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The Olympics are so inspiring, aren’t they?  The years of training, the personal sacrifices by the athletes and coaches, their determination to succeed – all culminate towards that one epic moment when they (hopefully) take the center stage at the Olympics.

In business we need to take a similar approach to train and develop our top talent.

The world around training and development has changed dramatically.  The methods employed twenty years ago do not work well in the social, always-on, networked world of business we now live in.  Similar to an athlete, professionals today are engaged in a global competition. In order for your company to strike gold in today’s extremely competitive environment, you need to give your employees Olympic-level attention when it comes to professional training and development.

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Let’s have a look at some tips that will help you train and develop your top talent:

  1. Train employees on the company vision, concept, culture and message

Don’t limit your training methods to the specific knowledge a position requires.  Train your employees on what your company stands for; company culture, mission, values, goals, and everything in between.  As a result of this knowledge, your employees won’t just be acting as worker bees.  They will grow with a deeper understanding of their importance to the overall company and be a better representative of the brand.

  1. Take away the fear of failure

Most leaders will have had their fair share of memorable flops along the way. Share these with your employees.  Share how you made mistakes, how you learned to mitigate risks, how you dealt with the uncertainty, and how you succeeded.  Let them see your decision process and how you weighed pros and cons.  Everyone in your company knows what success is.  It’s the highlights of your resume such as increased revenues, decreased costs, completion of a major project.   Very few know what a smart failure is.  These are the types of failures that should be congratulated. These are the thoughtful and well planned projects that for some reason didn’t work.  Define them so your employees know the acceptable boundaries within which to fail.  If you don’t define them, all failure looks risky and it will kill creativity and innovation.

  1. Cross-train

Depending on the size of your company, you may need your employees to step into multiple roles. Cross-training is the way to make sure your employees are more likely to take initiative in times of need by performing tasks they may not otherwise have been trained for.  Over a period of time, their job may entail taking on extra responsibilities which only benefits them and the company in the long run.  Cross training employees is a very smart thing to do for many reasons.  Sickness and holidays are factors that have to be considered in any company.  If any person was sick or on holiday and could not come into work, is there someone else who could do their job?  It doesn’t necessarily have to be their whole job but there are often duties that must be carried out daily, regardless of who’s absent or how under-manned the office is at the time.  Teaching employees new skills renews their interest in their own job and how it fits within the structure of the organization.

  1. Coaching

Clearly describe why something needs to change.  Answering the “why” question is a key motivator.  It gives meaning to our work.  Be proactive by answering the fundamental four questions employees ask, whether or not you actually hear them:

  • Where are we going? (Strategy)

  • What are we doing to get there? (Plans)

  • What can I do to contribute? (Roles)

  • What is in it for me? (Rewards)

Communicate high expectations for your employees and show faith in their abilities to perform highly.  Coaching highlights what people can readily achieve, given the right support.  Work on building a strong relationship with your employees.  Set up regular one-on-one meetings to develop a relationship where you both have the opportunity to share your ideas. suggests that coaching requires a continuous effort to make it a part of your management practices.

  1. Pair new employees with high performers

The benefit of pairing your high performers with your less experienced employees gives less experienced employees the value of feedback, insight and support, while receiving wisdom and institutional knowledge.

  1. Assign a stretch goal

Assign a goal that takes an employee just beyond their comfort zone and challenges them to try something new or different, as well as acquire new skills and experience.  The simple truth is that employees need to know that their work matters, and that what they do each day will make a difference.  One of the key ways they come to understand this is by seeing their work in a larger context.  Organizational goals define and specify the desired business results, so employees have a greater “cause” to commit to, and a context for their work.  This helps employees feel part of a team and helps them see the larger impact of their work.  Without organizational goals, employees are “just doing their job”; they know and understand their small work environment, but have little knowledge of the larger organization.  Their motivation will therefore likely be limited to pleasing their manager, maintaining good relationships with their peers, or even “collecting their paycheck”.  In any of these scenarios, your organization is missing out.  JobDig says; the most challenging project pushes your limits and tests your skills. Seeking and committing to a “stretch goal” is a risk – one that is not only well worth taking in terms of the personal opportunity to grow, but absolutely necessary if you are committed to breaking away from the pack.

  1. Encourage leadership

The ultimate task of an exemplary leader is to develop more exemplary leaders.  Therefore, the right plan for employee training and development aims to build future leaders who can influence many others in positive ways.  Encouraging people to take leadership roles, lead by example, and raise their leadership lid should be on the top of the list of employee training and development for any organization that wants to reach a world-class standing.

  1. Continuous learning

Training and development opportunities should not be reserved for new employees.  In order to maintain a staff of trained and well-integrated employees, it’s critical to promote continuous learning throughout their careers.  There are always new things for professionals to learn and the rate of change in the business world demands new skills, fresh perspectives and new ideas.  Training events and online courses can be utilized to ensure that your employees are continually learning and improving.  Lunch and Learn can be a simple way to accomplish this.  One person can present on a subject they’re interested in, a cause they care about or a side project they’re working.  It can be more than a weekly perk to look forward to, it’s an important statement about the values you share as a company and the environment we try to cultivate.

Building your gold medal team doesn’t happen by chance, it takes a concentrated effort to hire, train and develop exceptional top talent.  The Olympics only come around every four years, but you and your team need to be at the top of your game all year round.

How prepared are you to meet the challenges of today’s competitive global arena?  When the dust settles will your team be standing at the podium clutching the gold?