One of the challenges of being a manager is addressing the professional development needs of your employees. Whether you’re charged up to have the chance to mentor a young professional on their way to the top or you’re dreading annual performance reviews, strategically approaching the professional development of your team has several benefits. From increasing your company’s bottom line to raising your own profile as a manager, happy employees yield tremendous rewards. Here is a framework to think about their professional development paths and your responsibilities in cultivating them.
Require they complete a self-assessment: This may or may not be part of your company’s existing review strategy, but it’s important that your employees take the time to reflect on their own performance. Ask them to consider questions such as: what are your professional goals, and how do you need to grow in your position to achieve them? What were the high points of your performance last year, and where did you fall short? If you were given a professional development budget, how would you invest in your own growth? Have them provide you with their answers in writing prior to your meeting, to give you additional perspective and ammunition for your conversation.
Set achievable goals tied to business objectives: As you define and share goals for the year ahead, think about goals that are clear and measurable. For example, “generate 20 new leads a week and close one client per day” is specific. It’s easy for your employee, and for you by extension, to know whether or not these targets are being hit. By contrast, goals such as “grow the business” and “increase profits” are ambiguous. While it’s possible to know to a certain extent if they’re being achieved, it’s more difficult to know whether they’re occurring at expectation. Also make sure that it’s possible to quantify the impact of goals on the business. This helps you measure the value that an employee generates, and helps instill a sense of purpose and focus in their work.
Don’t be afraid to make an investment: Budgets are tighter than ever, and employees have more work on their plates. It can be easy to discount the possibility of investing in professional development programs such as seminars, conferences, or even degrees. For more affordable options that are flexible on timing, consider recommending an online mba degree or other distance education program. Professional associations also offer targeted, affordable development opportunities within specific industries.
Focus on your own development: Our final recommendation is to consider pursuing opportunities that enhance your own development, from seminars on employee communication to a masters of organizational leadership. By further developing your ability to manage employees, you’ll not only strengthen your own future employment prospects but you’ll be more effective at your job. Take the time to identify your weaknesses and find opportunities that help you expand your capacity to work with a range of employees.
Managing employees’ professional development is an important part of your own growth as a manager. Approach conversations strategically, engage employees in their own reviews, set measurable goals, and be willing to invest in training where needed. Your employee retention, corporate culture and profits will reflect your efforts!