The best talent is eager to develop and improve. The best companies support and benefit from this development. There are many ways, big and small, to support learning and development. The important
thing is to make it a priority and recognize learning is an ongoing process, not an event.
A few tips to make L&D stick:
- Start from the top: leaders must set the expectation and constantly reinforce. Employees need to hear and see their leaders’ encouragement. Consider some flavor of self-development as a
- Give support, not just permission: managers should encourage their reports to pursue L&D opportunities and, as necessary, make space in their workloads for activities that benefit the
larger org. Per Linda Tong, GM of AppDynamics: “people need time to learn which can be done through courses, coaching, conferences, etc. Whether that is via a “no meeting day” or through hack
weeks, it’s important to give teams the space to grow.”
- Provide tools and feedback: be clear about the resources available and encourage creative new approaches. Make it part of regular employee reviews and onboarding. Recognize individuals
for their efforts and ask how they are applying their new skills.
- Connect it to the big picture: l recognize specific examples of learning that benefited the broader organization. Celebrate the application of new knowledge and skills most.
A few approachable programs to consider:
- Mentor program: this can be simple but effective. A lot has been written on the topic so we won’t reinvent the wheel (see a few resources below).
- Online micro-learning content: there are a number of high-quality, open resources for individuals to learn business, technology and creative skills (e.g. Ted Talks or Lynda via
LinkedIn). Consider putting together a short list of sources your company endorses and/or pays for and share it with your entire org. This is an underrated avenue for professional development
which will help everyone from a customer success person who wants to upgrade their data analytics proficiency to a rising engineer who wants to polish their managerial skills.
- Professional development stipend even if just a couple hundred dollars per employee per year, this can be a cost-effective way to remove barriers and encourage individual exploration
- Business book clubs: a great way to facilitate organic “cross-training”
- Guest speakers / panels: tap into your personal network or spotlight an employee with casual Q&A over group lunch
- Trade/professional groups: promote and/or subsidize membership to well managed and active associations dedicated to building the network and knowhow of their members
- Open office hours: consider holding regular time for people to swing by your office and ask career related questions. Just be clear that this is not the time to ask about an upcoming
promotion or air grievances.
- Learning on the job: lest we forget! This would be first on the list if it were in order of importance. With regular feedback and coaching from managers, this is the original
development tool and the best of all.
Lastly, avoid the typical pitfalls of L&D programs. These programs often start with great intentions but go nowhere or worse, suck energy and breed cynicism. Remember that learning is personal and
avoid one-size-fits-all approaches. By providing multiple avenues such as the ones above and removing barriers such as cost and time capacity, you allow people to choose the path that suits them best.
And please, please don’t present dry Powerpoint monologues over lunch.
Further reading on mentor programs: