Employee Development Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes

There has been much written about employee development lately. All of these articles say two things that I find important. First, employees value it when an organization provides opportunities to develop skills beyond just for the job they are doing today. Employees express this value by being more engaged in their work, are more likely to perform better in their jobs, and stay longer with the organization. Second, the employee development opportunities must by well-aligned between what employees value and what the organization needs.

Employee Training and College Credit
At a networking event and product demo luncheon I attended on Thursday, October 25, one of Cornerstone’s clients, an HR leader at a well known satellite TV provider, told a story about how they were using on-line courses in their learning management system and partnerships with universities, to offer employees opportunities to learn valuable career skills, and also credit towards college degrees. This is an excellent way to show employees you care about their development and to align what employees value with what the company values.
Everyone knows employee development is important. The problem is that if you are a small to medium-sized business, you likely do not have the resources to either purchase a catalog of courses or hire a training staff large enough to create the opportunities your employees are beginning to expect. So, what to do?

Free or Flexible Options

If you do not quite have the budget to partner with universities or purchase a catalog of on-line courses, an alternative is to assemble a list of free college courses or other reasonably priced on-line courses that your employees can take. Coursera is a service that partners with universities to offer free on-line college courses. Although these courses do not count towards college credit, they do provide an opportunity for someone to learn new skills, if they apply themselves.

Alternatively, Opensesame offers on-line course on a variety of topics from Sexual Harassment to Microsoft Excel at reasonable prices for which you can pay as you go. This is an excellent alternative to purchasing an entire catalog of courses. You can set up an annual budget for each of your employees that they can spend on a service like Opensesame, and allow employees to choose whatever courses they want to take.

You do not necessarily have to spend a ton of money on employee development, but you do need to figure out ways in which employees believe they have opportunities to grow their careers. The secret to success here is to be creative about how to provide opportunities for your people to develop careers that matter to them but that also contribute to the success of your organization.

What employee development opportunities does your organization offer?
Bill Cushardauthorblogger, and head of learning at Allonhill, is a learning leader with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations in start-up and hyper-growth organizations like E*TRADE, the Knowland Group, and Allonhill.