Employee development is something that most people imagine as intrusive all-day group training sessions. Unfortunately, this dreaded approach to employee development is just the opposite of how employee development should occur and feel to employees. Employee development can manifest itself in many forms of training, evaluations, educational programs, and even feedback. If executed correctly, the effects of training on employee performance can often encourage growth within the worker and the organization itself.
Employee Development’s “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy”
One of the larger aspects of developing employee’s skills and abilities is the actual organizational focus on the employee to become better, either as a person or as a contributor to the organization. The attention by the organization coupled with increased expectations following the opportunity can lead to a self-fulling prophecy of enhanced output by the employee. According to Organizational Behavior by Robert Kreitner and Angelo Kiniki, it’s been shown that employees that receive regular, scheduled feedback, including training, along with an increase in expectations, actually have a higher level of worker output. Kreitner and Kiniki refer to this as the “Pygmalion Effect.”
Employee Development Equals Decreased Operational Costs
The hope is that employees who receive training in line with their individual or organizational goals will become more efficient in what they do. Organizations should look at the positive effects of training on employee performance, and consider employee development as a targeted investment into making the front line worker stronger. More importantly, development plans that include “train-the-trainer” (training that trains employees to become trainers of a skill) can provide exponential benefits to the organization. This training can be anything from how employees can do their own jobs better to these employees being groomed to replace their supervisor. In addition, employees who are invested as a trainer might be further inclined to stay with the organization, and possibly reduce employee turnover.
Perceived Benefits of Employee Development
Along with supporting the organization, employees might recognize that most types of employee development provide them benefits. Employee development programs that range from certifications to education reimbursement, to even basic job skills training, have a certain cost to the organization that can easily be considered a benefit to the employee. Such awareness on the part of the employee can also lead to greater loyalty to the organization as well as enhanced job satisfaction. Training and education that can be added to the employees resume are big ticket items in terms of compensation plans, and should be treated as such.
Employee Development Limits Organization Liability
Most HR professional would agree that limiting organizational liability when training employees is a very important aspect of employee development. Certain jobs require training and certifications in order for an employee to successfully execute the minimum job requirements related to their position. The proper documentation of employee development before or during the employee’s completion of their job can not only help follow and develop training, but also limit liability in the case of human error on the part of these employees.
An example of how documented employee training could be helpful would be if a stockroom employee were assigned the position of forklift operator. Obviously, the organization would be expected to put this employee through all necessary training to ensure the employee can both operate the equipment and do so in accordance with any applicable policies and regulations. (Also, to the previous point about benefits, this forklift operation knowledge would then be a skill that this employee would benefit from listing on their resume.) In a worse case scenario, if the employee is involved in an accident that damages objects and/or other employees and this unfortunate event subsequently leads to a lawsuit, development records are absolutely vital in showing that the employer provided everything needed for employee success. Although employee training documentation will almost never completely protect an employer from legal liabilities, training and certifications can hopefully reduce legal costs and reputation damage for the organization.
Changing Goals and Objectives
Beyond employee training and certification courses, evaluations and counseling sessions are another form of employee development. They provide performance feedback and allow employees to be apprised of changes to both their work goals and the overall objectives of the organization. Employees who do not receive feedback on a regular basis usually end up feeling as though they might be forgotten by their supervisor, and this pattern may even lead to feelings of dissent among the workforce. Going back to the Pygmalion Effect, employees who have consistent knowledge of their levels of performance, and who feel that their supervisors are placing expectations on them, generally perform better on an individual basis. Another positive effect of consistent employee feedback is that is help limit organizational liability in case that the employee needs to be discharged.
Be Specific and Consistent with Employee Development
Employee development should be tailored to the individual employee and address all aspects of their job position. Training should be focused on developing current and future skill sets as they apply to the individual’s basic job requirements. The training should also allow for the widening of the skill set to include the possibility of cross functional training.
As a follow up, employee reviews should be scheduled and done as needed. Documentation and clear communication are vital when providing professional feedback to employees. Performance appraisals should include both assessments of the employee’s abilities, as well as plans for the employee to increase their performance if it is found lacking. Employee development plans, when tailored correctly and executed in accordance with the individual and organizational needs, can significantly increase the efficiency of the worker, and dramatically decrease any associated costs that may be generated by the employee.
Donald Nickels, M.A.
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