Aligning employee development

The world is full of opinions on what skills and qualities are vital for the modern workforce. This is great for giving you ideas and pointing you towards important talents you might not have consider. But how can you make sure that you’re following the right advice for you and your employees?

Thinking about skills

There’s a lot of talk about skill gaps in the workforce and lists of the skill gaps that employers should be filling. These can drawing attention to important skills – for example, are you training your employees to work in a digital and social media environment, where communication is instant, personal and potentially viral?

But all of these lists look at skills in general terms – what is missing across the broad sweep of business – and not everything in them is likely to apply to you. Perhaps your employees are already well trained in the latest approaches to marketing, or perhaps you have a gap in legal analysis that others don’t face.

So instead of leaping aboard and training employees in the latest must-have skills, take inspiration from these lists and look at where your own gaps lie.

Thinking about values

The same thing applies to attitudes and behavior. This article by Mark Feldman highlights five qualities that he thinks we should encourage in all employees. They are undoubtedly positive values, and ones that many businesses would benefit from encouraging, but does that mean that they should be priorities for everyone?

There’s a limit to how much you can shape your employees, given their personalities and your resources. Every time you work on developing one quality you are missing an opportunity to develop others. So when looking at articles that challenge you to encourage particular qualities, attitudes or behaviors in your employees, ask yourself whether those qualities are priorities for you.

This comes down to values. For some companies politeness and punctuality are central to the workplace culture and the brand. For others innovation and novelty may be more important, and so flexibility of time and behavior will be given to foster a creative atmosphere. What matters is that you identify the gaps in your own stated values and in the values you encourage in your employees, and that you look for ways to develop across those gaps.

Thinking about you

With so much advice out there on useful skills and values to foster, there’s a risk of taking a scattergun approach. Maybe you look at your IT department and decide that they should be better at customer service. Then you look at finance and decide that you need to encourage hardheaded pragmatism. Soon you end up with something disjointed, something that bears no relationship to the business you want to run.

So how do you ensure that the skills and values you encourage tie together?

By making sure that they are aligned with your business. What are your strategic goals? What is your brand identity? What sort of company do you want to be? And how does your development of individual employees feed into this?

This should govern not just the external advice that you take on board, but also the requests that you listen to from within your company. Your sales team might think that they will make more sales if they train in the latest hard selling techniques. But is that in line with your friendly, cozy brand?

Think about what skills and values not only support but also encourage the sort of business that you are trying to run. Use these as a filter when identifying development gaps, and so make sure that your staff development is properly aligned with your organization.