Developing your staff is as important as developing your business, especially if they’re in the 18-to-35 age group. Millennials and Generation Z are more driven by career development than pay levels and become bored if they aren’t given the opportunity to grow. Employees of all ages respond to new challenges and learning opportunities. To retain your workforce and keep them motivated and productive, it’s important to have career development plans.
Take a look your current business needs, and consider your future aims and objectives. What are the job roles you need to run the business effectively now, and what skills will your workforce need to bring about future growth? Look at your current employees’ skills and experiences, and identify where the knowledge and skills gaps are now and moving forward.
Meet with each of your employees one on one, preferably as part of their onboarding. You hired each of them on the basis of their close match to the skills set needed for their roles, but there are probably some gaps. Discuss their career goals and aspirations. Are there untapped skills they’re keen to use or challenges they’d like to take on? As a small business owner, you’re ideally placed to offer your enthusiastic employees experiences across a range of functions. It can be easier to move someone sideways or promote them rather than recruiting and onboarding new employees. Identify the support your employees need to take on their new roles, and establish a development plan.
The career development plan need not be costly or involve time off for study or workshops. If you’re moving someone into a new role, allocate a mentor or coach from your existing staff to provide support. Nurturing individual talent might involve giving someone responsibility for managing a team working on a short-term project, inviting them to work-shadow a senior employee, or attend high-level meetings. Recognising and tapping into existing skills might mean encouraging someone out of their comfort zone. For example, you might identify a bright, personable, but slightly shy receptionist as a potential salesperson if you know that she speaks fluent Mandarin — and you also know that you’re planning to expand into China.
If an entire team needs an update in an aspect of work, such as using or understanding new technology or legislation, run a workshop or series of briefing sessions in-house using your own experts where possible. Everyone benefits from these experiences — both the learners and those who are trusted with planning and delivering the training.
Some employees’ career plans may involve reducing workloads so they can cope with caring for relatives, manage personal health issues, enjoy travel, or undertake volunteer work. This might involve a temporary change to employees’ contracts to let them stay engaged with the company and return to full-time employment renewed and refreshed, bringing valuable experience. It could be an important way to retain employees who can’t progress further up the career ladder but whose services you value.
Having established and implemented your employees’ career plans, monitor their progress and evaluate their success in achieving the desired outcomes at a formal performance review. Be prepared to change tack if things aren’t working or if situations change. Nobody benefits from sticking rigidly to a plan that is no longer viable, and maintaining flexibility is crucial.
If your employees believe that you’re taking a genuine interest in their personal development, they’re more likely to feel valued, enjoy greater job satisfaction, and remain committed to the company and its success.