What is employee development?

Employee development is a process in which the company supports employees in developing their skills, expanding their competencies and acquiring new knowledge. It is usually carried out through training, courses, international programmes (for example, sending employees to a foreign branch of the company for some time) or conferences. The choice of form has no limits as long as it fulfils its function. 

Employee development is a very important strategic tool for companies that aim to develop and grow their organisation, increase productivity and the satisfaction of their employees.

Employee development will give your company many benefits...

74% of workers are willing to learn new skills or re-train in order to remain employable. And 70% of employees say they would be willing to change their current company for one that invests in employee development. These statistics are all the more significant given that more than half of employees admit that their workplaces do not offer training or development opportunities. This shows how many workplaces fail to meet employee expectations. And the list of reasons to do so is really long:

Employee satisfaction

This factor is often discussed at the very end of similar summaries as something “nice to have”. It is an addition to the success of your company, built on profit, sales, customers, etc. However, this is very short-sighted thinking, which is why in this article we put employee satisfaction first. But don’t think that it won’t make a difference to your business – quite the opposite! Employee satisfaction results in less turnover, more motivation, productivity and engagement. Probably worth it, right?

Competitive advantage

In the technology industry, the most important currency is, well, technology. The market changes dynamically. New solutions are developed all the time. To stay on top and not fall behind your competitors, you need to be able to offer innovation. Employee development will allow you to keep your team up to date. Especially since your people are certainly following the market themselves and want to learn useful competences in order to stay employable. For this reason, they are a great source of industry news on what skills are worth developing in your software house.

Acquire competencies you care about

When recruiting new people to your company you choose those candidates whose competencies and experience are useful for you. However, sometimes projects change and require a new set of skills. It is then worth offering employees to develop those that are relevant to the company. This is especially important when you don’t want to expand your team by hiring new people.

Attractiveness to candidates

As we’ve already mentioned, development opportunities matter to employees... and job candidates. If someone has several places to choose from they will choose the one that gives them the most possibilities. In addition to the basics, such as how much you get paid or how you are employed, there are many other factors that matter. For example, which specialists he will work with, which projects he will be involved in and whether he will be able to develop his skills within the company.

Loyalty

 The psychological rule of reciprocity is very simple – when someone gives you something, you feel the need to reciprocate. It is no different in the employee-employer relationship. If a company gives employees development opportunities and invests in their training, they will feel more obliged and loyal to the company. But of course, it’s not just about psychological mechanisms, a sense of gratitude and affection. Even a cold calculation is enough to judge that it’s worth staying at the place that offers the best opportunities. 

Productivity and quality

It’s no news that training makes perfect. Improving your team’s skills will simply make them better at what they do. The result? Better productivity, higher work rate, fewer mistakes and higher quality when completing projects. 

One software house can’t do everything. Specialisation is very important in order to maintain the highest quality of services, but a too narrow scope of expertise may hinder the company’s development and the acquisition of new clients. Employee development and developing your team’s skills will allow you to be more flexible in taking on new projects. 

Flexibility

Sometimes it makes sense to outsource certain tasks, but this solution is not the cheapest. Many software houses want to have full control over the whole process and do as much as possible in-house. In this situation, we have two solutions – either to hire new people with the necessary set of competencies (which is the most expensive option) or to develop the skills of employees, which allows us not only to save the budget but also to support the development of the team. Of course, this solution makes sense as long as you optimise the process and do not overload your people with too many tasks and responsibilities.

Improve employee management in your company

Now that you know why it is worth investing in improving employee development in your company, we will tell you how to do it.

1. Assess which competencies you need

To develop the competencies of your employees, you first need to decide which ones. Analyse the needs of your company. Find out what services and technologies the market expects. Decide in which industries you want to work in and what skills are most needed there. Consider what projects your company will be working on in the future and what it needs now. And, of course, don’t forget about your employees. Ask them in regular feedback sessions which tasks they feel comfortable with and which competencies they would like to develop. Maybe they coincide or are similar to the ones you need, and that way you’ll find the right person for the right place. Developing competencies that neither your company nor your employees want or need is a waste of time and money, so take this analysis seriously. 

2. Plan time for employee development

In a software house, if something is not planned, it simply does not happen. That’s just the way it is. Another quite universal truth is that internal projects are, in the hierarchy of values, behind external projects for clients. When a company is short of time, its internal projects lose the most. So it’s no use counting on you to develop your employees’ skills in your spare time or on occasion. 

That is why it is so important to schedule a very specific time for employee development. 

It can be a selected day of the week at a selected time or one day a month. The decision depends on the skills development strategy you choose. However, this time must be always dedicated for this specific process and not treated as a time backup for other projects. Also avoid precedents. We all know that sometimes there is an extremely important situation that requires all hands on deck, but if once, twice or a third time someone throws in a task or a meeting during the time allocated for employee branding – no one will take the process seriously. Routine, habit, validity are crucial here.

Planning your time will be made easier with a dedicated tool where you can book employee development meetings. A clear schedule and calendar of meetings means that your team need to reserve this particular time for development.

3. Create an employee development programme 

When you invest so much time and commitment into a process you need to make sure it makes sense and brings you real benefits. No one needs resources thrown down the drain, right. To create a programme that best meets your expectations. How to do it?

Set long-term goals for your company

Let’s face it – employee development takes time before it delivers results, it’s not an ad hoc support like hiring a contractor. Think about what you want your company to achieve: to achieve results, to enter new markets, to work in new technologies, to create new departments. Imagine the direction of development of your company and decide what competencies of your employees will lead you there.

Create an individual career path for your employees

The essence of employee development is to develop each employee’s predispositions, competencies and interests. Encourage employees to meet one-on-one with a manager or team leader to discuss how they see their development in the company. If you see potential in someone in a particular area, you can suggest interesting directions. Find the best form of development together and meet regularly to monitor progress, give feedback and decide on the next steps. Remember that the role of management is to support the intrinsic motivation of the individual and to encourage, not to pressure.

Make concrete proposals

Now that you know what your company cares about and in which direction your employees want to develop, it’s time to present concrete options. Do a thorough research of interesting training and courses. You can offer to deliver an online course from the comfort of your own home, or hold a seminar in your office. Interesting options also include industry-specific conferences or involving an employee in an external project. The possibilities are endless!

Gather feedback

Employee development is an ongoing process, so try to get regular feedback from your people on what they have learned, whether they like the course, whether it meets their expectations, or whether there is something that could be changed and done better? Employees may be reluctant to tell you that the course they got from the company is weak and not useful. With regularity and transparency, you can get honest feedback. The negative ones are also very valuable, and perhaps even more valuable, as they will help you avoid future mistakes.

4. Hire a talent manager

If employee development is a high priority for you, why not hire a dedicated person? A talent manager is constantly looking for the best people for the job, developing the skills of the team, recognising potential and turning it into an advantage for the employee and the employer. If you are worried that managers and team leaders in your company have too much on their shoulders and will find it difficult to take proper care of employee development, a talent manager is what you need.

5. Work is not everything

Employee development is focused on developing jop competencies. that are useful to the employee and the company, but work is not everything. A great way to engage your employees is to develop their passions. Start a yoga class, a running or cycling group, foreign language classes or volunteering at your company. Invest in your team’s skills, including those not directly related to your job. You can be sure that your company will be perceived as more attractive.

Employee development in practice: Apptension Case Study

The best way to learn new things is to see how others have done it. Of course, as long as they have succeeded. Here we take a look at an example of a company where employee development works beautifully. 

Apptension is a creative software house for which continuous self-improvements are one of the foundations of the company. The basis for this process is close cooperation between management and all employees. The key to this is the OKR system for each department. Every quarter, employees, team leaders and managers meet and agree on common objectives in order to set a direction for development that will meet the company’s strategy and the individual needs and aspirations of employees. These meetings often result in new ideas and solutions which have not even crossed anyone’s mind before.

As Aleksandra Leończyk, Head of Production, emphasises:

Combining the two gives our employees the much-needed independence of being able to shape their own career paths as well as explore the new areas we are interested in as a company.

Of course, strategic meetings are not everything to build an effective employee development process

As Patryk Ziemkowski, Head of Development, says, in mentoring and supporting the development of employees it is crucial to build a bond with them. It’s necessary to show that management is available and ready to help with any problem and listen to what someone has to say. 1:1 meetings are very important here, as they help build an atmosphere of transparency and make it natural to talk frankly about the process, development and one’s place in the company, rather than a stressful “chat with the boss”. Even simply asking about your well-being, interests and day-to-day affairs affects the comfort and trust of the team. Apptension uses a system to schedule 1:1 meetings, which is a perfect platform to ask questions and give advice.

Bartek Papież, Head of Design

At Apptension continuous self-improvements is one of our core values. Every quarter team members agree with their leads on what new skill they’d like to learn. That approach is mutually beneficial—employee gets an opportunity to upskill and take a breath from commercial engagements for a while whereas a company strengthen its expertise and sometimes even expand its offering.

On employee development, everyone wins

I hope our article leaves no doubt as to why it is worth investing in employee skills development. Team satisfaction, productivity and efficiency which has a real impact on revenue, loyalty, good atmosphere and growth of your software house. Don’t ask if it is worth implementing employee development in your company – ask how to start quickly!

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