5 Ways for Small HR Departments to Focus on Employee Development

Employee development is a vital part of any organization. But how do small HR departments handle the workload?

Finding great employees is a science unto itself (one my company was built on, as it happens) but as important as hiring is, it’s only the first step in the process of creating a truly successful business. You might be tempted to rest on the laurels of a great hire, but developing and nurturing those employees is just as important as hiring them in the first place.

Creating a solid plan for the continuous improvement and advancement of employees is a vital part of an organization’s long-term success, but not every company does so. The problem, like most, involves time and resources.

Even large, busy human resources departments can be overwhelmed with just the hiring piece of this puzzle, and smaller departments simply don’t have the personnel to dedicate to full-time employee development. So, this vital function is commonly left to managers and supervisors who are untrained in the process.

That’s a mistake, one that usually relegates employee development to the bottom of individual departments’ To Do lists As a result, employees have no idea how their jobs really contribute to the organization’s success, where they might look for advancement opportunities companywide, or where they might find the extra training necessary to get there. That kind of inattention tends to push your great hires right out the door.

So, what’s a small, beleaguered HR department to do if they want to focus on employee development? Here are some suggestions:

1. Outline your goals.

What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to give each employee in the company a succession plan, complete with information on the core competencies involved in each position and the training and skills needed to get there? Or will a simpler goal suffice? Knowing where you want to be is the first step in getting there.

2. Create a plan

Here are some elements in employee development plans:

• Structured, formal performance appraisals, including 360 degree feedback in which the employee hears from coworkers, managers, customers and underlings how he or she is doing on the job and where he might improve. These are particularly powerful tools to ensure continuous improvement and growth.

• Succession planning that outlines the employee’s current role in the company, how that role is tied to corporate goals, and where the employee might advance from there. Be creative — include a flow chart of avenues by which an employee might advance.

• A clear explanation of skills, knowledge and training that might need to occur along the way. Don’t simply list Positions A, B and C on the corporate ladder, provide a roadmap of exactly how to get there.

3. Look to the purse strings.

What is your budget for employee development? Does one even exist? If not, lobby your higher ups for the funds necessary to implement your plan, with an emphasis on tying employee development to your company’s bottom line.

4. Involve department heads.

The wise HR professional knows the power of delegation. What’s wrong with a few lunchtime meetings outlining the importance of employee development to department heads, who can then assign someone within the department to act as your right (and left) hand in the implementation of the plan?

5. Outsource it.

There are many good reasons why you should outsource the implementation of an employee development plan. An outside consultant can come in, meet with you, determine your specific needs, customize a solution and then do the work of implementing it. You can find consultants who, for example, can provide customized review and appraisal processes that are administered online. That way, all information is compiled– here’s the key phrase — by someone else into easy-to-use reports. Armed with those, you can conduct planning sessions with employees.

Charlie Wonderlic is the President and CEO of Wonderlic Inc., a premiere provider of employee recruitment, selection, development and retention solutions. For more information, visit Wonderlic’s website at www.wonderlic.com.

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