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How Employee Development Can Help your Organization Now and in the Future – and Why it Shouldn’t be Sacrificed Even in a Challenging Economy

With budgets tight, companies are looking for “nonessential” things to cut. Don’t make the mistake of thinking employees development is expendable. Investing in employees by giving them the resources they need to develop professionally will help boost business now and outshine the competition when the economy turns around.

Employee development is important in any economic climate, but is even more so in challenging times. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to keep your employees engaged and motivated, particularly if you can’t afford raises or bonuses. Helping employees advance their careers is meaningful to them and has a positive affect on the organization and your customers or clients. Skilled employees boost the functioning of the entire organization and increase customer satisfaction. Especially in difficult times, workplaces need their top performers.

Also, you can bet your competitors are establishing a platform for the future by enhancing their capabilities. Your task is to create your own differentiators.

Employee development doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Try these three tips to keep your staff ahead of the game and passionate about the continuing success of your organization.

Set big-picture goals and a strategy
What exactly does your business do best (and most profitably) and how can you maximize those differentiators? It’s nearly impossible to develop your workforce if you don’t know where their efforts should be directed. The first step is to align employee development with strategic and financial business goals and objectives. By knowing where you are and where you plan to be in six months, a year or five years, you can build the staff you need now and for the future.

Nurture your home-grown talent
This is a win-win for everyone. Existing employees know the business and the market. Start with an-depth assessment of who is in what roles, their skills and the potential benefits of training and professional development. Look for people who are versatile, flexible and skilled at problem-solving. Cross-training and new responsibilities are great ways to maximize productivity.

Then talk to selected employees about their goals and aspirations. The more engaged employees have probably given a great deal of through to their futures and would love the opportunity to enlist you as a partner in achieving those goals.

Equally important, be on the lookout for internal mentors, coaches and teachers.

There is one caveat, however. Loading up people with additional work can create burnout. Look for opportunities to shift work around or even consider a few strategic hires. Budgets are tight, of course, but lots of talented people are looking for work right now. Contingent workers may also be helpful as you move staff into higher-level roles.

Invest in classes, workshops and other structured learning opportunities 
Continuing development options are plentiful and many are priced competitively. Option include sending employees to classes or seminars; investing on online courses or webinars; bringing specialized trainers in-house, or tapping employees to share specific skills and knowledge with co-workers.

Keep in mind that training and development companies are facing economic challenges of their own and may be flexible about pricing or how many people they will train under a specific program. Also, following some common-sense guidelines, such as reducing travel and catering costs, can make training more cost-effective.

Ultimately, bad times do turn around. When caution and fear is swept away by more favorable conditions, you want to be sure your team can immediately lead your company to the next stage. Untrained, demoralized employees can’t do that. The most powerful competitors will be organizations that have devised and executed a strategic plan and invested in their employee. Those organizations will have solidified their hold on existing markets and will be able to capture the new opportunities that are sure to arise.

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