Employee Development Opportunities That Work

Attracting employees who bring the right skills and experience to the workplace often feels like searching for a needle in a haystack. That’s why companies are investing more in employee training and development.
But sprinkling in a few extra learning opportunities isn’t going to get you the impact you’re looking for. Meaningful and sustainable employee growth relies on robust learning and development opportunities. An effective employee development program depends on a handful of components, all essential for employee learning.

In this article, we will cover:

  • What employee development is
  • Why you should invest in employee development opportunities
  • Best practices for employee development
  • 6 types of employee development opportunities employees want

What is employee development?

Employee development is the process of working with your employees to develop, improve, and hone existing skills and train them on new skills. Employee development aims to build a talent pool that supports the organization’s mission while creating highly engaged employees.

But employee development isn’t just about paying for some seminars or having employees complete training exercises.

Employee development should:

  • Center around short and long-term goals
  • Motivate and encourage employees
  • Be accessible and available to all employees
  • Cater to the needs and interests of your employees at different levels and tenure

A robust employee development program should be focused on the long-term facilitation of a strategic workforce that engages employees at each level based on their needs, and your organizational vision.

Our research has found that tenure has a significant impact on employee development needs and interests. For example, 70% of employees ages 25 and younger and 60% of those with less than one year of experience at their current organization chose promotion and advancement as more important than opportunities for development and training.

However, as tenure and seniority increases, employees become less interested in promotions and more interested in training and development opportunities that deepen their skill sets and expertise.

When you understand what employee development is and what your employees need, you can create a program that successfully engages, develops, and retains top talent.

Why you should invest in employee development opportunities

Of course you want employees who are always improving and growing—the more skilled your workforce, the better for business. However, not all employees are self-motivated. And many won’t know where to look for development opportunities.

That’s where an employee development program comes in. Employee development requires commitment and investment. But when done well, the payoff is worth it.

Employee development opportunities are linked to better performance and higher engagement—both of which impact business success.

In fact, 79% of employees who had access to a formal development program were engaged (compared to only 58% of employees whose organization didn’t have a formal program).

Of employees who participate in learning and development opportunities: 

  • 71% feel motivated
  • 55% feel empowered
  • 64% feel more equipped to do their job

When employees have access to development opportunities, it’s good for them, and it’s good for business.

Best practices for employee development

Planning and implementing your program can be tricky—but getting it right is crucial. Without the right opportunities and structure in place, you’ll have a hard time executing your ideas, getting buy-in from employees, and seeing positive results in performance and engagement.

Here are a few best practices to keep in mind as you plan your program.

Gather information.

Don’t just assume you know what opportunities employees want or need. To create an effective program, you need to make decisions based on reliable data. Survey managers and employees to uncover key insights and identify areas of opportunity.

Plan and prioritize.

Based on the data and feedback you gathered from your employees, you can begin planning your program. Map out what you will need and how you will achieve those benchmarks. Use insights from your data to prioritize opportunities so you can invest in things that will have the most impact.

Collaborate with stakeholders.

Work closely with stakeholders and subject-matter experts to build a robust and effective program. This will ensure your learning opportunities are high-quality. Plus, including input from team members will also encourage participation and engagement from the rest of your workforce.

Make it accessible.

The easier it is to access and participate in your development program, the more likely employees will be to take advantage of the opportunities you offer. Meet employees where they are so they can access opportunities anytime and anywhere in their preferred format.

Empower learning.

If employees don’t have a chance to practice and apply their knowledge regularly, they will have a harder time retaining the information and keeping those skills up. Empower learning by giving employees opportunities to share what they have learned and practice their skills. For example, they might present lunch and learns or help cross-train other co-workers.

6 types of employee development opportunities employees want

There are many ways to train and develop employees. Consider including these 6 employee development opportunities in your program.

1. Online training sessions and webinars.

Online training and webinars are time-efficient and cost-effective ways to train your employees. Online sessions make it easy for managers to track employee progress and reach out if and when assistance or support is needed.

Additionally, online training often allows employees to interact virtually or in-person with their colleagues to develop skills and grow their knowledge of specific topics.

2. Manager coaching and mentorship.

Manager coaching is the simplest, yet most effective development opportunity for employees. Employees want more feedback and direction. And managers have direct visibility into employee performance so that they can assess and ensure continuous employee development.

Consider creating a formal mentor program to integrate coaching into your manager-employee relationships and ensure team members have built-in support when they have questions or need direction.

3. Classroom-style learning.

According to an SHRM Skills Gap Report, 25% of Americans believe educational institutions should be responsible for solving workforce-development issues—making a case for exploring classroom-style learning.

This style of learning is useful when training a group of employees on the same tasks. The group setting allows for communication and encourages questions. Addressing specific topics all at once will help standardize messaging and build consistency.

4. Peer coaching.

Training can be intimidating, especially when it’s facilitated by someone you don’t know well. Peer coaching eliminates the intimidation factor and fosters a more relaxed learning experience.

Employees may feel more comfortable asking questions in this setting, which leads to a better understanding of the concept or development area at hand. Additionally, managers observing these sessions can learn valuable insights about employees’ personal goals and their perspectives on the organization.

5. Cross-training.

Cross-training develops employees to be their best selves in several areas of the business. This development style helps curb position fatigue while expanding employees’ horizons to build and grow different skills.

Explore providing alternative cross-training opportunities for your employees—such as conferences, online courses, or facilitating a company-wide book club. Regardless of the types of opportunities you provide, cross-training allows your employees to enhance their skill sets in various disciplines that will improve their fit within their role and the organization.

6.  Stretch assignments.

A simple way to help your employees grow is by assigning stretch assignments. Stretch assignments challenge employees with something new, which can spur learning and inspire greater confidence. Just be sure to connect the extra work to an opportunity for growth.

This is best done by tying the work to the employee’s professional goals. Work with them to identify areas they want to work on or skills they would like to learn so you can offer them relevant opportunities as they arise.

Keep in mind that with stretch assignments, it’s important to set employees up for success. Be careful not to overload them with responsibilities. Make sure you give them the resources they need to rise to the challenge.

5 Simple Tips for Having a Successful One on One Conversation

It’s no secret that communication is key to good management. But good communication isn’t always easy.
One-on-one meetings are a simple but effective way to improve communication with
your employees and increase engagement. In fact, 86% of highly engaged organizations conduct one-on-one meetings between managers and employees. However, just holding a one-on-one meeting isn’t enough. In order to be effective, your meetings must add value and build the manager-employee relationship. Otherwise, they’re just another meeting.Enthusiastic businessman and businesswoman discussing company business, talking about new project, sharing ideas during meeting sitting at office desk near big window with urban cityscape, side view

In this article, we will cover how effective one on one meetings can help your employees, teams, and business succeed by understanding:

  • Why one-on-one meetings are important
  • 5 simple tips for effective one-on-one conversations

Why one-on-one meetings are important

One-on-one meetings are a crucial part of a manager’s communication toolbox. Effective one-on-one meetings with employees can help you build a foundation of trust and collaboration with your team members as you work towards common goals.

One-on-one meetings give managers the opportunity to:

  • Discover employee goals and challenges
  • Understand employee and team morale
  • Identify opportunities to develop and train employees
  • Provide and receive valuable feedback 
  • Create actionable roadmaps for improvement
  • Share information about the organization and offer needed context for decisions
  • Coach and mentor employees

In other words, having good meetings is not just about reviewing performance—it’s about cultivating a relationship. One-on-one meetings are an important part of building those relationships so you can not only develop great talent but retain it. 

Meeting with your employees regularly helps you understand how each person is motivated, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and their potential within your team and the overall organization. This allows you to lead your team more effectively as you personalize and customize your management style and decisions based on your unique team dynamics.

Managers that listen to, understand, and respect each team member can successfully empower their employees and leverage each individual’s strengths to lift the entire team.

5 tips for successful one-on-one meetings

While holding one-on-one meetings is a good start, you also need to ensure they are actually effective. No one needs another meeting clogging up their schedule if it isn’t adding value.

Follow these one-on-one meeting tips to stay on track and make the most of you and your employees’ time.

1. Create a regular meeting schedule.

How often you hold one-on-one meetings will depend on the needs and workflow of your team. However, we found that 55% of highly engaged organizations hold 1:1s at least once per quarter.

Keep in mind that one-on-ones should extend beyond performance reviews. They are an opportunity to touch base with your employees individually and personally to understand what is working well, what you can do to support their success, and to provide needed context around decisions you or other company leaders make. Whatever cadence you choose, be consistent.

Add the meetings to your calendar on a regular schedule so they are routine and predictable. This will help your employees prepare for their one-on-ones and streamline the communication process.

Pro Tip: Make your employees a priority. Do not cancel one-on-ones unless absolutely necessary, and always reschedule as soon as possible. Actions speak louder than words, so failure to respect your employees’ time shows you don’t value them—no matter what you may say otherwise.

2. Listen to your employees.

Employees value a manager who respects them and listens to their ideas. Don’t turn your one-on-ones into a lecture or presentation (or strictly a performance review). Instead, use this time to have an open dialogue with your team members. Give your employees time to share, report, and brainstorm with you.

A report by Salesforce found that employees who feel their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

Practice active listening by: 

  • Asking open-ended questions 
  • Seeking clarification
  • Demonstrating concern
  • Listening without mentally formulating your response while they are speaking
  • Making eye contact and avoiding multitasking (hint: close your laptop and get off your phone)

When leaders practice listening and encourage true dialogue, they can build authentic relationships with their employees and discover crucial insights they might otherwise have missed.

3. Come prepared.

One-on-ones are the perfect opportunity to check in with each employee and see how they’re doing, what challenges they’re facing, and what you can do to support them.

Familiarize yourself with the projects they’re currently working on and the progress they’ve made already. Not only will this save time, but it will demonstrate you know and value their contribution from the start.

If you have a specific agenda or goal for your one-on-ones, prepare questions you want to cover in advance and gather any data or materials you’ll need to reference. Communicate with your employees on what to expect for the meetings.

Don’t forget that this is time for your employees to bring their ideas, concerns, and feedback to you as well. Ask them ahead of time what specific topics they want to discuss in your one-on-one.

When each person knows what to expect and comes prepared, the conversation will be more productive and less likely to veer off track.

4. Set and track goals.

Only 20% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they’ve had a conversation with their manager in the last six months about achieving goals.

That’s a lot of potential left on the table. As a manager, you can use one-on-ones to bridge that gap and help your team members:

  • Understand the company goals and vision
  • Set achievable professional goals
  • Align their goals with the organization
  • Create a strategic plan to meet those objectives

One-on-one meetings can help you gain visibility into how your employees are progressing, identify roadblocks to their success, and create strategies to overcome or remove those challenges.

They are also a great time to share the company’s overarching goals to provide context for the work your team is doing and help your employees develop goals that align with the organization’s direction.

By focusing on your employees’ goals and putting their work into context, you can empower them to succeed.

5. Focus on growth opportunities.

No one wants to feel stagnant in their job or career. Yet too often that is exactly what happens. In fact, a whopping 43% of employees feel unsatisfied with their career path. And only 21% of employees see opportunities for personal career growth at their organization.

Luckily, managers can make a big difference. Managers are in the perfect position to empower employees and create paths for growth and advancement. And one-on-ones are a chance to get to know your team members individually and work with each employee to set customized goals and development plans.

When you meet, don’t focus solely on current performance metrics and short-term goals. Talk to your employees about the future.

  • Where do they see themselves in a few years?
  • What roles are they interested in?

Work together to identify opportunities to grow within the team and the overall organization and then create a plan for success.

As you practice listening and communicating with your employees through regular one-on-ones, you will build stronger relationships with your employees, leverage their unique talents effectively within the team, and empower them to succeed now and in the future.

6 Ways to Increase Clarity Around Employee Compensation

Don’t leave your employees wondering! When it comes to employee compensation conversations, clarity is key. Consider these six ways to increase visibility and ensure everyone is on the same page.

#1. Adopt an open-door policy.

Honest conversations about compensation help employees understand how their salary compares to industry averages and allow them to express concerns or uncertainties. Don’t be afraid to talk through the pros and cons of making a move. Sure, a larger corporation might offer a higher salary—but they may also offer less opportunity for career growth.

This open dialogue will help both parties cut past formalities and identify the best solution, whether that’s a promotion plan or a parting of ways.

2. Educate your managers.

73% of leaders don’t feel very confident in their managers’ abilities to tackle compensation conversations with employees. HR and organizational leaders should equip managers with the resources they need to have these conversations at all stages of their direct reports’ tenure.

Managers should be able to clearly communicate how an employee’s initial salary was determined, and what the employee needs to do to move up to the next level.

Consider adding compensation training into your manager development program to ensure all managers are well versed in company best practices and industry market data.

#3. Give employees access to market data.

What resources do you use to make compensation decisions? Whether it’s Radford, Mercer, internal benchmarks, or some combination of these resources, make your methodology transparent to your entire workforce. HR teams should share the market data used to inform pay decisions and make it easy for employees to access at any time.

#4. Create a detailed policy and share it widely.

Is your company’s practice to always pay above the market average, on par, or slightly below? What factors inform salary? Whatever your practice, make sure that everyone from the recruiter to the manager to an entry-level employee understands your approach and the reasoning behind it.

Document how raises and promotions are determined so the process is standardized and clear to anyone considering career growth.

5. Track compensation metrics.

Data is king. Compensation decisions should be data-driven and fueled by market research and internal benchmarking. Build reports to determine how your pay practices compare to industry averages and, as your company grows, make sure you are scaling compensation accordingly. Something as simple as looking at salary data year over year can provide powerful insights into the success of your compensation strategy.

#6. Consider full salary transparency.

According to our research, about 17% of private companies practice pay transparency, 41% discourage it, and 25% explicitly prohibit the discussion of salary information. While company-wide salary disclosure isn’t right for every company culture, it is one way to provide full and complete transparency—and accountability—around pay practices.

It’s a huge decision to consider, but if clarity is a priority for your organization, it might be an asset to your employer brand and employee engagement initiatives.

8 Characteristics of High-Performing Teams (and How to Build One)

Why do some teams perform better than others? What sets these teams apart from the rest?

High-performing teams are composed of individuals with specialized expertise and complementary skills who are goal-oriented and hyper-focused on achieving clear, outstanding results. Together they collaborate and innovate to produce work at the highest levels.

8 Characteristics of High-Performing Teams (and How to Build One)

1. They have clear goals tied closely to team and organizational priorities.

High-performing teams are aligned in their focus, purpose, and priorities. They set team and individual goals that support this shared vision so that their work drives achievement. Goals are not only aligned, but they are clearly defined so everyone knows exactly what they need to do and how to get there.

2. They understand how their work fits into the organizational mission.

When employees understand how their job fits into the context of the overall goals and mission of the organization, they are more engaged and productive. High-performing teams know their “why” and work together to support a shared vision.

3. They have defined roles and responsibilities.

Conflict can quickly derail an otherwise talented and productive team. High-performing teams minimize unnecessary conflict by defining each person’s role and responsibilities clearly. This prevents confusion over project ownership, keeps workflows and deadlines organized, and ensures accountability across the board.

4. They communicate clearly and respectfully.

When communication breaks down, conflict arises and performance suffers. High-performing teams set clear expectations and channels for communication so everyone knows when and where to communicate and who they need to connect with. Conflict is normal, but high-performing teams know how to navigate it in a healthy way that doesn’t create more obstacles.

5. They manage work and deadlines based on priorities.

High-performing teams focus on what matters most and spend their time accordingly. They understand that not all work has equal importance or urgency and they manage projects based on what tasks have the highest priority and highest impact. This keeps work aligned with organizational goals and ensures everyone is focused on work that drives growth.

6. They trust and respect each other.

The level of collaboration and teamwork required for high achievement depends on trust and mutual respect. Employees on high-performing teams value each other and trust each person to do their job. They respect diversity of thought and experience and recognize those differences make them stronger. This culture of trust helps everyone:

  • Bring their full selves to the job
  • Take risks
  • Share ideas
  • Innovate together

7. They celebrate success together and recognize contributions.

High-performing teams understand that success results from team effort. They celebrate wins together and take opportunities to recognize and show appreciation for each employee’s contributions. This builds a strong culture of collaboration and helps everyone feel valued and connected.

8. They practice continuous learning.

Even the best teams have room to grow. High-performing teams value feedback and learn from their mistakes. They look for opportunities to grow by nurturing a feedback culture and investing in ongoing employee development. Continuous learning propels growth and keeps teams striving for higher achievement.

How the Best Managers Motivate Employees

Motivating employees is one of the toughest aspects of your job as a manager. Though you know motivation is the gateway to increasing productivity, a growing to-do list and general lack of time keep you from acting. You can’t guarantee that employees will be motivated, so why waste your precious time on something that might not work? 

Your efforts to motivate employees won’t be wasted if they start with a solid foundation. Employee motivation is built on authenticity: authentic feedback, authentic conversations, and authentic relationships.

Authenticity is the foundation to forming personal connections in the workplace. Individuals need certainty on their performance as well as an appreciation for their achievements. If your authentic self is not a part of your daily interactions with your team members, they will struggle to gain that certainty.

How the Best Managers Motivate Employees

#1. Understand your employees’ ambitions.

Every individual is motivated by and interested in different things. Your employees are also most likely at different points in their career journeys, so they need different things from their work. To motivate your employees, you must first gain deep understandings of where they want to go in their careers (and in a larger way, their lives). Start by asking, “What is most exciting about your career?” This will help unlock the employee’s desires and aspirations to help you put them in the best place to succeed.

#2. Align their ambitions with their work.

When you understand employees’ ambitions, you can pair them with tasks that need to be accomplished while tapping into employee motivation. For example, if one of your employees wants to eventually serve on the board of a community foundation, ask him or her to lead a project or a set of meetings.

#3. Provide real feedback in the moment.

While assigning tasks based on ambition is a great first step, motivation can quickly fizzle out without followup. You should give feedback on how employees are growing toward their ambitions and contributing to the organization. By giving feedback in the moment, you can capitalize on their success and continue motivating them to do more. Drive home the importance of giving and receiving feedback to all employees in the organization.

#4. Know and celebrate their wins.

Large, career-length goals are great, but every long-term aspiration has smaller milestones along the way. Managers should know what those milestones are. Ask your team, “At the end of the year, what key points can we look back on and know success has been achieved?” When team members hit those points, the best managers celebrate their success! Be sure to identify how the employee prefers to be recognized; not everyone wants to celebrate success in the same way.

#5. Repeat.

It’s important to know employees’ motivations are not static. Ambitions evolve along with lives and experiences . Keep the motivation conversation top of mind by scheduling regular one on ones to touch base on their ambitions, productivity and wins. 

3 Tips to Overcome Fear of Change in the Workplace

39503779 – businessman holding sledgehammer hitting 3d fear mottled concrete word with business doodles wall background, overcoming fear concept.

You’ve likely heard this saying many times before: “The only constant in life is change.” Yet if change is the one thing in life that’s inevitable, then why are we employees so horrible at dealing with it? One word: fear. Our fear of change in the workplace can inhibit our ability to embrace the new and better and focus our attention on something much more disengaging – the unknown.

Change within organizations often brings with it the unknown, and the unknown can cause people to go into panic mode. David Rock, author of the Handbook of Neuroleadership, explains that uncertainty registers as an error, gap, or tension in the brain: something that must be corrected before one can feel comfortable again. Not knowing what will happen next can be profoundly debilitating because it can overload cognitive resources, which can diminish memory, undermine performance, and disengage people from the present.

With that in mind, it’s essential that you make a conscious effort to overcome your fear of change in the workplace and remain engaged in the present. Keep reading for the three A’s on how to overcome your fear of change.

#Acknowledge your comfort level with change.

We all cope with change differently, moving through it at varying speeds as we navigate our unique levels of uncertainty and ambiguity. For some employees, high uncertainty may be caused by a new manager, whereas other employees may only feel uncertain during full reorganizations of teams and reporting structures. One of best things you can do when dealing with fear of change in the workplace is acknowledging your own level of discomfort. How have you felt during prior changes? What were those changes? How long do you typically feel that way? Are you excited for changes or do you dread a potential new direction, role change, or expanded responsibility? Once you acknowledge your own level of comfort, you can recognize how you may impact others’ fear of change in the workplace and, more importantly, how to overcome your own fear of change.

#Articulate the facts.

When an organization is evolving and confronting a change, water cooler discussions often become more frequent and less engaging. It’s easy during these times of uncertainty to latch onto details that provide you some level of comfort, even if it’s false certainty. We often imagine worst case scenarios just to provide what we think is clarity on a situation; however, it’s typically far from the reality. When trying to reduce the fear of change in the workplace, take time to articulate the facts. What did the organization communicate? Is there a timeline?  What haven’t they communicated? What does the environment actually reflect? Have you been told how your role will change or if it will change? Can you discuss how you feel with your manager? Writing down the facts may help you distinguish fact from fiction and reduce the likelihood that you will fall victim to rumors. Focusing only on the facts is a big milestone on the path to overcoming your fear of change.  

#Activate on the change.

Instead of hiding from your fear of change in the workplace, overcome it by being open and flexible to taking on new challenges and tasks that align with the occurring changes. Maintain a high level of performance and engagement by actively participating and focusing your energy on developing new behaviors. Adopt an attitude of anticipation and excitement. Welcome change as an opportunity to involve yourself in new projects and teams. That way, you will more likely feel empowered and less fearful. Look for positivity in the path forward in order to develop new behaviors.

The next time you feel like your fear of change in the workplace is causing stress and disengagement, apply these three tips. For even more guidance on how to effectively communicating change to alleviate fear, check out the templates and communication tools below. 

Understanding the Manager’s Role in Employee Engagement

Businesswoman Stands To Address Meeting Around Board Table

Managers can make or break your employee engagement and performance. Below we’ll cover how to leverage your most effective engagement resource to motivate, empower, and retain your workforce.

  • Why managers are key to employee engagement
  • Top 3 things employees want from their managers
  • How HR can help managers engage employees

Why managers are key to employee engagement

If you’ve ever had an ineffective manager, you know how much they can impact employee engagement. According to the Gallup Business Journal, 70% of the variance in team engagement across business units is explained by the quality of the manager.

In other words, engagement is a management issue.

And this makes sense. Employees naturally gauge their connection and engagement with an organization through their local relationships and environments. And no one has a greater influence on those day-to-day interactions, processes, and operations than the managers on the ground with them.

Good managers fill the role that HR can’t—they build personalized relationships and connections with their employees, leveraging individual strengths to empower and motivate their people where they are. But what if you don’t have effective managers?

Fortunately, leadership is a learned skill and you can train your current management to better understand and address their employees’ needs. To do this, you first need to know what your employees want.

Top 3 things employees want from their managers

The first step to upping your management game is understanding what your employees actually want. (Hint: It’s not ping pong—even though we love ping pong).

Research by Quantum Workplace found there are three main ways managers can do better. And the good news is anyone can learn and apply these principles. Let’s dive in.

1. Growth and development opportunities

Employees want opportunities to grow and develop at your company. Growth opportunities consistently rank high for employees across the board including

  • #1 for new employees who have been at the company less than one year
  • #2 for employees age 26-35
  • #5 for employees of all demographics

This means that prioritizing employee development can have a significant impact on engagement no matter what your team looks like.

Our recent employee development research found that 79% of employees who had a formal development program were engaged, compared to 58% who said their organization doesn’t have a formal program.

Not only do growth opportunities impact engagement, but they also impact performance. Employees who take advantage of development programs are more motivated, more empowered, and feel more equipped to do their jobs.

Pro Tip: Managers can help by working with their employees to create individualized goals and roadmaps for their career, assigning work and recommending employees for projects based on those goals, and communicating with their team about development opportunities within the company.

2. Recognition and appreciation

Everyone wants to be appreciated for the work they do. Yet employee recognition and appreciation remains one of the top reasons for disengagement and dissatisfaction among employees.

When you look at the numbers, it’s no surprise why. Our recent employee recognition research found that over 52% of employees report wanting more recognition from their immediate supervisor. But 22.1% of employees say they never or rarely receive that appreciation.

Managers that want to engage employees must work on bridging that gap.

One of the top five drivers of employee engagement is believing the leaders of the organization value people as their most important resource.

An employee recognition strategy is a great way to demonstrate you care.

Managers are the first line of defense in an employee recognition program. Managers are the ones working with individuals and can see and respond to progress and performance in real-time.

Managers also have personal relationships with their employees, so recognition from their immediate supervisors is often more meaningful and authentic.

Pro Tip: Employee recognition doesn’t have to be a huge initiative. As you build a recognition program, consider incorporating the following strategies:

  • Ask your employees how they want to be recognized.
  • Give specific and detailed praise.
  • Aim to recognize each employee weekly.

Small and consistent praise can be just as empowering as bigger recognition events.

3. Communication and feedback

Today’s workforce values regular feedback and honest communication from their leaders. 

Often, companies consider annual reviews to be sufficient—but they’re missing a valuable opportunity to connect with their employees if they only provide formal feedback once a year. 

Research by Gallup indicates that teaching managers and employees to have more frequent, meaningful conversations about work expectations and progress leads to higher engagement and performance. 

Regular one-on-one meetings with each team member are crucial for making personal, authentic connections with employees and give managers valuable insight into what motivates (or demotivates) their people.

By meeting regularly with their team members, managers can build trust, better address employee concerns, and help them meet their goals—resulting in happier and more engaged workers.

Pro Tip: The frequency of your one-on-ones will depend on the needs and experience of your team. A brief weekly check-in or a more in-depth monthly review may work well. Experiment with the frequency to find what works well for you and your employee(s)

Whatever cadence you choose, make sure to schedule it as a recurring event on the calendar and respect your employee’s time. This means:

  1. Be on time.
  2. Come prepared.
  3. Don’t cancel. (If you must cancel, be sure to reschedule it immediately for the next earliest availability).

How HR can help managers engage employees

Gather employee feedback.

Managing people can sometimes feel like throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks. HR can help take the guesswork out of employee engagement solutions by helping managers gather and analyze employee feedback through formal surveys.

Engagement surveys are a great way to:

  • Uncover employees opinions
  • Identify potential points of friction in processes or operations
  • Pinpoint gaps between organizational initiatives and the employee experience
  • Gather actionable recommendations for improvement

Break down engagement metrics into actionable items.

To improve employee engagement, you need your managers to buy in and make it a priority. The easiest way to do this is to demystify the data and break it down into actionable takeaways.

When managers know both what the problem is and how to solve it, they are much more motivated to tackle it.

For instance, when HR presents their engagement findings, show the actual engagement questions (and how they scored) like “In the last seven days I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

By presenting the individual items that make up an engagement score, managers are better equipped to solve the problems at the source.

Leverage engagement software.

Employee engagement software can help HR enhance communication, improve data collection and insights, and support management initiatives.

Quantum Workplace makes it easy for HR to understand and improve engagement across the organization and share key insights with management. The intuitive interface seamlessly integrates into your existing workflow so managers can surface real-time insights and use smart suggestions to prioritize engagement activities that will have the greatest impact.

Engaging employees doesn’t have to be a mystery. With the right tools and smart management, organizations can connect with and empower their employees for mutual success.

Employee Engagement Roles: Who’s Responsible for Employee Engagement?

Who is responsible for employee engagement at your organization? 
That may or may not seem like a simple question, but stop reading and honestly consider it for a second. If you had to identify exactly who determines the success or failure of your employee engagement strategies, who do you point to? Is it leadership, HR, managers, or individual contributors?
Each member of your company has important responsibilities, and if your organization is going to commit and truly make engagement a priority, everyone needs to buy in and do their part.

Employee Engagement Roles: Who’s Responsible for Employee Engagement?

#Senior Leaders

Organizational leaders are employee engagement advocates. They are the most powerful influencers of the organization’s culture, and their attitude toward engagement trickles down and influences every part of the company. Their example sets the tone for everyone else – if leaders prioritize engagement, the rest of the organization will follow.  

Responsibilities: 

  • Demonstrate an enthusiastic attitude toward engagement 
  • Craft the long-term vision for employee engagement strategies 
  • Communicate changes in strategy 
  • Provide large-scale updates on organizational progress 

#HR

HR is the behind-the-scenes maestro that puts an employee engagement strategy into action. HR takes ownership of engagement initiatives, ensures everything runs smoothly, and irons out potential hiccups.  

Responsibilities: 

  • Hold managers and employees accountable for engagement initiatives 
  • Choose employee engagement software and train managers and employees how to use it  
  • Serve as the go-to source when engagement issues arise  
  • Support managers and supply them with useful tools and resources 

#Managers

As the number one touchpoint for employees, managers are responsible for implementing the engagement initiatives determined by leadership and HR. Managers serve as sounding boards for employee opinions and concerns and are responsible for relaying these to HR and leadership. 

Responsibilities: 

#Employees

It’s impossible to know if your employee engagement strategy is really working without getting honest feedback from those on the front lines. Employees need to understand why initiatives are put in place and how those initiatives will make an impact. Employees should carefully consider what would improve the employee experience and share their ideas. 

Responsibilities: 

  • Provide feedback about what is and isn’t working with the current engagement strategy 
  • Brainstorm solutions to improve the employee experience 
  • Participate in employee focus groups 
  • Seek out development opportunities and learning experiences to facilitate personal growth  
  • Provide updates on personal goals 

Real change can’t happen until everyone involved buys into your employee engagement strategies. Once everyone understands, accepts, and embraces their role, you’ll begin to see improvements in, productivity, turnover, and the customer experience. 

5 Employee Retention Strategies for Middle Market Companies

Making up one-third of private sector GDP and employing approximately 47.9 million people, middle market companies (ranging from 500 to 4,999 employees) are vital to the health of the U.S. economy.

In fact, a National Center for the Middle Market report states that “the health of these businesses and their respective outlook serve as a solid indicator for the greater U.S. economy as a whole.”

However, as mid-sized companies experience revenue and employment growth, recruiting, engaging, and retaining top talent remains a challenge. And if the middle market can’t overcome these challenges, our entire economy could suffer.

5 Employee Retention Strategies for Middle Market Companies

#1. Hire for Alignment

One of the top three middle market turnover predictors is misalignment with future. Meaning, when middle market employees are uncertain of how they fit into the company’s future, they’re more likely to leave. Remember this when hiring. Ask applicants what their career goals are and how they plan to achieve them. Then, it is up to you to make sure that the applicant and the position are aligned with your company’s plans for future success. Remember, the cost of hiring the wrong candidate is far greater than the cost of ensuring the right fit.

#2. Collect Employee Feedback

How can you expect to retain talent if you don’t know what’s motivating employees to stay or what might drive them to leave? Collecting regular employee feedback (via annual engagement surveyspulse surveys, and one-on-one meetings) sends a strong message that you value each individual employee voice even as headcount grows. Plus, employee feedback trends and analytics can actually help you predict employee turnover – by identifying where engagement might be slipping and intervening before it is too late.

#3. Offer Training and Development Opportunities

If middle market employees don’t think their jobs are interesting, challenging, or utilizing their strengths, they’re likely to make a beeline for the door. In fact, the number one predictor of middle market turnover is lack of job satisfaction. Give employees the chance to develop new skills, challenge themselves, and advance their careers by offering training and development opportunities. Any investment you make in your employees’ career growth and professional development will only benefit your growing company.

#4. Create Positive Team Dynamics

When employees like their manager and believe their team collaborates effectively, they’re more likely to be engaged (and less likely to leave). This is especially true in middle market companies, where close-knit team members are often expected to rely on each other to reach department goals. To foster positive team dynamics:

  • Train managers on how to build and nurture a passionate team
  • Create a culture that expects and values open and honest communication
  • Encourage team members to learn and understand each other’s strengths and working personalities
  • Clearly define team roles and responsibilities; set public goals to ensure accountability

#5. Motivate in Meaningful Ways

When employees believe their contributions and efforts are recognized, they’re more motivated, more engaged, and more likely to stay at your organization. But as headcount grows, responsibilities increase, and unexpected challenges surface, making it easy for genuine employee recognition to slip through the cracks.

Keep employee recognition at the forefront of your middle market retention strategy by implementing best practices and software that make employees feel valued and fit your culture. Develop a detailed bonus strategy, foster a flexible work environment, or utilize a public recognition board.

Middle market companies are facing real challenges, but none that are too large to overcome.

7 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress in the Workplace

Stress is one of the most daunting obstacles to employee engagement in the modern workplace. In the workplace, employee-environment fit should be the primary focus. If it’s a good match, the employee is likely to be relaxed. A poor fit increases tension and stress. As managers and companies, we need to examine our employees and the environments we create for them. We need to make sure we are providing an office that fits our employees’ definition of “not stressful,” not just what we think that looks like.

We have a few broad ideas that can be used to alleviate workplace stress, but make sure you tailor them to your workforce. Put these ideas into action; and remember, the best strategies start with leadership’s example.

7 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress in the Workplace

#1. Encourage workplace wellness.

Exercise and healthy living are two of your best weapons against workplace stress. Exercise takes employees’ minds off the stress of their job to focus on the task at hand. It also improves moods by increasing the production of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters.

  • Encourage employees to go on a walk during lunch breaks
  • Subsidize gym memberships
  • Bring a yoga instructor into the office once a month
  • Hold a steps contest among teams for those who own fitness trackers
  • Offer healthy snacks in the office

Employees feel valued when they think you’re looking out for their health! A study by Peapod.com reported that 66% of employees felt extremely or very happy when their employer regularly stocked the refrigerator and cupboards, and 83% said that having healthy and fresh snack options was a huge perk. Something as simple as keeping fresh fruit or cartons of yogurt in the fridge goes a long way with employees.

#2. Revamp the habitat.

A lot of stress comes from environment. Think about every aspect of your office space and what it does (or doesn’t do) for the wellness of your team. Simple things like the quality of the coffee or the height of the cubicle walls can affect employee engagement.

Update the office with an upbeat color scheme, additional plants, or new silverware. If you have the space, think about adding a ping pong or foosball table to allow employees to take their mind off of their stress for a few minutes. Any changes that increase employee enjoyment will leave them feeling less stressed.

#3. Allow for flexible hours and remote working.

You hired your employees because you have confidence in their ability to do their jobs well and in a timely manner—so let them prove it. Your office shouldn’t feel like a cell, but rather a place that facilitates getting a job done. Let your employees know that their job is defined by the quality and timeliness of their work, not when they punch the clock.

Allow your employees to work remotely, and give flexibility for start and end times. This freedom is great for office morale, and the policy shows employees that you trust them enough not to babysit.  

#4. Encourage social activity.

Employees spend a lot of time together, and the more comfortable they are, the less stress they will feel. As coworkers get to know each other, expectations and communication barriers are broken down, greasing the wheels for easier future interactions. 

#5. Create quiet time.

Stress can’t be completely avoided, but you can help alleviate it when it arrives. Ensure your employees have a place where they can take a break.

Our research shows that more than 80 percent  of disengaged and hostile employees preferred the opportunity to have stress-relief breaks, such as a nap, massage, or required break. A small room, a lounge space at the end of the hall, and even an outdoor bench can be perfect places to find refuge from the chaos of the daily grind. Think about longer, retreat-style vacations, which can serve the same purpose.

If your organization can afford to do so, consider implementing “No Meeting Mondays” or something similar, essentially blocking off time for employees to focus in on individual task and keep from getting bogged down with meetings or overwhelmed by a heavy workload.

#6. Provide onsite or distance counseling.

Many companies have also begun providing counseling as a way for employees to help deal with stress; in a recent study, almost half of workers felt they needed help in learning how to handle the stresses of their jobs. This strategy—in or out of the office, in group settings or individually—can help employees prepare for what stress will come their way.

#7. Recognize your employees.

Employees love being praised for a job well done, and recognizing their success results in a serious boost in engagement. Each employee has a different personality, so be mindful when considering how and when to recognize. Some employees appreciate a call-out during a meeting or praise in a company-wide email, while more reserved types might prefer a card on their desk or a thank you in person.

However you choose to recognize, your employees will appreciate that you are aware off their success and want to share it with others. This makes them happier and more comfortable, in turn lowering stress levels.