Practical Leadership

5 Simple Ways to Develop Your Employees–And Why You Should

Dallas Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, right, shares a shovel with coach Tom Landry at the ground breaking of the Cowboys practice facility in Irving, Tex., In this Nov. 30, 1983 file photo. Schramm died at his Dallas home Tuesday, July 15, 2003. He was 83. (AP Photo/File)
Dallas Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, right, shares a shovel with coach Tom Landry at the ground breaking of the Cowboys practice facility in Irving, Tex., In this Nov. 30, 1983 file photo. Schramm died at his Dallas home Tuesday, July 15, 2003. He was 83. (AP Photo/File)

Ask any HR professional and they’ll tell you how recruiting quality people and then developing them is much more a cost effective business model than constantly seeking the perfect match. When Tom Landry and Tex Schramm led the Dallas Cowboys, they rarely recruited players for a particular positions. They went looking for the best athlete they could find, believing they could place that man where the team needed him and developing him as a member of the team. That same philosophy of recruiting and developing the best people, not the best skills, works in business, too.

If you recruit quality people, and then put the effort into developing them, your business will thrive and your people will thrive. When leaders commit to the betterment of their people, most often the people return that commitment with their loyalty and effort. Some companies do employee development better than others, and some of the bigger names are well known: Google, Amazon, and others. The Air Force also does a great job of developing Airmen…there are formal training programs, incentives for education, and a commitment to physical fitness.

But what about small companies? Here are 5 simple ways small companies can develop their employees.

Take Advantage of Professional Societies’ Programs

Many industry groups have education programs through their monthly meetings and regional/national conferences. For small businesses, these are cost effective venues to get employees training or continuing education credits.  Professional societies like the Society of American Military Engineers and local Chambers of Commerce offer free lunch and learn programs, webinars, and conferences that supply continuing education credits, as well as development programs. Hey, everyone has to eat lunch, right? Make that time work for you!

Partner with Local Colleges

Many state colleges and universities have extension services or institutes as part of their system where your employees can get certifications and training at low cost. By working with the local college or a professor in your industry, small business owners can sometimes tailor course material. Faculty are often hungry for interaction with the industry they teach in, and will welcome your collaboration. Institutions will see a low cost option for local employees as a way to attract more students. Done well, industry-academy collaboration is a win-win.

Allow Time Off for Employees to Work on Advanced Education

Of course, your business is your business but often the temporary “pain” of having an employee out of the workplace more is offset with a significant gain once that employee returns full time. In addition to your employees’ own personal self-satisfaction and growth, the additional skills they’ll learn in getting their college degrees are valuable to you as an employer. Even if the degree is the unrelated to your business, simply going through the process of getting a degree helps employees think broader about the business.  Lastly, whether you give time off or not, don’t forget to celebrate employee academic and vocational training graduations–and give a perk or two for success. They’re part of your team and their success is your success.

Hire Veterans and Encourage Them to Use their Benefits.

Military veterans enter the civilian workforce with considerable skills, but they also enter with great benefits that also benefit you as an employer. The GI Bill, access to military facilities, and health care are just some of the advantages veterans have and should use. Encouraging your veterans to use their benefits is good for you as a company, because the DoD and VA will always be able to outspend you when it comes to benefits. Further, and more to the point, if a veteran needs help of almost any sort, there are people who are ready and able to help in a way your veteran specifically needs.

Host Brown Bag Seminars

“Brown bag” seminars where employees can engage in learning on the job is good for the entire team. The topics should vary from direct work related subjects to anything of interest to your team. The best brown bag programs rotate leadership among the team so everyone gets a chance to develop and present a program. Leading a program builds confidence and develops planning skills from your employees.

Spending leadership effort to consciously develop your employees, even if you’re a small company, has a great return on investment. It’s something successful companies know and practice!

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