Developing Your Employees On the Job (aka For Zero or Little Money) (repost)

One of the most popular posts I have had was about low cost team building ideas (Team Building That Is Fun, Easy & Cheap…No Really, It’s True) I thought I would do a similar topic again, but this time around developing people on your team.  Development doesn’t have to mean a promotion.  It doesn’t have to mean sending them out for big and expensive training.  There are plenty of internal opportunities or free events you can help them find that are just, if not more impactful, to their development.  

Below are five ways you can help your employees start to achieve their development goals on the job!

  • Shadow other employees – If you know an employee has an interest in another area of the business, speak to a manager in that function/department and see if it is possible for your employee to shadow someone on the team.  This way they can be exposed to that area of the business and see what a job there is really like and start to learn those key skills and knowledge.  Maybe you can even ask them to then lead a team lunch and learn about what they took away from their experience.  They can also shadow you!  Are you leading a big project, can you take time to speak to them more in-depth about the project so they can learn from your experience and you can walk them through your thinking and approach.
  • Mentor or train new team members – If one of your employees wants to be a future leader or manager, give them a chance to help on-board new team members.  Whether they train them in their roles or just act as a mentor or formal buddy, it will give them an opportunity to stretch their leadership skills and help develop someone on the team (as they develop themselves!).  
  • Rotate to a short term assignment – Is there another team in the department that needs some additional help short term (maybe to cover an absent team member or during a spike in work)?  Consider how you can loan your employee to this team to give them an opportunity to work on something different that is in-line with their career goals.  It can be on a part time or full time basis depending on the needs of your team.  Just make sure you have  way to have them rotate back to your team (this should be rewarding, not worrisome that they will lose their job after the rotation!).  Or, thinking back to if you are leading a large project, are there responsibilities you can delegate to them during the project?  This will not only leverage your time better, but also give the employee a chance to be a leader on the team.
  • Join a task force or pilot launch – Is the company looking for representatives from different departments to join a task force or help give feedback on an upcoming possible product or change in service?  This might be an opportunity for your employee to represent your department.  Not only will it recognize them as a subject matter expert, but also expose them to different people in the company and put them in the spotlight.  They will also have the chance to see the importance of cross-department collaboration or how leaders think strategically about key business decisions.  
  • Bring them to a professional group as a guest – Most likely you belong to a professional networking group (national association, a meet-up, etc).  This could be a great opportunity to expand your employee’s network and learn about industry trends and hot topics outside of their daily responsibilities.  Often these groups let members bring a guest for free, or for a very low fee.  And if your company can pay for them to attend, or even for their own membership, that is even better!  

No matter what you end up doing, the main point is that you can find ways to develop your top employees without having to spend lots of money sending them to a conference, a training or promoting them (if the business can’t support it or they aren’t quite ready yet).  Of course, you need to balance the opportunity with the needs of your team/department.  But it’s rare that there is literally nothing you can do to help develop your employee without hurting your team or the business.

What ways have you developed your team on the job?  Share your experiences below!  And as always, if there is anything I can do to help you think of ideas for your employees, feel free to message me!