Today’s business environment makes employee development a business priority, both for companies and employees. 93% of employees say that well-planned employee training programs positively affect their level of engagement, and even 68% of employees say training and development is the company’s most important policy. On the other hand, according to SHRM’s skills gap research, 83% of HR professionals are having difficulty finding the right person for the job. Of those HR professionals, 75% say there is a shortage of skills in candidates for job openings. Of course, there are many more reasons for emphasizing employee development, from creating a culture of learning to adapt to game changes in a business. But what are the most important methods for employee development in today’s world? In this article, we will cover those. But, first, we have to differentiate between employee training and employee development.
On-the-Job Training (OJT)
Although employee training and employee development are used interchangeably, they aren’t synonymous. Employee training can be defined as a planned attempt to facilitate employee learning of job-related knowledge, skills, and behaviors of helping them correct deficiencies in their performance. In contrast, development is an effort to provide employees with the skills needed for present and future jobs. In other words, training focuses on short-term skills, development, on the other hand, on long-term abilities. According to Raj Kumar, employee training is imparting technical and operating skills and knowledge to the employees. It also includes the changing of attitudes among workers. For effective training, it’s important to identify the training needs of the employees by assessing organizational needs and employee skills, providing the right training with the right technique, and of course, evaluate employee training. Some common training activities are employee orientation, off-the-job training or formal training, and on-the-job training.
The most important and one of the most frequently used techniques is on-the-job training for many different sectors. On-the-job training typically requires that trainees be present at the job site during normal business hours and refers to the methods used at the workplace while doing the actual work. In other words, it is “learning while doing.” As employees feel more at ease and training is specific to their needs, it is a popular training method. For example, Havaldar and Cavale’s survey on training showed eighty-four percent of the companies use OJT. This method places the new employee in a more realistic situation than any other method. One thing to be cautious of while implementing an OJT program is although the primary focus of OJT is training in job-specific skills, it most of the time must be designed as a part of an employee development plan that simultaneously addresses the skill deficiencies for that specific employee, and guidance is needed in that area. This means a lot of work on the side of the seniors who are designing, implementing, or helping with the program. And, let’s not forget, the post-Covid business world requires more and more flexible learning options. According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review, “Telling employees they need to engage in more learning and development activities with their already heavy workload often leaves them feeling overwhelmed and consumed by the question, “When and how will I find the time?” and of course, the place? Companies must respond by adopting on-demand and mobile solutions”, which include on-the-job training in a readily accessible customized way for people, such as Journey-the next-generation employee development platform.
Employee coaching or developmental coaching is an important method of employee development. According to the 70/20/10 rule, 20% of learning comes from other employees and colleagues, and coaching constitutes an important part of that. There are mainly two types of coaching practices in today’s business world. Executive coaching is a one-on-one relationship at a senior level and carries a deeper meaning for an organization’s strategic success. According to the book Coaching for Leadership: The Practice of Coaching from the World’s Greatest Coaches, coaches for effective action provide process expertise, reflective thinking, feedback, dialogue, accounting, positive reinforcement, counseling, historical reference, and continuity. Effective action coaches do not offer content expertise or focus on specific management skills, nor do they serve as consultants to the business. One coaching model that is widely used is called the GROW model. The GROW model stands for setting a goal (G), assessing the reality or the current situation (R), the available options (O), and deciding what you will do (W). The model was developed by Graham Alexander, Alex Fine, and Sir John Whitmore in the 1980s, and it’s still very relevant up to this day. Here, the coach takes on the role of a facilitator, and he/she helps the employee to see the reality and choose the best action themselves. “Indeed, it is more powerful for people to draw conclusions for themselves rather than having them thrust upon them. Coaches can have a significant role to play at the will stage of the GROW model by acting as a reality check on the employee’s thinking by asking very specific questions about planned actions to address underperformance.”
Mentoring is another important and widely used employee development method. In a business context, “a mentor is generally an experienced individual who acts as a teacher, guide, counselor, or facilitator and provides personalized feedback and guidance to a more junior colleague. In many cases, a mentor is someone who takes an interest in an employee’s career and acts as a sponsor for them, providing a sounding board for issues and decisions”. It is more informal than coaching, involves the “practice of pairing a newer worker with one or more experienced workers for the purposes of assisting the newcomer in adjusting to the work environment, “learn the ropes” of his or her job, receive support and advice when work problems surface, have a model for negotiating work-life.” “Peers from the same department can share information about dos and don’ts in the workplace, peers from other departments can provide insights on how other areas of the business are run, and supervisors and managers can become formal or informal mentors.” It is important to remember that the organizational culture can restrict or facilitate mentoring relationships. A relatively new and much-needed type of mentoring is reverse mentoring. “These are young individuals who help older co-workers understand the technology and the culture of the younger generation.” According to a Forbes article, it’s important to formalize mentorships within your company. “If your company has an ad hoc mentoring program, now is the time to take this to the next level. A structured approach improves employee buy-in, defines mentor/mentee relationship expectations, and establishes a consistent communication cadence. HR may wish to take on the role of matchmaker, working with division leaders to pair up mentors/mentees and set recurring calendar invites for weekly or biweekly virtual “coffee dates” or check-ins.”
Last but not least of the employee development methods is formal training. It is an established and trusted way to learn new skills for employees. “A good training program starts by focusing on the outcome or transferable skills you want to measure, then personalizing the experience by making sure employees can get there in a variety of ways. In other words, if someone can demonstrate their critical analysis skills through project work, don’t make them take training in order to “count” their skill. Likewise, if their preference is to take a formal course through a university to gain those skills, make that available and equally relevant to the outcomes you are measuring” says, Cat Lang. As opposed to informal learning, formal learning programs are structured and have valid teaching content with consistent materials. It can be classroom-based, in the form of a webinar, a live web event, or even a series of emails with attachments. US businesses spend more than $60 billion a year in employee development, and as expenditures on learning per employee rise, how can we be sure that our formal training works? One technique is to integrate it with accurate performance management systems. This way, formal training can be measured, and its effectiveness can be magnified. Another one is to demonstrate the value of formal training. As Josh Bersin says, “if you have lots of formal training available, managers should be incented to promote such opportunities and help people make time to learn. Yes, it might take them away from their jobs for a few days, but ultimately the return is much greater productivity and satisfaction”.
Of course, each employee development method described here serves another purpose, but they all share one common goal, which is to develop an employee’s career for the better and shape up the future of the company. When deciding on an employee development method, it’s important to assess the current situation of your business and of your employee. According to a LinkedIn Learning Report, 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.
If you want to learn more about employee development, you can check out our blog posts here.