Here is an excerpt from an article written by Margaret Rogers for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.
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We’re in the middle of a work revolution. Globalization and the rise of artificial intelligence, paired with a new generation of consumers who desire more personal, intuitive brand experiences, are forcing companies to rethink their approach to talent management and acquisition. Workers with capabilities that allow them to keep up with this pace of change — such as adaptability, technological literacy, and people-management — are now in steep demand. But today’s employers are struggling to keep them on board.
Promises of cushy perks and pay are often used to compete for top talent. Still, when you consider the cost of employee turnover — $600 billion in 2018 and $680 billion by 2020 — this extravagance seems counterintuitive. A Work Institute report predicted that one in four workers would leave their jobs in 2018. Nearly one-third of that turnover was attributed to unsupportive management and a lack of development opportunities.
The most obvious solution to upping employee retention, then, is creating more effective training and development programs. However, I hear from business leaders every day who struggle to achieve their goals despite having elaborate programs in place. The main issue here is that many of these programs aren’t designed with the user, or the employee, in mind.
A large swath of my career has been focused on user-centered design principles — placing the user top of mind to ensure success and understanding. The same mindset applies to effective employee development.
While training is often necessary when teaching people new skills, it’s only the first step toward a more distant end. In my experience, the most impactful development happens not through formal programs, but smaller moments that occur within the workplace: on-the-job learning opportunities that are wholeheartedly catered to the worker’s unique needs and challenges.
It might seem impossible to offer every employee this kind of personalized training, but any company can do so at scale when managers create a learning environment. Here’s how.
[The first recommendation]
1) Start by asking more questions to gain insights on employees. Empathy and understanding are fundamental principles of user-centered design. Just like a business must understand what its customers need to produce the most useful products, managers must understand what their employees need to give them ideal learning opportunities. Asking questions is the best way to do this.
Start by scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with each team member. In addition to using this time to check in on their current projects, ask them what skills they’re most comfortable with and which they would like to develop. Inquire about areas that feel especially challenging.
Here are a few examples you can use to kick-start that process:
• What parts of your job are most interesting and rewarding?
• What areas are you finding most challenging right now?
• What are you doing to reach short- and long-term career goals?
• Are there any other projects, committees, or additional responsibilities you would like to be a part of?
• Is there anything else you’re curious about that you haven’t been able to explore yet?
In these meetings, practice active listening and try to come from a place of genuine curiosity rather than judgment. This means leaving your laptop closed and taking notes the old-fashioned way. It’s also helpful to repeat what employees say during meetings in your own words to ensure you are fully understanding their insights.
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Here is a direct link to the complete article.