A lot of small businesses struggle with employee development. If you train people and they leave, it hurts. If you don’t train them and they stay, it hurts even more!
When thinking about employee development, ask yourself this one question: Does my organization consistently contribute to the growth of its people in a manner that leads to positive results for them and the company?
An effective employee development program has four key steps.
1. Evaluation // First, you are going to need to know three things: where your team is now, where you want them to be, and where are the gaps.
Start with an accurate assessment of your current reality. The evaluation phase should include self-assessment by the participants; a 360-degree assessment by peers, managers, subordinates and clients; and an objective assessment by a third-party consultant or online evaluation tool.
Once you have an accurate picture of your team, you can begin to benchmark them against top performers and identify the training needs.
2. Impact Training // The next phase is quick-hitting training for the immediate impact of baseline knowledge. Typically, this is a boot-camp-style training where you can get everyone on the same page very quickly. It can be virtual, live instructor-led or even a recorded online course, but the goals are the same.
You will want your team to become aware of your new expectations and build the foundations of knowledge that will help them to learn and execute the desired behavior.
Impact training is great for short-term motivation, building consensus, and communicating best practices and processes. This step is normally the first 60-90 days of the training program.
3. Reinforcement // Impact training rarely creates lasting success. For that, you are going to need to practice what you preached in kicking off the training.
It is time for your participants to apply the strategy and tactics, and challenge the current status quo. This phase is the most crucial because it is where the participants must reach outside of their comfort zones to try something different—and then keep trying until it becomes a new habit.
This step also usually requires some coaching from a leader because participants will have lots of questions and challenges as they implement new habits or processes for the first time.
Reinforcement is the key to any training taking hold. It is never-ending because lasting results require lifelong learning, but a solid reinforcement plan will have curriculums lasting 18 months to three years.
4. Accountability // The final step involves coaching and accountability. For participants to move from application of new concepts to ownership and mastery of them, they are going to need help.
Managers, trainers and peer accountability partners play a crucial role in helping participants stay on track. Usually, two or more accountability partners yield the best results, like a manager and a peer. These partners can meet in person, by phone or via web conference; the important part is maintaining good communication and the new habits you have worked so hard to instill.
The accountability phase should begin right after the impact training—and it should never end.
Repeating the Cycle
The path to mastery never ends, and neither should employee development. Once you have completed all four steps, it will be time to start back over at evaluation. Look at your progress, set new benchmarks, and critique what is working and what is not.
Invest the time, money and resources to design an effective training process with evaluation, impact, reinforcement and accountability for your team. It is the only way to create long-term change and improve the performance of your organization.