The advents of new technology, the opening of global workplaces, and the increasing number of contract employees toiling from remote locations means professional development is by necessity an ongoing occurrence.
If ensuring that your employees are capable of doing their assigned tasks falls on your shoulders, you may be asking the question of the day: “How can I keep up with all of this?”
In past eras, if people graduated from high school and then university, it was assumed that they were equipped for their life’s work. But the pace of change means that yesterday’s knowledge may be irrelevant to today’s challenges.
There are three things that you can do to lay the foundation of staying relevant with your employee development programs.
1) The first is to encourage employees to be proactive in keeping up with their own learning programs and communicating with you on their learning priorities. You do not have to figure it all out by yourself. Ask your employees what parts of their job are most difficult for them and what areas of training might make things easier.
When you become aware of programs in demand, move your mind from formal, traditional training and even customized courses. Mentoring, work-shadowing, guided reading, mobile learning and eLearning through existing courses may be sufficient to close the learning gap.
Professional development today is more personal and with the number of options available, you may be able to find ways to guide employees to the knowledge well one-by-one rather than put their requests on hold until more formal learning arrangements can be presented.
2) The second strategy to keep up with the development process is to focus on softer skills such as communication, team-work, handling anger and other emotions in the workplace, and dealing with time demands.
Look at personal development budgets so employees can customize their own training in soft-skill areas or a monthly soup-and-sandwich lunchtime seminar where the learning program fits into a half-hour format.
3) The third strategy is to be open to options for learning that fall far outside the traditional course structure previously favored by corporations and organizations.
For example, offer incentives for your employees to contribute five volunteer hours a month to their community. Besides giving back and building links with the community, you will help your employees learn skills like team-building, working on successful committees, project management and handling time restrictions.
Invest in a program where employees can purchase a designated amount of non-fiction books for e-books, magazines, audiotapes or online each year. Ask them to share their insight into particularly good choices and share suggestions with other employees if they found they learned a great deal from a particular publication. You can start small just to get the culture of learning going. With an investment of even $20, a lot of Kindle books can be purchased, and many books and courses are free.
Place a small poster each week in the employee coffee room that illustrates the “find of the week” when it comes to online learning opportunities.
Another inexpensive opportunity for professional development is to build a program where employees from one department get to spend one day every three months in another department. They get to sit in on meetings where topical issues are being discussed, talk to people going about their day’s work to better understand what they are doing and the challenges they face, and start to see how another aspect of the company comes together.
If an employee has particular expertise in one soft skill, invite them to give a short seminar on the topic or to post one tip a week on the corporate intranet with a link to where more information can be located.