In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, we are lucky to have a plethora of talented employees and candidates. The local market’s abundance of talent means businesses need to offer more than a comparable salary to stay competitive. And even after you’ve recruited superstars to your company, how do you keep them happy and engaged?
Creating a program that invests in your employees and offers training to your best and brightest can help keep them on your payroll for years to come. We asked our Vice President of Talent Development Michael Shipman for his advice on how for small- and medium-sized business owners can help their employees progress and develop.
Why is building talent important?
When unemployment is low, employers must be creative in what benefits they offer to recruit and retain employees. While competitive pay and working conditions are table stakes, having a solidified plan in place for training and career development is an attractive benefit that can set you apart from other small- and medium-sized businesses. Everyone wants to learn how to be a successful leader, so offering the support necessary to gain that skill can be a huge draw.
An important byproduct of these types of programs is that they can reinforce your business’ culture. It’s important to know that culture is not and cannot be created overnight. It takes years to cultivate and develop. By supporting leaders within your organization, you can create ambassadors with a tremendous amount of influence. This helps build a good culture rooted in your company’s values.
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How should this program be structured?
First, it’s necessary to identify your top performers. There are a number of ways that you can do this, including a nine-box talent assessment that shows how an employee performs in terms of goal achievement and potential moving forward.
Regardless of your method of assessment, the most important element is to codify your criteria and methods. A repeatable process is necessary to not only ensure that the process is equally applied and underrepresented groups are not adversely impacted. It will also help as you grow and expand.
Many managers tend to spend the majority of their time focusing on low-performing employees and leave the high-performing ones to their own devices. Michael believes this is a huge mistake. Similarly, he thinks that evenly distributing any talent development funds among all employees is misguided. Instead, spend time, and funds if available, to nurture the top performers and help them advance in their career. Think of training and skill-development as a reward for a job well-done.
After identifying your top talent, you can start to create a program to support their growth. Successful programs offer a mix of methods for teaching employees.
“If you think about a person’s development time in percentages, it’s typical to think a person should spend 70 percent of their time in trainings, 20 percent in a class or reading a book about a topic, and 10 percent on experiences related to whatever skill they are trying to develop. But this is wrong,” says Michael. “In fact, it should be flipped. Research has shown that most adults learn best through experiences, so an effective program should focus most of its time giving employees experiences, like an exercise or project, from which they can grow.”
Let your best employees take the reins on a task where they can learn, such as a technical integration or customer negotiation. By offering opportunities to sharpen or strengthen skills, you let that employee prepare for a larger role within the company.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Experiences are a vital, practical and cost-effective way to develop and nurture talent in top employees.
What resources are needed?
Offering experiences that expand or hone skill sets can cost no money at all and is the best way to develop employees. There are a number of options that employers can take advantage of to help in this arena. If you have a budget for talent development, there are programs at colleges or universities and training firms that can be utilized to help employees learn valuable skills.
Rockland Trust, for example, uses a nonprofit training provider, the Gestalt International Study Center, to help develop leaders and individual contributors. We also offer refresher courses for alumni of the program to help hone skills and solve business issues.
Regardless of budget, it’s important to recognize your employees for their good, hard work. “We believe in a simple retention formula here at Rockland Trust: treat people with care and respect. Everyone wants to hear the same things from their manager: ‘thank you; good work; I appreciate your effort,’” explains Michael. “Care, respect and acknowledgement are key to creating an environment where talented, loyal employees want to come to work.”
At Rockland Trust, we know that running a small- or medium-sized business often means you’re wearing many hats. Our Learning Center offers helpful tips and resources for business owners, and our expert business bankers can help you with any financial needs.
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