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In a recent report, Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup said, “The single best activity for any team leader to deliver is not employee satisfaction, but rather employee development.”

The same report also found that for employees to be engaged at work, four needs must be met:

  1. Basic needs: “I have everything I need to do my job.”

  2. Individual needs: “I feel cared about by my peers and I have the opportunity to do good work.”

  3. Teamwork needs: “People value my opinions and I feel connected to our company mission.”

  4. Growth needs: “Someone has talked to me about my progress, I feel like I have a path in this company and I have opportunities to learn and grow.”

Ultimately, if you’re not investing in your employees, you’re actively disengaging them. This means that they’ll show up less excited about the work they’re doing and become less productive as a result. As Clifton said, developing your team is the best thing you can do as a leader to keep your team happy and engaged with their work.

Remember though, investing in your team goes beyond providing them with an education budget. It can be anything from ongoing coaching to a simple message saying, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that you did a really great job on that last campaign!”

Employee investment should be treated as an ongoing process that never ends.

In this article, we’ll walk through some ways in which you can start investing in your team today, including:

  • Education budgets.

  • Ongoing coaching.

  • Creating opportunities for them to do meaningful work.

  • Proper onboarding.

Let’s get started!

Key benefits of investing in your employees.

Employees are the heart and soul of any company. They are your brand ambassadors, the ones who evolve the product and overall, they’ll attract the future employees who join your organization. Investing in your team is one of the best ways to grow as a business.

Happy employees lead to happy customers.

To be customer-centric, you need to first be employee-centric. When your team feels cared for, respected, supported, heard and happy, it becomes easy and natural to pass on those behaviours when interacting with customers. As a result, you’ll not only have brand advocates internally but also externally as customers as well.

An engaged workforce is a productive one.

Studies show that engaged teams are 17% more productive than those who are not. When your team shows up engaged, they’re excited to show up to work and are more motivated to do great work; They show up.

Turnover rate is reduced.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.6 percent of workers leave their company each month. On top of that, 60% of Millennials would consider leaving their jobs if they didn’t feel engaged at work. With engagement and growth tied closely together, it’s important that you’re continuously investing in your team. Otherwise, you’ll incur employee turnover costs, including:

  • Recruitment costs.

  • Decreased productivity and morale on the team.

  • Cost of training and onboarding a new employee.

When employees are engaged and feel like their growth is being invested in, they’re more likely to stay; You’ll reduce your turnover cost as an added bonus.

The more you invest in your employees, the better your team (and company) will be.

This point is plain and simple. Companies that develop their employees are able to build up a more skilled workforce within their organization, which can have a massive impact on the business. When you continue to level-up your employees, not only will they be more committed to doing great work, they’ll have the knowledge and skills needed to do it better and faster. Win-win.

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Ways to invest in your employees.

So, you’re sold. Investing in your employees is great for everyone. But, how do you do it?

Offer an education budget.

A recent Accenture report found that 61% of workers would trade their work-related data for more customized learning and development opportunities. As a manager, you can provide suggestions to tailored opportunities for learning for each individual on your team. That’s where an education budget comes in.

If you haven’t already, consider including an education budget in your employee benefits package. Each individual on your team learns differently. Some will find great value in conferences while others prefer buying books to read. The point is, they’ll be able to use that budget to access different ways of growing and bringing that new knowledge back to the workplace.

For example, GitLab offers each of its employees $500 USD to spend on things like training courses. They outline the process of how to go about getting a course approved, expensed and reimbursed.

Have one-on-ones regularly.

A report by Soapbox found that 75% of managers discuss growth and development during one-on-ones. Considering that Gallup correlated fulfilling growth needs with engagement, it’s clear that this is an extremely important conversation for managers to continuously have with each direct report.

When you spend time during one-on-ones to discuss growth and development, you’re actively investing in your employee because you’re using valuable time to:

  • Discuss how a direct report is feeling about their role.

  • Understand how a direct report would like to progress within the organization.

  • Learn about what excites them at work, including the projects they would love to be involved in, colleagues they would like to learn more from and so much more.

If you’re not sure how to start having growth and development discussions, try adding any of these one-on-one questions to your meeting agenda:

  • What’s something you’d like to focus on more next quarter?

  • Who in the company would you like to learn from? What do you want to learn?

  • Where do you see yourself within the team in the next year?

  • What resources can I or the company provide that would help you excel further in your role?

  • If you could improve one skill between this meeting and the next, which would you choose?

  • How would you like to use your education budget this year?

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Create opportunities to do meaningful work.

During one-on-ones, you’ll be able to get a better understanding of what work excites each individual on your team. You’ll learn about the projects they’d like to be more involved in, where they’re hoping to be in 12 months’ time and use that information to provide them with opportunities to do meaningful work. Not to mention, doing so will help retain your employees.

Meaningful work can come in many forms, including:

  • The opportunity to work on or lead a project that you’re extremely passionate about.

  • Feeling like the work you’re doing has a positive impact on the business (you’re moving the needle.)

  • Having the opportunity to share feedback that others actually listen to.

  • Trying out a different role in the same organization that might be a better fit for your skills and interests.

For example, Hootsuite has a “stretch program” which is an initiative that gives employees the opportunity to spend 20% of their working time in a different role. Although it’s not necessarily a step up the ladder, lateral movements still give employees the opportunity to learn and develop (which is what they want!).

Set them up for success before their first day.

BambooHR research showed that employees who felt their onboarding experience was effective were over 29 times more likely to feel satisfied with their jobs. On the flip side, a Harvard Business Review study found that nearly 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first 6 months, a lot of which is because of a poor onboarding experience.

Onboarding doesn’t start on a new employee’s first day. Rather, it starts from the second they accept your job offer (and even before). Things you should consider when it comes to onboarding:

  1. Create a formal onboarding plan.

  2. Understand what your new hire needs to be successful.

  3. Begin onboarding during the recruitment process.

  4. Plan the onboarding process with key stakeholders, including the new hire’s manager, team, HR and any other individuals they’ll be working closely with.

  5. Make the best impression on day one. Give them the bells and whistles.

  6. Use the first week to share everything about your culture, like wine and cheese nights, book clubs, etc.

  7. Make it easy for them to meet their new coworkers and build meaningful relationships too.

Continue to check in with your new hire every couple of days to ensure that they’re comfortable, settling in and feeling energized to tackle what’s ahead.

Wrapping up.

The single best activity for any team leader to deliver is not employee satisfaction, but rather employee development.

Jim Clifton, Gallup Chairman and CEO

There are so many ways to invest in your team, what’s important is that you start doing it today. You’ll have a happier and more productive team as a result.

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The advice we share on our blog is intended to be informational. It does not replace the expertise of accredited business professionals.