With an increased need for improved business and client outcomes, yet a decrease in the amount of time and other resources available to ensure and maintain these outcomes, providing your staff with the ability to take ownership of their professional development is becoming increasingly valuable.

You want your staff to confidently and skillfully provide services, and you know that training and development are essential to making this happen, but when you’re running around trying to meet deadlines and put out fires on a daily basis, training and development often fall by the wayside.

 

1. Take time to make time

It’s much like hiring an assistant. You desperately need the help, but you’re so busy that you cannot even find the time to train the person how to help you. But the only way for them to help you is for you to take the time to train them. It’s a catch 22. It’s also a lot of pressure.

Consider this: because you’re so busy, the time you’re spending on each task or project is probably not top quality. You’re just churning things out to check things off of your list. The time you take to help someone help you – even if broken into small chunks throughout the day – will free you up immensely. It’s only that first hump you have to get over – but you must; and once you do, your productivity and quality of work will increase.

Taking the time to encourage your staff to take ownership of their development is so important. Not only will it save you time to focus on your priorities and allow you to produce quality work, but it will empower your staff, and their performance will begin to improve because of it.

 

2. Be the example

There is no better way to empower employees to take ownership of their development than for managers to do the same – and make it known. Discuss it at staff meetings. Let them know if you’re attending a conference, reading a particular book, attending a webinar, and why.

At my company, they’ve recently rolled out an unlimited paid time off (PTO) policy. Although it’s a terrific benefit, staff were so accustomed to accruing their time off (which provided a sense that they earned it), that there is now an awkwardness about asking managers for time off. To encourage staff to take advantage of this new policy, the CEO emailed the entire staff asking them to notify their managers of their vacation dates this year. Hearing this coming from the top down lets employees know it’s OK – and expected – that they actually request time off. Additionally, managers are asked to share when they’re taking vacation to further encourage the importance of work/life balance.

The same is true for encouraging ownership of staff development. Don’t just take the time to let them know it is OK; show them that you’re doing it, too! Your example encourages them to follow suit. Sit down with your staff and have a discussion – help them set aside a regular block of time for their own training or professional development.

 

3. Provide the tools

Your staff may see you setting an example, but still may not know what to do since they’re used to you directing them on their development. It is important to provide resources for them. Since “resources” may invoke dollar signs for some of you – take note that this is not always the case. There are a multitude of free professional development options available for your staff. Here are just a few:

Learning management systems often include a suite of professional development or industry relevant courses as free electives or free continuing education credits. If your organization uses an LMS, take some time to browse their library of courses. Another benefit is the convenience of learning anywhere, any time.

Webinars are an extremely popular avenue for learning and often include recorded versions that can be watched any time. A simple online search can produce several results of free webinars to build skills and knowledge on just about any topic!

Blogs are another wonderful – and free – resource because almost every industry expert has one! Your staff can learn best practices and helpful tips from the best of the best.

 

4. Follow up

When you meet with your staff, you want to be sure they’re spending their professional development time wisely. Just because they’re taking ownership doesn’t mean that they no longer need your guidance and leadership as their manager. Inquire what they’ve learned or what new ideas they have. Suggest new learning topics they may not have considered. Ask them to hold information sharing sessions with their peers during which they can present on what they’ve learned and how it has affected their roles.

 

5. Know what success looks like

You’ve taken the time out of your busy schedule to address this important endeavor. You’ve led by example by being committed to your own development. You’ve provided your staff with the necessary resources, and you follow up regularly to make sure they’re progressing. But how can you tell that it’s working?

Your staff will know that it’s working because they will begin to see the direct link between their development and how it benefits their day-to-day activities and the services they provide. An added benefit is that when they share their successes with the team, they’re automatically encouraging more of the same.

Ways you can tell if letting your staff take ownership of their development is successful are by:

  • Conducting a before and after survey assessing your staff’s satisfaction with their own professional development (good if you need tangible data). Simply compare the results.
  • Increased collaboration
  • New projects or ideas for projects
  • Positive feedback from clients
  • Increased employee engagement

All of the above items lead to improved performance and, over time, better outcomes for your clients and your organization.

 

Are you already doing some of the things mentioned above? How have they worked in your organization? Please share your thoughts!