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5 Ways to Shape the Future of Employee Development When workers recognize the company's challenges as their challenges, its success as their success, its future as their future – they become true ambassadors for the business

By Tammy Perkins

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Investing in employee development seeds your business's health, success and future. Fostering the physical, emotional and intellectual space for employees to thrive is foundational. But not all approaches are created equal.

Another table stakes to healthy culture is employee learning and engagement. After all, once we've hired the best people, we want to protect our investment by motivating and developing them. Engagement requires ownership. When employees recognize the company's challenges as their challenges; its success as their success; its future as their future – they become true ambassadors for the business.

Consider these five ways to shape the future of employee development:

Activate Your Team

The future of employee development is a broader conversation around personal and professional growth for employees. It's employee-driven, mobile-first, global in nature, and highly collaborative and interactive, says Katie Burke, Chief People Officer at HubSpot.

The next generation of employee development is about activating talent; the engine of business growth. When leaders inspire employees' best work and cultivate leadership, we maximize our advantage.

Build From Within

Your team is your asset, your secret recipe for success. No one is as versed in the complexities of your business as the people who finesse its nuances daily. Listen to them. Invite them to co-build. Take chances on people by giving them opportunities to solve complex problems, devising solutions that have a real impact. Develop talent to scale with the company.

Institutionalize a spirit of innovation, and it will electrify your employees.

Jenny Dearborn, EVP of human resources at SAP advises: "Give people purpose. We spend more waking hours of our lives contributing to our company or organization than doing anything else. When we can see and feel that these efforts are worthwhile and can tie what we do to the value our employer is trying to bring to the world, we're motivated to innovate, to collaborate effectively, to make a difference and work toward meaningful goals."

Knowing that they have the opportunity to evolve reminds employees of the vital role they play—a key emotional dimension of job fit. Get leaders onboard. Dearborn recommends, "Use data and facts to prove that employees' lack of readiness for the future of work is a significant competitive disadvantage to your company."

Champion Leadership Skills

Foster an authentic culture where employees can ask the hard questions comfortably and regularly, coach leaders to invite fearless discussions, and thank employees when they have the courage to pose tough questions. This builds confidence and trust while setting the standard for cultural communication.

Leaders hold the dual role of leading teams and modeling cultural values for future leaders they shape by example. Lisa Price, EVP of human resources at Nordstrom explains: "Values help us in the interview and selection process and are then reinforced through onboarding, recognition and performance. Driving results is an important aspect of our success but just as important is how you get there. We make sure that "the how' (behaviors and values) are clear and embedded in our talent practices."

Leaders as Career Guides

Know your team. Understand their strengths. While employees are responsible for executing their own career plans, leaders can connect, support and foster opportunities. "The future of employee development is purposeful and targeted experiences (stretch assignments and rotations) and structured relationships (mentoring and coaching). Experiential development is the only thing that will cut through the clutter and noise of distraction that bombards employees in their work environment," says Dearborn.

Lead purposeful development discussions that include action items. Solidify each effort, forging time-bound plans. Encourage employees to increase self-awareness through ongoing development activities such as individual reflection and mentoring. Provide exposure to other disciplines within the company that give employees the chance to learn about various careers. Offer perspectives on building support networks at different career stages. Be persistent in measuring the impact of your results.

Leaders Develop Leaders

Give employees the spotlight and opportunity to stretch into projects that challenge and grow their confidence. Tailor each employee's experience. Make sure employees have the projects, scope and feedback that prepares them for the next level. Invest in new muscle by creating new capabilities. Shift the influence of capabilities with an increased scope.

Price explains: "Ultimately, talent will make or break an organization's ability to achieve its ambitions, so getting clear around the functional and leadership capabilities needed for the future should then help inform an employee development strategy."

Taking deliberate risks on your employees bolsters your internal and external brand; it makes your company an exciting place to work, to evolve and to stay.

Tammy Perkins

Chief People Officer, Pacific Market International

Tammy is the Chief People Officer of PMI Worldwide, where she leads Human Resources for PMI’s family of brands including Stanley and Aladdin. Prior to joining PMI, Tammy worked with major brands and startups including Amazon, Microsoft and Fjuri – leading HR and talent acquisition during periods of high growth and transformation.

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