by Kes Thygesen, cofounder and head of product at RolePoint
Offering professional development is more than just a trending topic in the world of recruiting. It’s one of the most influential aspects a company offers. The 2014 Global Workforce Study by Towers Watson found that career advancement opportunities are among the top driving forces for employees, according to over 32,000 respondents.
A lot of companies tend to offer online courses and other resources to keep their team learning, but employees want something more personal. They want to go beyond impersonal digital platforms and learn and grow through more personal development opportunities, such as mentorships and interactive learning retreats.
And most companies remain out of touch with their engagement programs—98% of CEOs only look at annual employee engagement surveys once a year and do not discuss it with their employees, according to a December 2015 Motivosity survey that sampled 357 of the Inc. 5000 list.
Employee engagement is crucial in the development program. Here’s how you can improve employee engagement in personal ways:
Create a professional development program that involves mentors and allows employees to engage with others. Establish a mentorship committee to oversee the entire program and start strategizing. Market it to your staff and encourage people to sign up for it.
For those who are interested, assign them mentors—who should be senior level employees or tenured leaders. They will create a personalized action plan to guide employees to reach their own professional goals.
Mentors offer first-hand knowledge, which is more impactful than online resources. It adds a human element to training. Personalized action plans and mentorships can give employers a better idea of employees’ skills and unique abilities. Knowing each person’s strengths helps management with project assignments so they can align employees with tasks that best utilize their competencies.
Host Interactive Training
Training needs to be fun and interactive. If it isn’t and employee engagement falls, the course or seminar will not have much of an impact.
To make the most out of professional development, create courses that combine multiple teaching methods. Examples include classroom style lectures, discussions and seminars, as well as hands-on training in the line of work. The training regimen should be diverse so participants can retain new information.
Lectures and slideshow presentations are fine for conveying important information, but you need to allow them to put that information into action. For example, after hosting a class on lead nurturing, put the participants in the trenches and supervise and guide how they apply their new knowledge to creating client relationships.
Team building games can be fun and productive too. When social games are involved, people develop a better rapport and start to trust each other. You want a strong bond among your workers. When they all step out of their comfort zones together and loosen up a bit, they create a special feeling of togetherness.
Gamification creates some friendly competitive spirit as it involves multiple employees and presents visual aids like leaderboards and graphs in real time. These act as incentives because employees want to perform at their best.
Implement gamification into training programs. You can create teams and design interactive Amazing Race style events that send participants off to destinations inside and outside the office. It should involve educational clues and routes that encourage collaboration.
Post a “game center” in the office, where employees can see updates to the competition and actively pursue more educational activities. This could be a physical leaderboard or a map that indicates the progress of each team along the training journey.
Ask for Employee Feedback
Make sure your employees are getting the most out of their training. Look at surveys on a regular basis to gauge how they are enjoying it and measure the effectiveness of the program.
A 2015 survey by Waggl Human Capital Pulse found that 97% of business leaders, HR leaders, and consultants of the 500,000 interviewed believe listening to their employees and incorporating their ideas is critical to an organization’s success.
Feedback is a must, which is why creating a transparent culture is the best way to fully understand what your employees think. You can’t improve a professional development program if you don’t know what needs to be improved upon.
Ask specific questions, and encourage ongoing feedback. Employees should know they are being heard and they can provide advice and share their opinion about their training experience.
How are you creating a more personal employee engagement experience?
Kes Thygesen is the co-founder and head of product at RolePoint, a company focused on employee referrals, internal talent mobility, and creating seamless ATS connectivity. Connect with him and RolePoint on LinkedIn and Twitter.