Most leaders can agree that employee development is a critical part of creating a lasting business.
But many leaders assume that they can put the onus on the individual to provide their own path to personal and professional development. After all, your job is to grow the company. Self-enrichment is up to them, right?
The fact is, if you’re not investing in your people, you’re not investing in the future of your business.
Investing in your employees is an important part of creating an engaged workforce and an effective way of reducing turnover for your business.
The goal of this post is to help you find ways to invest in your team and create an irresistible culture that your employees never want to leave.
Before I get going on this list, it’s important to understand that an investment in your team can mean a lot of different things, ranging from personal development to financial incentives to activities that bring them happiness. The point is that you want to show genuine care for your employees, and in return, they will take care of your business.
So with that in mind, let’s dive in.
1. Invest in their personal and professional development
Let me ask you this – how often do you see someone who is constantly getting better at work, but who is also consistently struggling in their personal life? My guess is not very. In fact the reverse is usually true – you typically see a positive correlation between personal and professional development.
To be clear, the person we’re talking about is someone who is making real growth as a professional, and making increasingly better contributions to the success of the business. This shouldn’t be confused with the workaholic type who appears to be doing well at work, but who may only be working harder than he or she has to, and whose health and wellbeing may actually be suffering as a result.
Many business owners fear that if they invest too much in developing their employees, then those team members will become more valuable in the marketplace and soon jump ship.
Ironically, this fear leads to a strategy that does more harm than good, and virtually guarantees the very outcome they were trying to avoid.
The reality is, many people feel disconnected and disengaged at work, and a big part of that is due to a lack of challenges and development. When workers feel like they’re stagnating or heading towards a dead-end, your employees will undoubtedly look for employment opportunities elsewhere.
So, how can you invest in your team’s personal and professional development and ensure this doesn’t happen?
One idea to consider is something called an Individual Development Plan (IDP). An IDP is a fantastic tool to help employees set and reach both short- and long-term goals. IDPs empower individuals to ask themselves, “Where am I now, where do I want to be, and how will I get there?”
To really get the most out of each IDP, managers and their direct reports need to conduct some type of monthly check-in. If you aren’t helping your employees consistently track against their goals, then they won’t make any real progress. Schedule a monthly chat to help them hold themselves accountable to their goals and give them direction on how to make continued improvements to achieve them.
If you’re looking for an IDP template, here’s the one we use at SnackNation that you can download.
Another effective strategy is to subsidize employee growth. Offer a stipend that goes towards things like books, conferences, and courses that are related to personal or professional development.
The best part is, helping your employees grow as individuals will only benefit your organization in the long run.
2. Host team building activities
Gallup found that close friendships at work boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are 7x more likely to engage fully in their work.
While you obviously can’t force friendships in the workplace, there are ways you can foster it.
Things like scavenger hunts or playing sports together are some great ideas. They both get people into groups and require people to work together to achieve a common goal (just like your business). This epic list of team building games is a fantastic resource to help you find new games to play together to help your employees bond with one another.
You might also want to consider doing a yearly team offsite. Offsites give your team a chance to step away from the day-to-day work and build camaraderie. Plus they’re a ton of fun and can give your team something special to look forward to each year.
3. Give them an opportunity to have some “skin in the game”
Let’s say you have a small, but growing, business. You want to incentivize your employees to take ownership of a certain task or project. You assume that the job will be done better and faster if you offer some type of monetary incentive outside of their normal salary or hourly pay.
So one thing you can do is offer a commission or bonus based on the achievement of that goal. As Dan Pink argues in his best-selling book Drive, autonomy is 1 of 3 major human motivators. Offering commissions gives employee a sense of ownership in their outcomes, and is an excellent way to help them grow and take responsibility for their own and the company’s success.
If you’re growing your business with plans to eventually sell, consider offering an employee stock option program (ESOP). This is another great way to give your employees a real sense of ownership in the business. As the business grows, so do your employees.
4. Create a healthier work environment
Researchers from Harvard found that medical costs decrease by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs. In addition, absenteeism costs are reduced by about $2.73 for every dollar spent on wellness.
When you also consider that 87% of employees consider health and wellness offerings when they choose an employer, it’s obvious that focusing on health at work is important to both the employee and employer.
Here are some really simple ideas you can implement to create a healthier work environment:
- Do some quick exercise before your next company meeting. This can be something as easy as jumping jacks, squats, and pushups.
- Throw down a challenge like the 7 hours of sleep challenge (who can collect the most nights of 7+ hours of sleep in 30 days) or the mile a day challenge (who can collect the most 1+ miles run in 30 days). Challenges and contests are a great way to get people involved in wellness programs, especially if there’s an extra incentive for winning (like a gift card or cool prize).
5. Create weekly recognition events and monthly achievement awards
Can you guess the #1 reason why most Americans leave their jobs?
Is it pay? Maybe it’s because they have a terrible boss?
It’s actually because they don’t feel appreciated at work.
While praise and recognition aren’t the only things that motivate employees, being recognized for hard work goes a long way. To really succeed in creating an environment where employees consistently feel appreciated, I suggest integrating it into weekly and monthly activities.
Something as simple as a weekly team meeting to recognize excellent work or achievement by another member of the org can be super impactful.
On a monthly basis, try out some awards for top performers. Here are a couple of award ideas to get you started:
- The Duct Tape Award – The person who fixes everything
- The Pearly White Award – The person who smiles the most
- The Cliff Jumper Award – The person who takes the most risk
- The Value Victor Award – The person who embodied your values the most
6. Celebrate their anniversary with something personal
Staying on the theme of appreciation for a second, it’s so important to celebrate and appreciate your people on their work anniversaries.
A study conducted by Entelo found that people are most likely to leave their jobs after their first, second, and third year at a company. Given this data, it’s crucial that employers make people feel awesome on their work anniversaries to help combat the yearly spike in voluntary turnover.
My top recommendation for business owners is to have the employee’s manager, someone from the executive team (CEO, President, Co-Founder, etc) and a coworker come up in front of the team to honor this person on their special day. Share stories of their hard work, highlight some of their accomplishments, and communicate how grateful you are that this person chooses to help your business move forward every day.
Another thing I recommend to business owners is to write a hand-written note to the person celebrating a work anniversary. We use this to fortify relationships with our customers and vendors, so why not do it with your employees too?
7. Allow your talented team members to move laterally within the business
Often times, you’ll hire a younger employee who is still figuring out which career path she wants to pursue. She’s driven and motivated, but her passion may lie in another area of your business than the one she was hired for.
Promote from within and help that person make the transition into a new department. When they focus on their passions and interest, your employees will be a lot more likely to be engaged and do a better job for your business. This will help you retain some of your younger talent when they would have otherwise abandoned ship.
8. Offer the perks and benefits that matter to them
When it comes to perks and benefits for your employees, there is no magic bullet. In order for your perks to be effective in keeping your employees happy, they need to be tailored to their specific needs and desires.
For example, if your team works around the clock and regularly puts in overtime, a service like car washes and dry cleaning would help them save time in their personal lives. If you have several members of your staff with young children, consider childcare services.
Another perk that most employees can rally around is free food. A survey conducted by Peapod found that 67% of full-time employees with access to free food at work reported being “very” or “extremely” happy at their current job.
9. Give them time to volunteer during work hours
Today’s workers (especially Millennials) want to work for companies that benefit the greater good, so it’s vital that your company has some sort of social tie. Even if your product doesn’t directly give back, there are ways you can help your employees feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
Show your commitment to community and social responsibility by giving your employees a couple of hours each month to get out of the office and participate in community service.
Investing in your employees is not only great for the individual, it’s also beneficial for your company. You don’t have to spend lavishly either. Many of the ideas in this post won’t cost you very much to get started. But, more importantly, they will make a difference in the lives of your employees, and that’s something that will help create loyalty to your business.9 Simple Ways to Invest in Your Employees and Combat Turnover Guest Blogger