Developing efforts move employees forward

Kelly Murphy

Waking up on Jan. 2, I doubt any of us dreamed we’d face the environment we face today, the challenges facing businesses in particular and society as a whole.

We’ve faced serious health risks before. And any time people interact, conflicts can arise. Recent events have made it clear, though, of the necessity to realign and readdress these problems. We must give our work forces the tools and resources to not only function in a pandemic, but also treat people with respect and dignity. We must set an example by checking our own biases to truly understand where others come from. We must realize those who disagree with us aren’t inherently wrong or evil. Their perceptions are based on different histories, experiences and backgrounds.

How do we give employees the tools to move forward? We train them, cultivate an inclusive environment, listen and model behaviors.

We think of investing in employees in terms of purchasing the right desks, software or equipment to increase their success. Do we ever stop to think of other resources employees might need? Perhaps we need to provide some active listening training. Or maybe teaching skills to prevent perceived harassment would de-escalate emotionally charged situations. We must be willing to invest in developing the so-called soft skills of employees. In doing so, we demonstrate to employees they’re not just human capital, but also valuable contributors to the success of our operations.

The benefits of investing in professional development for employees include increased morale, confidence and productivity along with decreased risk of harassment.

Each industry has its own training requirements — construction and occupational safety, for example. But other core development programs also should be offered, including those covering conflict management and resolution, diversity and team building and harassment prevention.

Many workplaces look differently now than they did in January. Even before the onset of the pandemic, we faced challenges in gathering team members for training. Now we face even more difficult challenges. But we’ve also learned to use resources more efficiently. The same holds true for developing work forces. We have to get creative.

Some of the ways in which organizations have succeeded in this endeavor include:

Video conferencing. This allows for staff training in different locations, but also questions and interaction among participants.

Web-based training. This isn’t as personal as face-to-face training, but still requires interaction depending on the system.  Employees can access this at their convenience as long as they’re paid for the time it takes to complete the training.

Standard operating procedure manuals. This is a great time to have long-term employees write down their wisdom to pass on to new hires and transfer this knowledge.

Job description reviews. This is also a great time to ensure job descriptions reflect the actual tasks performed and have conversations with your employees about their duties.

Business owners and managers must strike a balance between available resources and training their work forces. But owners and managers who invest in employees signal to them they trust them to continue to grow and develop.

Consider this quote: “What if we invest in our people and they leave? What if we don’t and they stay?”