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Op-Ed: Why you need to develop and invest in your employees

Even though the unemployment rate is much higher than it was before Covid-19 struck there is a new war for talent.

Companies I work with are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to fill roles at any level. Entry level talent is as difficult to recruit as PHDs. The best employees are receiving offers that are eye popping to leave their current positions and move to a new opportunity. Poaching is in full swing.

Companies need to up the ante to keep their best employees happy. You know that the cost is enormous to recruit, onboard and train new talent. Why not just work to keep the best talent as part of your team? One keyway to do this is to help them grow and learn.

Most companies do not employ an organizational development/training expert. As a matter fact, most new leaders get their first leadership position at 26. They receive their first formal training at 42. That 16-year gap is filled with on the job training. It is no small wonder that there are quite a few poorly trained leaders.

Couple this with the fact that within the next four years millennials will account for most of your key employees and leaders, you need to find ways to develop your team if you want them to stay with your company.

Millennials really want to grow and learn. Your company will need to make an intentional commitment to developing talent at every level. There has never been a CEO or company owner that I have spoken with who does not say their talent is their greatest asset. Truthfully most treat their equipment with more care than they do their talent. Let’s change this by committing today to develop and invest in your talent. Here are some ideas to help that process.

Develop a mentorship program. This is a very affordable way to help develop great leaders within your company. You can either use long-term employees as mentors for new talent or have all your key employees look for an outside mentor. The goal would be to find someone that that is willing to listen and encourage the development of the mentee. I have used a mentor program with The Vistage Emerging Leaders Program with great success. Here are some key components of mentors:

Mentors are not single-subject teachers, or even just teachers. As much as you share information, you serve as a role model, a contact and a friend, just to name a few of your possible roles. Mentoring relationships take shape around the needs of your mentee, so you may find yourself focusing more on some of these roles than others:

  • Adviser. Ensure the mentee is setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and time-bound.
  •  Counselor. Once trust is established, discuss work situations and provide guidance to help the mentee find their own solutions and improve their own problem-solving skills.
  • Motivator. Help your mentee through tough times and keep the mentee focused on developing job skills to improve performance and sense of self-worth.
  •  Company guide. Explain how to navigate the inner workings of your organization. This may include information about any unwritten expectations or rules for success. It may also include introductions to important people or organizations within your company.
  • Role model. Be a living example for your mentee.
  • Referral agent. Once a plan is developed, assist your mentee in referring others who can provide training, information, and assistance. Direct your mentee to relevant career-enhancing materials, organizations, and activities.
  • Door opener. Open doors by helping establish a network of professional contacts within and outside an organization. Help your mentee understand the importance of networking with seniors, peers and juniors to

Join a peer group.

The most accomplished leaders exchange information and ideas. They network to make deals and build partnerships. They work together to establish best practices and they reach out to leaders outside their company to accelerate growth. Executives provide value to one another that they cannot find anywhere else. There are many peer groups to join in Central PA. Groups such as Vistage, YPO, High Family Business Center and Leadership Harrisburg all bring a group of peers together to grow and learn. There are many different levels of peer groups. Within the Vistage brand there are different kinds of peer groups.

They include:

  • CEO Peer Groups: These are for leaders of companies that have a larger leadership team and are more strategic.
  •  Small Business Groups. For the more entrepreneurial leaders without as much infrastructure.
  •  Key Groups: For C-Suite leaders below reporting to the CEO.
  •  Emerging Leaders: Designed for high-potential, highly performing, emerging leaders.
  • Vistage Inside: for larger companies that want a leadership program designed exclusively for their company.

There are also many industry-specific peer groups that have programs designed for development. Pick one or more, send your team and help them grow and learn. Make development a priority for 2021.

University Level Executive Programs: Most universities have development programs for executive development. Penn State has Executive MBA programs as well as an incredible supply chain program. Wharton is close by and has Executive MBA programs for leaders who do not have time for a full MBA. All of these can now be done virtually.

Do it yourself: Several of the organizations I work with have begun to work on their own internal development programs. These might include everything from “tool talks” and safety meetings for the staff in the field, to things such as product knowledge, sales training, and soft skills. You can design and implement your own leadership academy that will positively impact your employees.

Several years ago I developed the “Lead with Purpose Leaders Pledge.” It is available for a free download on my website www.johndame.com. Pledge #4 says: “I will cultivate a culture where each person had the opportunity to learn, grow, and do their best.” If you are committed to developing talent at your company, take this pledge. You will be able to grow an incredible, high performing team and lead with Purpose.

A CEO coach to countless business leaders, John Dame (“JD”) is an executive team consultant and leadership strategist based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He founded Dame Management Strategies in 2002, serves as Vistage’s Best Practice Chair for South Central Pennsylvania, and founded JD Evolution, an annual conference that features a series of daylong events that explore critical leadership qualities. Visit his website at: johndame.com.•

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