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Employee development essential in a new workplace

Irwin van Stavel

Employee development

Employees who feel their employers aren't investing in developing them are far more likely to think about leaving to pursue better opportunities than those whose employers engage in active talent management strategies. So, why are some companies dragging their feet and refusing to invest enough in their employee development programmes?

In some cases, it comes down to an insecurity most managers don't want to acknowledge:

  • The fear an employee may become:

- Overqualified,

- Outgrow his job, and

- Leave the company to pursue a better position elsewhere.

This fear isn't completely baseless either. Young high achievers job hop frequently to earn a greater salary and on average, leave their jobs after only 28 months. Research also shows that Millenials will have 10 different jobs by the age of 38.

Not developing employees is the wrong response to this fear. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fact is employees seek professional development to achieve successful careers. When companies don't invest in this development, they leave.

Not managing your talent properly can be expensive

The real cost of not continuously developing your employees equates to unmotivated and disengaged staff members. According to Gallup's 2013 State of the American Workplace Report, 70% of American workers are 'not engaged' or 'actively disengaged'. That's a scary thought.

"While statistics for the South African market aren't readily available at this point, having dealt with numerous organisations of varying in size around the country, we believe this statistic is even worse in South Africa," says Guy Martin: founder and managing director of BluprintsT. The impact of disengagement on productivity can also be devastating for a business. When employees are less engaged in their work, they require more supervision, make more mistakes and cost their companies more money.

On the other hand, employees who know their employers not only value them, but also invest in their future, become more engaged and motivated at work.

Engaged employees:

  • Are more productive and profitable,
  • Have higher customer satisfaction ratings, and
  • Make fewer mistakes.

Perhaps surprising to some is that engagement levels play a bigger role in employee satisfaction than corporate perks, such as flexi time, do.

Most employees feel satisfied and engaged when they're encouraged and equipped to contribute to the company's overarching mission. This mission must, of course, be well communicated, focused around a greater purpose, and go beyond the shareholders' value. Employees want to feel like strategic partners. When they're given the necessary educational tools to participate, they become more motivated to help the organisation work toward its goals and will stay longer at the company.

Make your training worthwhile

Employee training is often viewed as tedious, dull and time consuming - not exactly a recipe for employee satisfaction. So, how do you develop a training programme that your employees will enjoy and actually find valuable?

1. Understanding employees' learning styles

People learn in different ways: there are visual learners, auditory learners or kinaesthetic (tactile) learners. Others learn best on their own or in small groups with other people. For example, an employee may decide to read training materials on his smartphone while riding on the train instead of on his computer at work. The more flexibility you can offer your employees for their training, the better.

2. Play to employees' strengths instead of improving their weaknesses

According to Gallup, building employees' strengths is a far more effective approach than trying to improve their weaknesses. The benefits of the strength-based approach range from better relationships with managers and increased productivity at work to decreased stress levels, fewer sick days and fewer instances of developing a chronic disease.

3. Don't waste their time

During a learning intervention, people sometimes feel the opportunity cost for learning is greater than the benefit of the lesson learned. I suggest staying mindful of this as a manager:

  • Don't create a five-hour sales meeting that could be fitted in to three 30-minute increments.
  • Let people read a summary of a topic rather than a whole book – they'll appreciate you for saving them some time.

4. Let them take charge of learning

Employees are also adults who're fully capable of teaching themselves what they're motivated to learn as long as they have access to the right resources and experts. A good leader has a teacher mentality and motivates his team to learn. After providing the right learning assets and opportunities, on an ongoing basis, these leaders step back and they allow the employees to build their own development plans, apply their lessons and collaborate with others.

Irwin van stavel is the managing executive and senior partner for LRMG performance agency

Irwin Van Stavel co-manages the four business units in the Learning Xperiences area of LRMG. In this position he is constantly expanding the business’s ability to reach people, teach people and develop people. His dream team strive to find new and innovative ways to make people more effective in their working environments, thereby growing their organisations. Irwin also ensures that his team is backed by solid partnerships with world leaders in the people space through nurturing great relationships with international industry leaders.

Irwin qualified as a teacher and began his career by expanding young minds. He then moved into HR and L&D positions where he handled the strategic account management of many ‘blue chip' accounts. His career path then brought him into LRMG where he first worked as an executive in the Custom Courseware division, where he grew this business to become the leading courseware development team in Africa. It is in this position that Irwin established himself as a respected thought leader in the industry. Today he works strategically with clients to design more effective people development and technology strategies to help them maximise their investment in their human capital.

Irwin is currently a shareholder and senior partner in LRMG.