4 strategies to professionally develop your employees

Over the past two years, isolation and rapid change have created a climate of upheaval that shifted our priorities, including our employee experience goals. Our strategic vision was displaced in favor of priorities that are lower tiers on our hierarchy of needs—security and physical and mental health. After these priorities came perfecting the remote work process.

As the chaos subsides, we need to get back to purposefully shaping our company’s future. We need to return our focus to developing future leaders and cultivating diversity at every level with the organization. Right now, leaders have an opportunity to make real change, informed by what powering through an urgent time has taught us.

A new generation of leaders distinguished themselves by working productively under demanding circumstances. We need to harness and elevate their skills before we lose those talents to our competitors. Elevating talent is a top priority as we move out of crisis mode and into strategy mode. This is our opportunity to reimagine employee experience to create the workplace the future demands.

Make your workplace a learning community

People need space to learn, absorb, and take charge of their career and individual development. Providing this seeds a deeper sense of professional self-awareness, a better understanding of role responsibilities, and a basis for personalized goal-setting.

It’s impossible, though, to contemplate those big-picture dimensions of professional skills advancement and career evolution when your days are too busy. We learned this over the past two years when everyone has been living and working with a sense of urgency. It has been challenging to prioritize each day, let alone have the time to network and focus on employee development.

Creating an employee learning community designates space for a growth mindset. Engage employees by inviting them to build networks and to learn beyond their teams and managers. These may include a more informal group of team members or indirect managers. Networks and learning communities bring a unique perspective on critical breakthroughs and deliverables.

It may include a more transient or informal group of stakeholders, peers, team members, or indirect managers. It creates an ongoing exchange of information and a two-way dialogue with an employee’s most trusted colleagues. This creates a richer employee experience. Employees are learning and enriching themselves, which leads to productivity, satisfaction, and better outcomes all around.

Build hubs for networking

It’s difficult to network remotely. It takes new employees longer to feel like they know their colleagues because they don’t physically meet. Everyone is still learning how to interact from home: Can I have an informal chat with a colleague? Can I ask them to share their time with me by asking them to mentor me?

Asking colleagues for advice or support now feels like a cold call. After all, when they’re done with their professional obligations for the day, they can sign off and be with their family. This leaves their colleagues wondering: wouldn’t they rather do that than mentor me?

In a remote environment, there are fewer opportunities to meet colleagues in person and to expand one’s network at conferences and industry events. One of the most fundamental ways to build these muscles is to practice. To foster this, give your team internal networking opportunities.

Last year, my company launched a mentoring program, which helps employees keep those muscles strong. Exchanging tips and best practices is a worthwhile professional development initiative. This is an endurance race, and it helps to have a robust support network.

Think long-term on diversity

Diverse leadership teams need to be part of a company’s so-called “long game.” As leaders, we can only create a culture of belonging for our employees when we have a diverse leadership team.

To put it simple: Employees can’t thrive if they feel like they don’t belong. Employees need a comfortable climate, a network, and the knowledge that the leadership team is a destination for everyone. A company cannot feel like an exclusive club for only insiders.

Therefore, before leaders can expect their teams to feel safe and engaged, they need to work on themselves. Create an employee experience program that mindfully addresses diversity on your leadership team. It’s only when your leadership team is diverse can you begin building a larger culture of belonging.

Commit to mentorship mediums

Mentor relationships support developing talent and inspires quality performance while providing a structured path for development. That means providing a safe place for exploration, experimentation, and risk. Development is best accomplished within a supportive community.

Having no opportunities to engage with senior leaders is a barrier. Again, to keep talent and develop diverse employees into future leaders, give them opportunities to know and learn from leaders.

Lack of career support and mentorship is another obstacle. Commit to your team members, especially underrepresented employees. Develop and support their professional and leadership goals. These can be your future leaders and mentors.

Employees need development support now. They all need a jump start to strengthen their network and establish mentoring relationships, but your diverse professionals need additional support, especially those who have been newly hired. Keep pulling them into the fold. Keep assuring them of their value now and in your company’s future. Help them feel a part of the organization by making sure they feel a sense of connection and belonging.

Leaders, invest in your people at every turn—they truly are your most worthy investment.

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