Last week I had the privilege of giving a presentation to the Small Business Council at the Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce. I discussed how an employee development system impacts the bottom line. We discussed how an employee development system impacts productivity and retention, as well as a few other benefits. During the talk, I also shared a winning strategy for employee development, which lead to a hearty dialogue. This week I am going to share some of the takeaways from that discussion about connecting with employees.
If you our your business would like to understand how employee development can impact YOUR bottom line, please contact me, and I’ll be happy to meet with your business.
Connecting with Employees
First and foremost, there is no one size fits all employee development plan. Everyone is unique with their interests, ambitions and motivations. Therefore, an employee development system should be able to produce a development plan unique to the individual.
How do you know what your employees need in a development system? Well, you have to be able to connect with them on an individual level. You must create a bond beyond the manager/employee relationship. In other words, you really need to know who your employees are as humans.
Many companies, including ASC, can help you with assessments to understand personality types, behavior profiles, and motivations. However, when you compliment these assessments with genuine human interaction you will amplify your results! Here are three techniques I have successfully used to supercharge my employee development systems over my careers.
Monthly 1:1 Meetings
I advise all leaders to have 1:1 meeting , typically for 30 minutes, with their direct reports every month. This time should be set aside each month and shouldn’t be moved. The meeting should have some structure to it, and still allow for a conversation. I recommend covering these topics:
- Any progress on development plans. If no progress why and how do you catch up?
- Challenges faced since last meeting. How did you overcome them? How can you prevent them next time?
- Anticipated challenges in the next month? Plan to deal with them?
- Any help needed? (be sure to follow through)
- Ask the employee what’s on their mind, anything they need to discuss?
Many times, people get “busy” and when they are trying to squeeze an extra 30 minutes in to their week, and these meetings are the first to get moved or cancelled. Resist the that temptation. Remember that developing the talent on your team is a primary function of a good leader.
Create a development plan for each individual employee. Determine a specific goal with action steps to get there. To be “better” at my job isn’t a development goal. To create an effective employee development plan you should set goals, one or two at the most, geared at mastering current Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or developing skills towards the next job promotion. What is most important, is your development plan should have measurable goals and actions steps.
Depending on the size of your organization, employees might have an option of several career paths in front of them, or you might be a small business with just a handful of employees. Either way developing the talent on you staff with employee development plans will help your team contribute to the success of the company (your success) with each team members unique skills. You may find some hidden talent or skill on your team that could give your business the edge over your competition!
MBWA is simply Management By Walking Around. In my discussion last week, this received the most attention. MBWA is simple. When I was doing it, I’d literally get up from my desk, walk to where my people were working (cubes, offices, labs, shop floor, wherever) and see what they were doing. I would ask about what they did, how they were doing it. I didn’t start doing this to get status on a project, or to tell them how to do their job. Then, I went to learn about them, and how they approached their jobs.
Then, I used other forums such as the 1:1 discussion or the development plans to offer advice on job improvements. Over a relatively short period of time, my team began to trust me. When I showed up, they didn’t think I was there to look over their shoulder to critique them, and they would begin to tell me about issues and problems they were having then. They’d ask for help then. Often times they actually would be glad to see me.
When I talk to leaders about MBWA, I typically get three common reactions. Let me briefly share them with you now:
- What do I talk about? Ask what they are doing, and how it’s going. Ask about their day, or their favorite sports team. The idea is to build trust. Once you have that trust, your team will open up and share more.
- How do I do this without looking like I am micromanaging? Simple, DON’T MICROMANAGE. Don’t jump in unless they are doing something unsafe, unethical, or otherwise damaging to the company. If they ask for help, help. Once the rapport and trust is there, then you can use this time to coach. If you’re new to MBWA and you start out with coaching, your employee will see you and think your there just to tell them what they are doing wrong. That is counterproductive.
- My employees don’t work directly with me, I can’t physically go see them. Personal communication is what MBWA is trying to accomplish. Call them, or better yet, video call them. Ask how they are doing, and build the rapport that way.
Building a connection through MBWA opened me an my teams up to a whole new level of communication. I was able to learn about issues when they were happening, and get help before they became problems.
This Week’s Challenge
Incorporate a system for connecting with your employees. If you already have one in place, great! Ask yourself, what improvements can be made to that system. Your efforts will be well worth the time you invest.
If you would like to discuss more ways to help your business grow or if you feel you have a specific problem that needs to be addressed, please reach out to me.