Supporting employee growth and career development in 2021 is no longer considered a nice perk but rather a must-have for serious employers. 

From providing extra support to new hires to ensuring all team members have the right tools needed to soar, supporting employee growth has become a pivotal practice. 

In fact, according to a 2021 global employee survey, 76% of Gen Z employees and 61% of millennial employees believe learning is key to success in the workplace.

But what if you already have great employees and you’re unsure how to nurture their potential? Or what if you’re new to the career development game and you’re unsure where to start? 

That’s what this quick article is here for. 

Let’s take a look at four things you can do right away to foster employee growth and career development in 2021. 

1. Create an ongoing training program

Creating an ongoing training program is the first step to actively supporting employee development. 

The problem? It’s common for workplaces to start a training program and never finish. It’s also common for workplaces to only conduct training for new employees. 

But training is only as good as the system set up to administer it. 

In other words, having a training program and training schedule in place is vital for long-term success. 

Think your organization doesn’t have the time, money, or resources to implement ongoing training? Think again.

In 2020, the average U.S. company spent $1,111 on training per employee. The cost of replacing an employee? One-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.

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If these numbers tell us anything, it’s that organizations can’t afford to put learning and development initiatives on the back burner.

Professionals in technical positions like mechanics, aircraft maintenance techs, and even Airbnb SEO specialists require ongoing training to ensure that their skills are up to date. 

In the same way, other industries should also ensure that the technical skills of their employees are constantly being developed. 

Training class ideas for any industry 

Wondering where to focus your training program? The following training class ideas apply to virtually any industry:

  • Communication classes to help employees learn how to communicate effectively and engage in meaningful conversations with clients, managers, coworkers, and stakeholders 
  • Mental fitness classes to share important coping tools, stress management solutions, and positive mental health practices 
  • Emotional intelligence classes to teach emotional regulation and how to work with emotions instead of against them
  • Career-specific training to nurture career-specific skills and specialized niche training, for example nursing programs or other technical career development programs.
  • Creative problem solving and critical thinking classes to discover how to solve problems and pivot when necessary 
  • Leadership and management classes to nurture leadership and management skills any employee can use to help teams grow
  • New hire training and mentorship classes to ensure new hires have all the resources needed to thrive in their new roles

Here are a few more tips to ensure your training program is a success:

  • When administering classes, consider using a learning management system (LMS) to track completed classes, test scores (if any), and important notes
  • Create a company training calendar all employees can easily access 
  • Create individualized learning solutions — such as offering more niche classes and flexible learning options, plus meeting with employees to craft individualized training
  • Integrate positive feedback, recognition, and rewards as a regular practice
  • Use plenty of visuals such as training videos, images, and screenshots to reinforce important ideas

2. Share open educational resources 

Open educational resources (OERs) are online resources students, employees, or anyone can use to learn new topics. From business management resources to language learning resources, OERs have it all. 

Open educational resources usually come in the form of online platforms, search engines, or learning hubs. Their search engines spit out lecture notes and study guides (unlike Google and other search engines, which spit out highly ranked search result pages). 

If an employee is looking for a quick answer to a career-related question, Google is still the way to go. But if an employee wants to do a deep dive into a specific topic, OERs are an effective solution.

Here are some ways you can encourage employees to use OERs:

  • Reward employees with travel points, giftcards, or the ability to earn more vacation time any time they take initiative to learn a new topic
  • Host a training seminar showing employees a list of available OERs and how to use them effectively 
  • Create a list of suggested or recommended topics employees can learn when using OERs  
  • Allot a certain amount of paid work hours (per week or month) that employees can use to learn new topics on the clock

3. Ensure employees have the best tools

If you’ve ever worked at a company that didn’t have important employee resources or tools, you know how debilitating it can feel to not have what you need to do your job well. 

All the training in the world won’t help your employees grow if they don’t have the tools to put that training to use. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some digital and physical tools your employees may need to thrive at work.

Helpful digital tools your employees may need include:

  • A workspace/task management platform to manage, complete, and submit tasks
  • A communication platform to call, video conference, or send messages to colleagues, clients, and/or stakeholders
  • An online calendar to organize work events, work commitments, training, and weekly schedules 
  • A document processor to write, edit, manage, and send important documents 
  • A VPN service and password manager to protect your employee’s privacy and reduce cybersecurity risks at work
  • Virus protection software to prevent online viruses and viruses on hardware
  • LinkedIn email finding software to build new business relationships
  • Contract management software to manage, send, receive, and sign important contracts 

Helpful physical tools your employees may need:

  • A private or shared physical workspace such as a computer or laptop, spacious desk, and a comfortable, ergonomic chair
  • Healthy drinks and snacks such as water, organic coffee and tea, fresh fruit, and granola bars (if working remotely, consider offering a stipend for healthy snacks)
  • Office tools like a printer, fax machine, copy machine, filing folders, stationery, stamps, etc. (if working remotely, consider offering a stipend for office tools)
  • A dedicated rest area such as a relaxation space, employee lounge, or outdoor garden (if working remotely, consider offering a stipend for massages or a gym membership)

In addition, you’ll need to secure your team and company data with cloud technology like a data center.

4. Meet with each employee to create a career development plan 

To give employees a future to look forward to, it’s imperative that you design a career development plan they’re happy with. 

It may seem daunting to meet with each employee individually — especially if you have a large company — but not doing so can wreak havoc on employee retention. In the same way that you would invest time getting to know a partner in a relationship, learning about your employees and their ambitions is essential to effective career development plans. 

Before meeting with each employee, make sure you have a clear picture of what you can offer them as they progress.

Employees want to know:

  • If they have a future at your organization and what that future looks like
  • If they’ll have diversity of work
  • If one day they’ll have a say in how the company operates/how the company can improve 
  • If they’ll have opportunities to earn raises and promotions regularly
  • How staying at the company will affect their overall bottom line and individual autonomy
  • What partnership and stock ownership opportunities they’ll have long-term
  • What kind of perks, monetary gifts, travel opportunities, retirement plans, and benefits they can look forward to as they progress through the company

Still worried you don’t have the time to meet with each employee? Work with your human resources department, hire a dedicated career development manager, or hire a professional employer organization (PEO) to do it for you. Just be sure to hand over any information they may need in order to conduct the career development meeting as successfully as possible. 

Wrap up 

Supporting employee growth and career development in 2021 is no longer a nice-to-have but rather a key strategy for serious employers. 

An investment in development initiatives isn’t just an investment in your employees. It’s an investment in your company’s future.

By creating an ongoing training program, sharing OERs, ensuring employees have the best tools, and creating personalized career development plans, your company will be on its way to becoming the best possible version of itself.