In the last year, there has been a dramatic shift in the world of work. We have moved away from the Great Resignation and the candidate-driven job market towards a time of great organisational uncertainty and anxiety, says Melissa Paris.
The possibility of a recession looms ever closer and news of mass redundancies continues to make headlines week after week. With tight budgets and an uncertain economic outlook, employers are trying to find ways to retain talent and boost performance.
Luckily, even amidst the turmoil and uncertainty, there is one constant that is highly sought after by employees: development. As today’s employees are sceptical of what the future will bring, many want to invest in themselves and their skills now in order to remain employed and stay on track toward their overarching career goals. For this reason, professional development can help solve many of the challenges businesses face in getting engagement and performance right — even during tough times.
Development benefits businesses in many ways, but it’s especially critical for improving performance and engagement. In this article, we share the problems facing many modern employers and explain how development can help your business get performance and development right.
How development supercharges engagement
Problem: An ineffective employee development strategy
Culture Amp’s Culture Lab data shows that development is the number two driver of employee engagement, and companies that focus on L&D have employees that are 14.6 percentage points more engaged than those who don’t. But while that’s a compelling argument to invest in development, not many companies go about it the right way.
Many organisations conduct regular engagement surveys, but do not know where to start when it comes to improving engagement. That often pushes the onus of maintaining engagement and boosting retention onto managers, which can lead to inconsistent results and inequitable experiences for employees. That’s where taking a personalized approach to development comes in. When your business provides clear growth opportunities, empowers employees to own their development, and helps managers support employee career aspirations at scale, you can successfully and sustainably increase engagement.
Train managers to be career coaches
Companies with managers who show an interest in their direct report’s career aspirations have employees that are 15.6 percentage points more engaged, according to Culture Lab data. Conversely, the same data shows that when a manager doesn’t show interest in their career, direct reports are 43 percent more likely to leave. With scalable, built-in support and training, your managers can gain the resources and knowledge they need to have high-quality career conversations with direct reports, help employees set clear and personalised development goals, and coach them along the way.
Help employees take charge of their own development
At the same time, employees should not have to wait for their managers to start investing in their growth. An effective employee development tool offers employees opportunities for continuous learning, adaptable and easy-to-access plans, helpful reminders, and measurable goals. This empowers your employees to take ownership of their own development each and every day. When employees create personalized development plans (in partnership with their manager), they can picture a motivating future at your company — which in turn helps your business increase retention and engagement.
Use engagement results to pinpoint development needs
Engagement surveys can (and should) fuel your employee development strategy. Use the results from your latest survey to diagnose which employee groups may need more growth and development support. Maybe early career folks would benefit from a mentorship program or additional on-the-job training. Or, perhaps your new managers crave guidance on how to be effective team leaders. Whatever your findings may be, let them influence how and where your business invests in development.
Your business can then gather new survey data to check how employee attitudes towards development changed after any updates to your L&D strategy. These insights allow your organization to measure the impact of your changes while continuing to track and address longer-term employee development trends.
How development boosts performance
Problem: Employees do not understand what is expected of them
Today’s competitive hiring market paired with the rising cost of attrition and low productivity has left many HR professionals looking to improve internal performance and mobility. One way to avoid the expenses associated with hiring new employees and maintaining the performance of current employees is to invest in development. But often, employees lack a clear understanding of what’s expected of them and how their role can evolve in the future. For development to work, employees need to know explicitly what success looks like for their role, as well as what they need to do to be successful both today and in the future. That way, they can deliver on what’s expected of them, invest in their own development, and improve their performance.
Separate performance and development conversations
By separating development and performance conversations, your business ensures that employee development has its own dedicated space. This gives your employees and managers time to look back and reflect on performance, before planning for the future and identifying development opportunities. In fact, splitting these two conversations is proven to improve the quality of both conversations and increase employee motivation.
Help employees build on strengths and improve areas of opportunity
Once performance reviews are complete, your employees can use the feedback they received to craft personal development goals. These goals give employees the opportunity to continue advancing existing strengths, as well as work towards improving areas of opportunity. Together, these development goals push your employees to grow professionally and become more well-rounded individuals. They not only help advance your employees’ careers but also allow your business to grow talent from within and benefit from increased employee performance.
Melissa Paris is the EMEA Regional Director of People Science at Culture Amp.
Melissa Paris is the EMEA Regional Director of People Science at Culture Amp. She leads the team of People Scientists that enable clients to collect, understand, and act on employee feedback through technology and evidence-based psychology practices.
Prior to Culture Amp, Melissa led both consulting and research and development teams, specialising in the areas of psychometric design and validation, motivation at work, and organisational transformation. She has a BSc of Psychological Science from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (USA) and an MSc of Organisational Psychology from City University London (UK).
Melissa regularly speaks and writes on the topics of company culture, employee feedback, and managing workplace culture through change and transformation.