This article originally appeared in Forbes.
As the economy changes and competition continues to speed up, protecting your company by increasing personal development opportunities is paramount. Just because your team is running smoothly now doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax.
Professional growth is essential. Just consider a 2018 survey by Udemy, which found that nearly three-fourths of employees believe the skills needed for their job will change. More than 70% also reported they’ve had to develop new skills to do their jobs effectively.
As a business leader, one of your main intentions should be to build the strength of your staff to better benefit both them and your organization. If you don’t have a skill-building plan in place already, here are a few great steps to begin:
First things first, you must develop an open line of communication between you and your team members. If they don’t feel comfortable with you, they won’t ask you for help or advice, both of which are often the first steps toward tackling a new goal or developing a new professional skill. If you don’t have a system in place already, make sure every employee is meeting with a member of senior leadership at least once per month to discuss workload, any roadblocks and potential for growth.
I find that these meetings are often when employees are able to talk freely about skills they are either missing or need to improve. When I started my coaching company, I knew these one-on-one meetings were crucial to our team’s success, but I found it challenging to make them productive rather than just a therapy session. To stay on track, discuss and record the following questions:
These questions help team members identify potential weaknesses or company concerns where you might need to bring in additional skill sets. Furthermore, once you target these areas, team members can then take action to minimize this skills gap by pledging to do additional research, take courses or spearhead a new project.
Once you have ensured a healthy, thriving communication rhythm between employees and leadership, provide them with the tools they need to fill any gaps they identify in their skillset. One of the perks of owning or leading a company is that you make the rules, so get creative with your offerings. I’ve seen companies initiate benefits as large as a personal development budget for each employee or as simple as hosting company book clubs where employees get paid to read books that pertain to their field of work.
Take a look at your company budget and consider your options. Can you offer a tuition assistance program with continuing education? A mentorship program? Monthly lunch-and-learns with other industry professionals? Let’s be honest, creating and executing these programs takes time and effort, but the return — knowledgeable and highly skilled employees — will pay off for you and your company in the long run.
It’s essential that your employees know that professional development is not just valued, but encouraged at your company. Be vocal about this during the hiring process to ensure your new hires want to grow their skills, and reinforce your company goals and expectations throughout the onboarding process. It’s difficult to expect action without proper guidance, so ask your human resources department or executive assistant to develop a guide that outlines all that your company does to support professional development, as well as outside resources that employees can use.
As a business leader, you set the tone for your company. That includes if you embrace your own growth and development. Are you staying up-to-date with your industry trends by reading related news and books and attending conferences or networking events? Are you open to new ideas and systems when they are presented? When is the last time you added a new skill to your repertoire? Make a point to elevate your own skills gap and watch your team follow.
A tight job market means it’s more challenging to score top talent. Providing A-players with open lines of communication, career development benefits and a leader that leads by example will help you attract and retain the best talent while ensuring your company always stays a step ahead.