Manager Skills Series: Increase Productivity Through Employee Development

Guest post by Ken Burnett, VP/Director of Training and Business Development

This series is written from experience and is part of Bank of American Fork’s management training program.  The program embraces the philosophy that management is a skill-based job, and managers need to learn specific skills to be successful.

If business leaders heard of an initiative that would almost guarantee increases in quality, productivity and efficiency at very little cost, every company would be signing up to get started. Embarking on a simple employee development process gets those types of results. Many managers believe that employee development is a complex and time-consuming process, but you can get started with some simple guidelines and still make a huge difference.

What is Employee Development?
Employee development is an ongoing conversation between a manager and an employee to improve the employee’s skills for their current job and, if appropriate, help prepare the employee for his or her next position. The development should follow a process that is meaningful for the employee and valuable to the organization.

Developing employees should focus on three specific types of skills: core, job and career.

Core Skills
Every associate within the organization should possess core competency skills. The level of such skills vary from job to job. For example, all employees in an office setting should probably have basic Microsoft Word skills, but the level of skill of a customer-facing employee to an employee in the marketing department might vary substantially. The same could be said for sales skills or product knowledge. Everyone should have some level of competency skill, but the level of skill varies by job.

Job Skills
Job skills are the tasks and competencies required for a specific job. Your major responsibility in developing your employees is to improve their skills as they relate to their current position. Every employee who reports to you should have an idea of the areas in which they need to improve and ways to make those improvements. Some skills should be developed based on individual employee needs and circumstances, but managers also need to be using a certain set of global skills to develop employees across positions (e.g., bank tellers from one branch to another) or inconsistencies will abound.

Career Skills
Career skills are skills to help prepare employees for additional positions. When employees learn career skills, they are learning how to perform a new job. This gives an employee a clearer understanding of the desired job and how different functions related throughout the organization.

Career Development Basics
It is critical for organizations to develop employees for their next position (as desired). For these employees, they should both learn about the position and gain an understanding of the skills required for the job. Here are seven basic tips to remember when conducting employee development:

1. Employees that are not performing to expectations should not be preparing for another position. They should be working on becoming proficient within their current position before they have the opportunity to develop for another position.

2. Career development is not an implied contract for a new position.

3. The employee is not being trained for a new position, but is developing their skills for additional opportunities that may become available.

4. Employees who have the opportunity to learn new skills are a benefit to the organization because of increased job satisfaction and their ability to fill positions when such positions become vacant.

5. Development is a process, not an outcome. You are not developing employees for a specific position. The development process should be ongoing regardless of position.

6. Consistency is the key to make this plan successful for all of your employees. Remember to be fair and equitable to all employees reporting to you and offer opportunities to all employees.

7. Employees need to be coached and told the truth if they are pursuing development for a position and it is not a good fit. The communication is not that the employee will never get a new job; it is just that they may not get this job.

Specific Ways to Develop Employees
The following matrix will help you identify the best training approach for the skill:

Development Option Best Use Resources
Mentoring Teaching what happens on the job every day. Training professionals can assist in developing a mentoring program. 
On-the-job training Keystroke-level job skills or processes. Manager may need to find the technical resource.
Classroom Introducing new concepts, skills or broad knowledge topics. Taught by a facilitator or a subject-matter expert with the help of a facilitator.
Self-Paced Teaching knowledge training. Book, online learning, manual.
Job Aids Associate has some knowledge of the task, but may not have all the specific details. These are usually for tasks that happen frequently, are difficult to do, and are critical because of the high consequence if they are done incorrectly.    Online or paper-based.

Ken Burnett is vice president/director of training and business development for Bank of American Fork. He is responsible for training nearly 300 employees on a variety of topics, including management training for dozens of senior managers within the organization.



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