HOW TO NAIL PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

If you want to motivate your employees, give them a chance for professional growth.

We’re all more excited and engaged when there’s something tangible to work toward. Plus, it lets employees know the organization is invested in them and wants them to stick around.

Creating a company culture that encourages professional development is tough. Sometimes the speedbumps along the way can seem insurmountable. But you can make it happen with a determined, empathetic approach.

Let’s say you have a cashier — someone who stands out as a hard-working, passionate individual. They could make a great manager: they buy into the company philosophy, are a brand advocate, and help motivate coworkers every day. But the same skills that make them a stand-out hourly employee don’t always translate to more supervisory roles.

It seems easier to bring in an outside manager, someone with experience in the soft skills a managerial position requires, than promote from within. Unfortunately, that’d undo a lot of the work you’ve put in towards building a culture of growth and development.

Start training that cashier. Expect their mistakes. Encourage them taking small risks regardless. Foster their curiosity.

The more trust and confidence that builds, the more learning and developing happens.

The insider term for this is psychological safety. It’s an impressive-sounding word. All it means, though, is that people feel comfortable taking moderate risks, that they know taking a chance won’t hurt them professionally or personally.

Google’s Project Aristotle can show us a few ways to craft a culture that encourages healthy risk-taking. What they found wasn’t super disruptive—implementing these techniques is where dogged empathy comes into play—but rather a reaffirmation of what we intuitively know: approach training creatively, provide employees the tools to succeed, and be supportive.

A shot of Wisetail doing company wide training workshop.

Encourage learners to take small risks, and foster their creativity

 

One way you can do this is by presenting training in a variety of ways. We know there are all kinds of different learners—visual, auditory, reading, and kinesthetic. Soft skills are hard to grasp. They can seem like abstract ideals, apart from actual workplace situations.

By teaching an employee how to deliver constructive feedback through a video, checklist, quiz, or roleplay, you’re giving them the opportunity to work through the concepts multiple times in multiple ways. That helps learners internalize the information and absorb core skills.

Connor and clients sharing feedback is an example of professional growth.

Provide ongoing resources and feedback.

 

Even the best managers come across situations they don’t know how to navigate. It’s important for them to have a coworker or network to provide feedback and assistance.

Similarly, training your new managers on soft skills isn’t as easy as giving them the initial materials and stepping away. You must provide a way for them to ask for guidance or suggestions if they feel they’ve mishandled an interaction.

Whether through a discussion board for managers in training, or an FAQ page filled with best practices, this resource helps them continue to develop those soft skills.

Bjorn and Rachael sharing comments before a meeting, an example of workplace community.

Cultivate a sense of community.

 

Learning to manage and communicate with a team doesn’t come naturally to everyone. It can be tricky to read a variety of personalities and customize feedback for each person. By making new managers feel like part of a larger group working through the same issues together, and that the whole company stands behind them, you’re facilitating an environment of support.

You can do this through creating a safe environment where new managers feel they can ask honest questions that they might otherwise keep to themselves out of fear of being ridiculed or hurting their chance at further opportunity.

ANNE MOTLOW

Lead Business Development