Upgrading skills in specific employee groups could be achieved by introducing a new development program. Goals for the program could range from cross-training in key functional knowledge areas to accelerating development of specific groups. Development programs often run over several weeks or months and are attached to pre-defined outcomes to address specific identified learning needs.
Structuring your employee development plan, you will need to pay attention to at least 3 important aspects:
- Setting up the curriculum
- Preparing managers to be supportive
- Preparing attendees to succeed
The overall program
Setting up the curriculum over the development period means you decide how the various learning solutions are scheduled and planned to strengthen and support key messages throughout the time period that your program runs. Each aspect strengthens what had already been covered while adding additional knowledge. Including various learning methodologies (blended learning) enhances the learning experience and keeps it interesting.
- Always start by understanding what you are trying to address before you start designing your development program. What is the learning need? What is the business value of employees having this knowledge and experience?
- When does the business need employees with these new skills, understanding and experiences? Is it short-term (within the next year), medium-term (between 1 and 2 years) or is it longer term (more than 2 years)? Knowing the timeframe also helps you decide what to develop internally vs outsourcing the entire program or parts of it.
- Who needs to learn these new skills/behaviors? Be very clear who is your target population for this development program (How many years of experience do they have right now? What kind of experience do they already have – functional, geographic etc.).
Preparing managers to support learners
Employees are more motivated and do better when their managers are onboard with their participation in the development program. Be sure to engage with managers before participants are told about the program. Managers need to understand the business context of the development program, why someone on his/her team is included in the program (if they were not nominated by the manager) and how to support the employee throughout the program. Some manages may need training or coaching in this regard.
Employees participating in these kinds of development programs are often still working in their current roles. Supportive managers not only expect good results in their departments or projects, but also hold employees accountable for completing program assignments. This gives employees the best chance of completing the program successfully.
Preparing attendees to succeed
Development program attendees need to understand more than just the program contents and overview of dates. An orientation session for intended program attendees could help with that. The session gives them an opportunity to understand the business context and benefits to their own careers plus they can ask clarifying questions before committing to invest the time and effort needed to successfully complete the program.
And orientation session with development program attendees should include at least these topics:
- A welcome message from an executive, usually the sponsoring executive, explaining the business value of the development program and also career benefits for attendees.
- A message from Talent Development explaining program expectations, the blended learning approach, deadlines, the team assignment and any other relevant details of the program that attendees should know about at the start.
- If the program existed before and there was a redesign or some changes were applied, explain how the current programs differs from previous versions some attendees may have heard about in the past.
- Provide the opportunity for some Q&A
Keeping learners motivated when a development program runs over many months can be a challenge. Helping to keep attendees focused on assignments and deadlines can be easier when you build in challenges which generate leader boards (friendly competition) or where individuals can earn points or badges by completing specific tasks. Adding recognition by the manager/group/department can also be helpful. Recognition can include anything from a small token offered to attendees after completing a specific portion of the program to being mentioned in the company newsletter.
Hopefully these three templates (see download links above) are useful as you review your own planned development program. Do download the 3 files above if you need to see the templates in detail.