Millennials own the workforce these days, which means it’s time to figure out what they want out of their jobs. As it turns out, one of their greatest desires is the opportunity to grow as people and professionals. In fact, they value this to a much greater degree than any previous generation. According to Gallup polling, 87 percent of them want a job that fosters meaningful development.
This isn’t a problem you can just throw money at, though, even if employers spent about $1,273 per employee on development programs in 2016. If you want your company and your people to have something to show for their time and money, you need to find out which programs and techniques deliver a solid ROI. Here are six trends you should consider.
1. Build a Mentorship Program
There’s nothing new about mentorships, but they’ve resurfaced as a popular way to build rapport, foster long-lasting and productive relationships, and help transfer practical skills.
Spreading out subject matter expertise is great for your company today, but it’s also great for business continuity tomorrow. Your veterans won’t be with you forever, and when they do leave, their mentees will step into their role without missing a beat. Best of all, mentorships cost you nothing — and they help employees feel more at home in their roles and more secure in their future.
2. Train for “Soft Skills”
There’s a reason why employers are singling out soft skills in addition to experience and practical skills during recruiting. Both are essential if you want well-rounded people working for you.
Soft skills include things like active listening, negotiation, intellectual curiosity, troubleshooting, public speaking and much more. These are difficult to master, but they’re vital for well-rounded development programs. In terms of ROI, they’ll likely pay for themselves in the form of a more harmonious, effective and engaged workplace.
3. Create Personalized Progression Paths
Employers have long held to a familiar formula when it comes to promotions and, historically, it revolved around tenure with the company and little else. Those days are probably at an end.
It’s time for your company to embrace the trend of personalized progression paths. Personalized progression could be part of a mentorship program or stand on its own. The point is to reconnect with employees on a regular basis to set practical goals which unite company goals with their own personal development goals. Ask employees about their role today and what role they’d like to step into, given the chance. Find out if there are training courses or seminars they’d like to attend. Then, recommend some of your own that align with the goals you’ve developed together.
This can be a way to build engagement, ensure your training budget is well-spent, and demystify the advancement process.
4. Offer Tuition Reimbursement
Everybody knows college is incredibly expensive these days. Employers have always had the option to provide tuition reimbursement for employees who want to continue their education, build new skill sets and make themselves more valuable company assets. The trouble is, it’s been difficult to measure the ROI of programs like these.
Thankfully, we’re not in the dark any longer. Recent studies demonstrate a return of $1.29 or more for every dollar a company commits to tuition reimbursement for their employees. This ROI comes from two sources — savings on talent management and lower rates of turnover for employees who feel trapped in their current role. Just as importantly, tuition reimbursement programs leave employees feeling valued, valuable and more capable of taking on the world.
5. Reward Community Engagement
Some estimates say as many as 86 percent of millennials would take a lower-paying job if it means working with a company that values the same things they do. Increasingly, that means community participation, engaging in charitable works and generally giving back to the world in some way.
There are tons of ways for your company to find charitable opportunities in your area and beyond. If your company’s mission doesn’t extend beyond turning a bigger profit this quarter than it did the last, this isn’t for you. But for everybody else, this is your reminder that some forms of employee development are simultaneously subtle and impactful.
If you recognize and reward team members who follow you into the fray and donate their time to a worthwhile and worldly cause, don’t be surprised when they’re willing to follow you almost anywhere else, too.
6. Encourage Cross-Training
We’ve reached the end of our list, but not nearly the end of the opportunities out there to double-down on employee training and engagement.
Sometimes, all it takes to foster employee development is an opportunity for them to explore a different part of the company that they wouldn’t otherwise get to see and take part in. This is hugely beneficial for getting them more “plugged in” to the company’s larger culture and its overarching missions and goals. It gives them a better sense of context for their own role and encourages friendships beyond their familiar teams. Of course, it also develops better-rounded employees who can wear many hats confidently and who can help the company weather talent departures and other shakeups.
Listening to Your Employees
Ultimately, how you tackle employee development and training is up to you — but don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions. What do your employees want out of their careers? What kind of training would be most appealing? You won’t accommodate everybody, but there’s no ROI like the ROI that comes from raised spirits and healthier engagement.
The views of the author of this article do not necessarily represent the views of Gradifi. We make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained here. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax or financial advisors to understand the tax, financial and legal consequences of any strategies mentioned in this article.