When an organization hires an employee, it expects the employee to perform to his/her fullest and maintain a high level of productivity through his/her years with the company. However, this will never be the case as things such as the technology, market product, services, people, and policies evolve every day.
Employee development is a process of improving employee’s existing competencies and/or developing new ones to support the organization’s goals and growth. In other words, employee development is required in an organization for the following reasons:
- Getting new employees to be effective and productivity as quickly as possible.
- Improving the performance of an existing employee on his/her present job.
- Preparing a good performing employee for an identified job of greater responsibilities soon.
- Keeping abreast of new changes or development (such technologies, regulations, or leading practices) in existing jobs.
When done right, employee development may be a huge investment (time, effort, and money) to the company, but it will be more than pay off over the long run. In fact, it will be one of the contributing factors to attracting talents, motivating, rewarding, and retaining employees in an organization.
Therefore, for all employees to be able to perform well and be productive consistently in their jobs, employee development must be continuously through the employee’s tenure with the company. It must also be consistently applied to all levels of employees from top management to the junior or new employees.
Hence, employee development is more than training, it is continuous learning.
By developing employees in the organization, the company will not only be able to attract talents and retain employees, it will also be able to have a competitive advantage over its competitors. This is because its employees will have the competencies (knowledge, skills and abilities) to perform well through adopting best or leading practices, improving and enhancing processes as well as innovating new products and services.
Understanding about Learning
Before diving into employee development through training, it is important to understand a few things about learning.
Andragogy vs. Pedagogy
According to Malcolm Knowles, an American educator who focuses on adult education, adult learning (andragogy) is very different from child education (pedagogy). In child education or pedagogy, the learners are very dependent on the teacher, and it is a top-down approach, that is, the teacher has authority and control over the student’s learning experience. Since the learner has no prior knowledge of the subject, the teaching method is very much about the transfer of foundation or basic knowledge for later application.
On the other hand, in adult learning or andragogy, learners are much self-directed, that is, they are motivated or committed to learn and set their own schedule for learning. They do have some knowledge and experience to help them understand the subject and focus on know-how or the application of the subject to their workplace.
In adult learning, it is also important for trainers and HR professionals to understand that different adult learners have different learning styles. The VARK model states that there are 4 learning styles:
- Visual – learners with a strong preference for visuals such as presentations, pictures, video shows, etc. They can retain information better when they are presented in picture or graphic forms.
- Auditory – learners who prefer to listen such as lectures, discussions, guest speakers, etc. They can retain much information through listening.
- Tactile or reading and writing – learners with a strong preference for reading and writing such as reading text information and taking notes.
- Kinesthetic – learners have a strong preference for skills practices such as role play, physical activities or exercises, experiments, etc. They can retain information well through hands-on or practice.
So, it is important that trainers use a combination of different learning styles to ensure that all learners can understand the subject and retain what is being taught.
In a study on different learning styles, it was discovered that listening to lectures has the lowest retention rate for learners while practicing, and teaching others have the highest retention rate for learners.
Creating a Learning Culture
If an organization is concerned about its employee development, it needs to develop a learning culture where learning is a strategic imperative. A learning culture puts the continuous development of competencies at the heart of everything the organization does. The organization must provide opportunities and enable every employee to continuously seek, share, and apply new knowledge and skills.
Besides providing opportunities and enabling employees to learn, the organization must encourage learning at all levels, create a policy on employee development to foster a learning mindset, allow for practice or application of newly acquired skills on the job (transfer of knowledge), provide time, resources, and fund to support learning as well as recognize that mistakes are learning opportunities.
When learning culture is cultivated at every level of the organization and there is a desire to learn throughout the organization, the benefits are wide-ranging. Some of the benefits are:
- quick to adapt to changing needs,
- ability to solve or resolve problems effectively,
- increase employee morale and decrease staff turnover, and
- increase in work efficiency, productivity, and profit.
Developing a learning culture in an organization is not something that happens overnight but over time when actionable steps are taken. The actionable steps are:
- Commitment from Everyone
To successfully build or develop a learning culture, everyone in the organization from the leaders to the workers must support and be committed to learning. Everyone must give their 100% effort to make learning as part and parcel of their daily work life in the organization.
- Provide Support and Have the Right Environment
Besides having the commitment of everyone in the organization, the management must ensure that there is full support and resources such as financials, time, facilities, and learning aids, provided to all employees in their quest to continuously develop themselves.
- Lead by Example
Leaders in the organization must walk the talk. They must be open to feedbacks about their weaknesses and be prepared to make corrections through constantly acquiring new knowledge and skills. Besides developing themselves, leaders must also be prepared to impart and share their knowledge and skills with junior employees in the organization. They must make time and put in effort to teach or coach others so that the learners can help improve the company’s performance.
- Develop Personalized Learning Plans
All employees must set their career goals in the organization and develop their learning plans to achieve their career goals. With a learning plan, the employee will be committed and engaged in the process of learning. By supporting your employees on their learning plan and achieving their career goals, company will be able to motivate and retain their employees
- Provide the Right Rewards
When introduced correctly, rewards can motivate employees to consistently keep learning to acquire new knowledge and skills to improve or develop themselves. Most companies will issue a certificate upon successful completion of the training while others do provide badges or plaque. However, some organizations introduce financial rewards, but they must be careful to ensure that any financial rewards introduced must not lead to greed and selfishness.
- Encourage Knowledge Sharing and Transfer
Knowledge sharing and transfer are a big part and pillar of the learning culture in an organization. Through sharing knowledge and skills, employees will also be able to strengthen or build up the team spirit in the organization as they will have a better understanding of one another. This, in turn, will encourage employees to learn morre.
- Create Meaning Training Programs
Do not send employees for training for the sake to meet the statistical figures. There must be proper needs analysis to ensure that the training must be part of the learning plan that improves the employee’s performance or develop the employee for the next level.
- Make Learning in Hiring Process
It is important that while developing a learning culture in the organization, steps must be taken to ensure that new employees joining the company are in the right and same mindset as the rest of the existing employees in the organization. It is important to highlight to new employees the importance of learning and they must be committed to be part of the learning culture.
Plan the Training
Responsibilities for Employee Development
Some jobs are fast disappearing due to the increased use of technology and automation, while new jobs emerged require a new set of competencies such as quick thinking, creativity, high social and emotional intelligence. Hence, companies with nimble employees who can react quickly to disruptions, adapt to meet the new demands of a fast-changing business climate, and harness a wealth of ideas for innovation, will be able to survive and thrive in the competition.
The responsibility of employee development in an organization is a dual responsibility of both the management and employee.
The responsibilities of the management towards employee development are:
- provide a well-crafted job description
- provide training required by employees to meet the basic competencies for the job
- develop a good understanding of the new competencies required by the job in the future
- explain to employees on the need to develop a training plan to acquire the new competencies for the future job
- support and guide the employees during the identification of training or learning opportunities
The responsibilities of the employees towards employee development are:
- look for learning opportunities in everyday work activities
identify goals and activities for development and prepare own development plan