4 Steps to Developing Your Employees’ Talent

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This article is taken from the Build Your Queue podcast below, Season 2 Episode 18 with Wade Hinton, VP of Global Inclusion and Diversity for Unum.

The success of any business comes down to its team being driven toward a common goal. But how do you bring out the best in your people so both they and your business can prosper?

To bring the best out of your employees, you’ll need to start by asking:

  • How can you identify the employees who have room to grow?
  • What programs can you use to help them develop?
  • How do you create a culture that nurtures employee development?
  • What can you do to help employees who struggle to stay engaged?

We’ll help you answer these questions, so you can discover your teammates’ hidden superpowers to better both your business and themselves. Keep reading, or listen to the full audio in the player above.

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1. How can you identify the employees who have potential to grow?

The only way to discover your teammates’ hidden superpowers is to get to know them better. Find ways to consistently engage with your employees, so they’re comfortable discussing their strengths and weaknesses with you.

How can you do that?

Popular choices include:

  • Mentoring
  • Setting employees up for lunch with a company leader
  • Regular 1:1 meetings, where you talk more than just performance

Businesses that emphasize making time for open communications like these see a 20% to 25% increase in worker productivity.

What would a 25% increase in productivity mean for your team?

Delivering in your current role will also determine how open your team is with you. It’s tempting to focus on future opportunities, but doing your best where you are will resonate more with your team. Be transparent about working through your own current strengths and weaknesses, and follow through on any commitments you make.

This will make you more approachable, and employees who feel like their supervisor are approachable and invested in mutual success are significantly more engaged and willing to continue developing in their work.

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2. What programs can you use to help employees develop?

You’ll need tools, programs, and opportunities that you can direct your employees to once they identify areas they want to grow in.

These could include:

  • Upcoming educational or industry conferences
  • Local boards they can run for
  • Online courses

LinkedIn Learning is a great all in one place for digital courses, while your local Chamber of Commerce can serve as a solid resource for in-person developmental events and opportunities.

You can also have in house developmental programs, like:

  • Job and task rotations
  • Shadowing
  • Group workshops

Group workshops can be particularly beneficial for developing employees because it gives them a chance to interact with their peers and become more rooted into your business. It can also greatly benefit your company when the project created from a group workshop becomes usable. For instance, when one member of your team is able to teach another a skill.

3. How do you create a culture that nurtures employee development?

Employees will only continuously look for ways to improve within your company when they feel they’re valued by the rest of their team and their work has an impact. Your goal is to create that environment for them.

Regular one-on-ones will help with this, but you also need to invite public movements for employees to share their accomplishments to the rest of the team.

Include time in your company meetings for departments to share things they recently accomplished, or have digital spaces where employees can post their small victories.

Our own team has a Slack channel called “smallvictory” where employees are encouraged to post their accomplishments, so the entire team can see how their work is positively affecting the company.

Humble brags like these can feel more natural for employees when you create friendly competitions or offer company-wide rewards for meeting certain goals or milestones. That way your team has a clear vision of how their accomplishments align with the rest of your business and there’s an ongoing invitation to share their progress.

It’s also good to give public nods to your team for doing good things. All Hands calls, where everyone listens and a handful of people speak, give those who are normally too humble to brag on themselves a chance to shine through team leaders.

Doing these things regularly helps you create a culture of celebration that motivates your team to do more and be better.

4. What can you do to help employees who struggle to stay engaged?

Employees get discouraged when they’re not reaching their true potential and will eventually move on to another business if the situation doesn’t change.

The question is, should you encourage them to keep trying, or recognize that their role isn’t a good fit for them? Sometimes that's on the employee, but it's up to you to turn over every stone to help.

Depending on how you respond the employee will either:

1. Choose to leave

2. Choose to stay, but mentally check out

3. Commit to finding a solution

You want option number three (recruiting and training are really expensive), and the only way you can reach it is to fully understand how you can help your burnt out employee.

So start by asking them:

  • Is this role giving you enough sense of purpose?
  • Do we need to readjust your workload?
  • Do they need a mentor to help push you through?
  • Did they receive enough training to be successful in their role?
  • Do they need more tasks that align with their passion?

Questions like these will help you determine whether the situation is something you can adjust and they’ll recover from, or if their role is fundamentally not right for them.

It’s only natural for employees to be excited when they first start, but then slowly enter a dip where they get lost in their daily grind. Your job is to prepare for this by keeping an open line of communication, so you can jump in and do what’s best for your employee and the business.

The more you show you’re willing to help your employee through open communication, the more likely you are to successfully retain them while ensuring they’re still engaged with their work.

Follow through on what they say they need, and have weekly checkups to gauge if the changes are working.

Develop your own talent alongside your employees’.

Part of being a good leader is appreciating that you don’t know all the answers and that there may be times when you get things wrong.

But you’re not alone in looking for ways to bring out the best in your team. In fact, being open to developing yourself as leader will inevitably encourage your team to follow suit.

Get advice from other successful leaders, and ask your team for feedback on your ideas.

Related: [Podcast] 4 Ways to Use Onboarding to Create Company Advocates