Lifecycle Mastery: Sustain Engagement With Training, Career Development

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Mar 3, 2017

This is part four of a six part look at how employers can master the talent lifecycle in a way that will help build a high performing workforce. Today’s post examines employee development. Previous posts are listed at the end of this article.


Employers want to sustain company growth, but they are often plagued by disengagement. Gallup’s report found that 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged at work. The simple fact is in order for companies to continue to grow and stay competitive, they need to prioritize employee engagement.

When your employees aren’t enthusiastic about their work, they will not reach their optimum level of productivity. However, when they are, magic happens. In fact, according to the Gallup report, companies with highly engaged workers outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share.

The fourth stage of the talent lifecycle is the perfect time to maintain and improve upon your employees’ initial engagement they experience during onboarding. Training and development shouldn’t feel like an obligation or boring formality. It needs to be exciting for the employee and the employer alike.

Here are some tips for training and developing your talent in a meaningful, effective way.

Set goals with employees

Goal setting should be collaborative. You want to engage your talent with the vision they have for their future with the company. Show them the overarching organizational goals again, then emphasize how they fit into that.

For example, if your plan is to expand your sales department in three to five years, explain how you’ll need a larger management team to oversee the expansion and growth of sales. Make suggestions to gauge what route they’re interested in.

Their goals need to be SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Perhaps they want to pursue a sales director position. When they see how they fit into the company’s expansion plans, they will feel more engaged and motivated to learn and grow.

Ask them to submit a list of professional goals. When management knows about each employee’s goals, they can evaluate what tools and training might be necessary to help everyone reach their goals. More importantly, they can share them with the entire team.

Transparency shows everyone how their individual efforts contribute to the collective goal. When someone falls short, you can identify who needs the necessary coaching and education to hit their targets. Shared goals promote a more encouraging and united workplace.

Identify the gaps

Look for the gaps in where they are now and what they need to do to achieve their goals. There are four kinds of gaps to identify during the employee development stage.

First of all, performance gaps are often discovered when you provide ongoing performance evaluations. When you schedule one-on-one meetings with employees regularly, assess their performance in real time, adjust expectations, and apply training and coaching proactively when you need an employee to make improvements. Also, compare employees to top performers so they can see how they should be performing and behaving.

Growth gaps are found during career planning. Compare their current skills and knowledge with the skills and knowledge they’ll need for their target role.

Similarly, employees will want to know what goals they must achieve in order to close the opportunity gap. Offer employees a variety of development opportunities and show them how they can apply what they learn to several new roles. This way, they’re ready to take advantage when future positions open up.

Training gaps highlight where employers and employees can set clearly defined goals in areas of competencies, skills, and knowledge. When you can define the gaps in training, you’re ready to establish an action plan.

Create an action plan

Once you have your target for each employee, you can help them set action plans. Break long-term goals into short-term, smaller scale goals.

Then, assign tasks and create steps for each goal. It’s important to be realistic and proactive, so provide them with a list of potential obstacles they may encounter. This way, you can help them prepare by offering solutions in case they actually occur.

For example, if a marketing specialist wants to become a creative director, he may have issues gaining management experience. A solution would be for him to suggest to his employer that he wants to start a task force to build an in-office library of resources to support his team of marketing specialists. This library can include digital media, books, training courses, and other educational materials.

The benefits for the employee are two-fold: first of all, he’s showing initiative and proving that he’s passionate about his work. Second, he’s gaining leadership experience by guiding a group of passionate colleagues in improving their marketing department.

Provide ongoing support

Employee development is not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. Your talent deserves encouragement and support throughout their development. Recognize their accomplishments, and offer them advice on staying on track and pushing through challenges.

Encourage everyone to be accountable to others. Assign accountability partners or mentors. Bottom line: people need to be held accountable.

A 2015 Dominican University of California study found that 70% of the 149 participants from across the world who sent weekly updates to friends reported successful goal achievement, compared to 35% of those who kept their goals to themselves without writing them down. This is why it’s important to stay involved throughout the employee development stage.

Check in consistently, and encourage them to write out their goals. You can even suggest that they take the athletes’ approach and start practicing visualization.

Improving employee engagement is vital to the success of your entire company, and the employee development stage of the talent lifecycle is where you can create a development strategy for your employees that is fun, effective, and motivational. When you have all the right pieces, you can continue to engage and inspire your talent through the next two stages — performance management and succession planning.

Other parts in this series:


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