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What Are You Doing to Nurture Your Most Valuable Asset?

Anna Johansson
Anna Johansson

Employee development is critical to the success of your business.

It's often said that a business is only as good as its employees. Because your staff is one of your company's most valuable assets, it's wise for employers and managers to provide numerous avenues for their employees to enhance their talents, learn new skills and earn promotions.

To provide such opportunities for your staff, it's helpful to establish a system of metrics for employee evaluation and development.

What is employee development?

Employee development is a focus on fostering employees' professional skills that are useful in a variety of higher-level roles. Often, when supervisors identify employees to develop, their goal is to prepare them for promotions, particularly managerial roles.

What is an employee development program?

An employee development program is a set of training sessions, individual lessons and other learning opportunities intended to foster the desired skills in employees. You can create an employee development plan by outlining your company goals, determining what your employees want to learn, exploring learning opportunities and arranging everything into an ordered, logical plan.

What are employee development metrics?

There are seven metrics that are vital to enhancing the skills of your employees and providing them ways to maximize their career potential:

1. High-potential talent

This metric begins before employees are hired. During interviews, you should evaluate candidates on their desire to get promoted in the company and their future potential.

Do they elicit trust? Do they care about what they're doing? Find out if they're flexible with their time and what they can devote to the business. These are important steps and questions to consider while narrowing down candidates. Measure the effectiveness of your hiring process to discover what methods work and what practices may not be as effective.

2. Training and development

Businesses spend a great deal of time and money on employee training. Having cost-effective training programs can save money, but managers should also ensure their training programs produce results.

Examine what's spent on internal and external courses, travel and technical equipment. Look at the time spent on training, what topics are covered and who's getting trained. Formulate methods to evaluate your training-and-development programs, and consider both the return on investment and the return on expectation. Use both quantitative and qualitative methods of evaluation, and get insight into the effectiveness of your training programs by measuring attendance at classes and following up with participants.

3. Engagement

Employees who feel that they play an important role in the company tend to be happier and more productive. They need to know that their contributions matter and that they are noticed and appreciated.

Employees who feel connected to your company are less likely to seek employment elsewhere, while disengaged staff are more likely to communicate negativity to co-workers and miss time from work. You can measure employee engagement via surveys and focus groups. For example, SurveyMonkey provides employee satisfaction surveys.

4. Employee efficiency

Employee efficiency can be measured both objectively and subjectively. An objective view might entail looking at the number of units produced or sold, but that doesn't always tell the whole story. You can evaluate subjective aspects by looking at interactions with co-workers and customers. Conducting in-depth evaluations of team members can help measure the effectiveness of each employee.

5. Individual goals

Having individual goals can provide a great amount of insight into the effectiveness of your staff development program. Goals should be realistic and within the range of the employee's specific strengths. Employees who regularly meet their goals can help you identify team members with the potential for leadership positions.

Give positive feedback and constructive criticism as the individual is working to complete the goal. Observing an employee during this time can provide subjective information about their desire to improve their work performance.

The best time to evaluate individual goals is during a quarterly review. This should be a casual one-on-one meeting where the manager and employee discuss the employee's accomplishments and weaknesses.

6. Peer review

Peer review can be an excellent way to show the effectiveness of employee development programs. Interviews of co-workers can provide a more accurate review of a worker's attitude, work habits and commitment to teamwork. Peers can give honest assessments of other employees, as they are the ones who work together every day.

7.  Task completion vs. hours worked

Many employees are paid by the hour, which emphasizes the time needed to complete a project. Others focus more on the task at hand, the value of the work and the level of performance. Both methods can be effective. You can measure the development of both types of workers by setting specific benchmarks leading to the completed task.

Assessing performance for these metrics

It can be very helpful to establish metrics for your employees, but only if you hold them responsible for those metrics and evaluate your staff regularly. Here are some questions to ask when developing performance metrics, according to the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education:

  • What is the quality of the metric?
  • Can the metric be measured objectively?
  • Does the metric emphasize efficiency and effectiveness?
  • Is the data collected by the metric fit for analysis and statistical review?
  • Does the metric meet industry standards and other applicable standards?
  • Do all parties involved agree on the specific details of the metric?
  • Does the metric include milestones to determine qualitative criteria?

What are the benefits of employee development?

There are numerous reasons you should invest time and money in developing your employees:

1. A stronger team

A team with more knowledge and skills is stronger across the board. A well-educated team will have fewer questions for you, not to mention an ability to work more independently. Plus, your employees will make fewer mistakes.

2. Higher earnings

Employee improvement leads to increased revenue: A 2017 study from CSO Insights found that for sales executives, employee development led to significantly more earnings.

3. Increased adaptability

At some point or another, your employees will likely face new challenges. With more skills and knowledge under their belts, they'll be better equipped to face and overcome these challenges. If you have invested in employee development, your staff may even be able to conquer challenges with minimal assistance from supervisors.

4. More independence

Not all employees respond well to micromanagement, and not all supervisors enjoy being micromanagers. Employee development programs can equip employees with the knowledge and skills they need to perform without you constantly looking over their shoulders. This frees you all from the burden of micromanagement while increasing your team's independence.

5. Higher employee retention

When you empower your employees to bolster their professional skills, they become more qualified for higher-level positions. If you create new positions, or if a higher-level employee leaves your company, you can retain employees who have been developed by promoting them to these roles. Yes, you might have to hire someone to fill the employee's former role, but you've retained the employee – and that's how you know your employee development investments have paid off.

6. Increased employee morale

Even without promotions on the table, employee morale may increase following development programs. That's because these programs signal to employees that you care about their education, and with the investments you've made in that education, you've followed through on those commitments.

7. Network building

Often, employee development programs include mentoring and coaching. These programs may connect employees with qualified people in your organization, and sometimes, they link your team with thought leaders and industry innovators outside your company. As these external relationships develop, your company's reputation might grow in tandem. So too might its ability to access potential new clients and resources that might otherwise be off-limits. 

Additional reporting by Max Freedman.

Image Credit: ijeab / Getty Images
Anna Johansson
Anna Johansson,
business.com Writer
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Anna is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, HuffingtonPost.com and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends.