engaging and retaining employees, is with a professional development plan.
According to a survey by BetterBuys, a web-based resource on business technology, companies that offer a professional development path have 34 percent higher employee retention rates, and those who had access to such programs were 15 percent more engaged in their jobs than workers without similar opportunities.
In a world where 87 percent of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job, offering your employees a clear path can play a huge part in attracting top talent.
So, what can you do, as a manager, to build out a professional development initiative?
You can start with these simple steps: provide more-immediate feedback about performance and development, develop clear performance criteria, and provide resources and incentives for employees who make professional development a priority.
1. Provide feedback
While you may be meeting weekly with your employees about their performance and goals, it's wise to set aside additional time related to professional development.
You can still cover their performance and goals, but correlate it directly with how it affects their advancement within the company. Giving your employees honest, upfront feedback about their current performance and pointers on how to improve (for the sake of their professional development) is not only a great way to engage them, but it gives them the opportunity to provide you with feedback about their insights and options.
Radical Candor is a way for you to provide this honest feedback while caring personally about your employees and their future. This balance does wonders for employee engagement and retention, and employees who have a strong relationship with their direct manager are happier, more productive members of the team.
2. Development clear performance criteria
No professional development plan is complete without clear performance perimeters.
Developing criteria is critical for setting expectations and guidelines for growth. The criteria should include tasks with task descriptions, performance matrix, or goals in which to measure task performance.
Some plans even consist of outlining what is considered minimum requirements and exceeding expectations. You can then use a sliding scale to determine where your employee is in terms of performance in their current position and what they may need to develop for advancement.
Educational or project milestones with estimated timeframes give employees the confidence of progression without leaving open-ended questions about how and when. You can use a professional development training log template or create your own that best fits your team.
3. Offer resources and incentives
Often, companies provide a path for professional development, but it’s not paired with the resources employees need to succeed on that path.
Training courses, workshops, and job shadowing are all ways you can reinforce your professional development plan.
Training courses and workshops are educational opportunities for employees to expand the skills they already have and learn new terms and processes. These can be internal courses or tracks provided by third-party sites like Lynda.com, which offers hundreds of courses on a variety of topics and fields.
Job shadowing, or on-the-job training, is a practical way for employees to get a glimpse at the future. From developing and applying learned skills to real-life situations, to taking notes and working closely with someone who already is established in the position, to rolling out a professional development plan, shadowing is chalk-full of engagement potential.
Whether employees are interested in checking out the day-to-day or getting a grasp of what the position entails, job shadowing can provide some much-needed clarity. It can help you and your employees identify which positions are best suited for their skill set and where in the company those skills might be needed.
Once you and your employees have laid out a professional development plan, be sure to track their progress and have regular check-ins to discuss their advancement.
Recognition, rewards, and incentives for completing courses or finishing a project are ways you can keep employees engaged and focused on their path.
Once you have established your approach and process for feedback and Radical Candor, developed your performance criteria, and offered supportive and helpful training and incentives- it’s time to introduce your plan to your employees.
This should be a fun and engaging time for you and your team, so make it so.
Offer tips and tricks for meeting and exceeding goals, reach out to other managers to share information about positions, skill sets, and plans for setting and meeting goals.
Aside from positively affecting your bottomline and the engagement and retainment of your top talent, a professional development plan is also a great way for you to grow as a manager and advance in your professional development. It’s a win-win all around for you, your employee, and your company.