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  • Writer's pictureCharles Edge

Improving Our Teams (and Engagement)

Starting a company can be fast-paced, hiring to match the pace of customer acquisition and hiring for what we need at the moment. New teams are often highly engaged and fairly easy to manage.

Employee engagement will dip eventually, no matter how good a manager a team reports to. But as managers, we can make the workplace more appealing. This might be initiatives such as employee training and development. You know, investing in the team.

This might be a budget item. Something that shows up on a balance sheet in a larger organization, but when just getting started it tends to be a bit more ad hoc. An employee might ask for more training and get the green light. But then something funny often happens: nothing.

Giving our teams approval for training doesn't necessarily mean that they'll do it unless we follow up methodically and sometimes even micromanage the process. Why does this happen and what does it show about how employers and employees alike can do a better job to make sure team development happens? There are as many reasons as there are teams but there are five main buckets they tend to fall into.

The employee doesn't know what kind of training they want or need. We can address this by asking for three or four ideas or by working with them to create an individual learning plan. Collaborating with them to explore an overarching objective for the training makes them feel included and can bring up many things either party wouldn’t have considered on their own, such as improving public speaking skills, management training, becoming a subject matter expert with our own products, or something else entirely.

The employee's goals don't match team goals. It's a mistake to lay out a training program without considering what an employee actually wants out of it. We should always ask about goals and not assume.

The employee knows what they want but feels pressed for time. Earmark a specific amount of time per week for training, and then be sure to firewall that time so that employees can't be pulled away to work on other tasks.

There's no budget. Not all training costs $5,000-$10,000 per employee per week. We can often get custom courses (even with vendor-led certification courses) that cost a fraction of that if you have enough participants. There also are podcasts, books, online course, and other free resources on the Internet.

Employees don't like the teaching methods. Some people can't learn in a classroom, others can't do self-paced, and others still need exercise or goal-oriented training. Be flexible to allow employees to learn in the ways they need to learn, not just in the ways we think they want to learn.

They simply don't want training. Maybe they have a new family or a sick parent, or just don't see training as a priority and aren't willing to make the time. Here, make sure our teams feel comfortable doing training during typical work hours. They’ll thank you for making that investment into them.

Not everyone is going to have drive in their professional career. In fact, in many ways we want our teams to have more drive to improve the team. But it’s our responsibility as an employer and hopefully friend, to keep employees from having out-of-date skills and make sure our coworkers are happy and growing. Part of this is to just help employees understand the resources available to them and why it's important to take advantage of those resources But sometimes it means going a step further and understanding why. If the why is that people are prioritizing the company over their own needs then they deserve even more attention to get more training.

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