Employee development is one of the most overlooked and underutilized aspects of management and leadership, yet it can be one of the most valuable.

It’s not just employees that see development training as a hassle—most managers also are unwilling to put the necessary time into the process, and the result is frustration on the part of employees, and even more importantly, a loss of top talent.

Employee engagement is key to effective training.

Forbes recently covered this very topic, and writer Victor Lipman gave his reasons why he thinks employee development is ignored or undervalued by most people within an organization.

His reasons included the following:

  • Businesses tend to be focused on the present moment, versus the long-term future. This is often because of a lack of resources and the constant changes that are happening—they just don’t feel they have the ability to look toward the future of their business and their employees when there’s so much going on during the day-to-day.
  • Development training often means ineffective, time-consuming and bureaucratic exercises with little real value for employees or managers. Lipman points out that during his time in the corporate management world, these development exercises were overly complex, took up a lot of time, and were rarely seen as little more than something that had to be completed—certainly not something to take value from or to utilize in the real world.
  • A lack of time became a frequent excuse for not taking part in development exercises. Lipman says this was just an excuse used by people within an organization, but if there was some sort of valuable takeaway seen in employee development, the time issue wouldn’t be so salient.

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Despite the reasons used against employee development, Lipman goes on to lay out the value he sees in it. Some of his reasons he says it “makes good business sense” include the fact employees appreciate employers who take a real and vested interest in their future.

This means that as a corporate leader or manager, when you take the time to dedicate to an environment that fosters professional development, you’re going to be rewarded with employees that are more loyal and more satisfied. He also says that the employees worth having—the individuals who are talented and dedicated—are going to appreciate the opportunity to grow and acquire new skills that will help them advance in their career.

Now, with that being said, how do you create an environment in your organization that lends itself to employee development?

  1. Employee development needs to be focused on just that—the employees. Managers and leaders should take the time to understand where their employees will benefit most from development. Get to know your employees, understand their talents, and learn where there are gaps in that talent. Only then can you begin developing your eLearning, rather than trying to develop content that’s only focused on your own goals and interests.
  2. Create development eLearning that speaks to individual styles of learning. eLearning is extremely valuable for doing this, because of the level of versatility it provides, so take advantage. As Lipman pointed out, one of the biggest hurdles to professional development is the sense that it’s time-consuming and essentially useless. Tackle these hurdles by using videos, scenarios and simulations to keep information brief, concise and relevant, and use tools like mobile eLearning to ensure students can learn at their own pace, on their own time and in a way they see as convenient.
  3. Use eLearning to foster an environment and culture of collaboration amongst employees. Employees are more likely to be engaged in professional development if there are opportunities for sharing, exploring new ideas and working together toward common goals. Also, along with including collaborative components in your eLearning, encourage a constant environment of growth and development by ensuring your employees feel comfortable coming to you with new ideas and resources. One good way to tie this in with your eLearning is by including social components where employees can easily share the newest articles, blog posts and research from your industry with other employees and leaders.

Professional development should be seen as a top priority for managers and employees alike. While there is a focus on the high levels of unemployment in the U.S., corporate leaders are consistently speaking out about what they see as a lack of good talent.

By nurturing talent through the provision of professional development, particularly in the form of eLearning, managers are likely to see more satisfied employees, which in turn means more productivity, less turnover and a more successful overall organization.

Photo by Mimi Thian