Employee Growth and Development Tips

Discover essential strategies for fostering employee growth and development in your organization, from structured orientation programs to continuous learning and feedback.

by
Danielle Riha
in
June 14, 2024

Fostering employee growth and development is an essential part of any good employee retention plan. Employers of choice must have robust strategies in place to support and enhance their employees' career progression, or else risk losing them to someone who does.

To understand the fundamental components necessary for fostering such growth, we sought insights from our partners, who have seen firsthand what works best for their clients. By integrating the strategies discussed below, employers can significantly improve individual performance and drive more organizational success overall. 

When it comes to employee growth and development, what are the essentials that every good employer should have in place?

Employee growth and development are pivotal components for cultivating a thriving and resilient workforce. To get an idea of the essentials that every good employer should have in place for fostering such growth, we asked our partners what they’ve seen work for their clients. 

Their responses ranged from defining clear roles and responsibilities to creating a culture of continuous learning. By implementing these strategies, employers can not only enhance individual employee performance but also drive overall organizational success.

1. Clearly defined roles and responsibility, including a growth plan for each role

Every good employer should have roles and responsibilities clearly defined and discuss them with each employee. Additionally, jointly developing a learning and development plan with each employee is a critical investment that will continue to boost the employee experience and hence boost the overall productivity of the company.

Bahaa Moukadam, SeeMetrics Partners

There should be a plan for growth in every role. Most people want to advance in some way. Advancement can come vertically (the most commonly perceived form of growth), horizontally (moving between departments, divisions, business units, or even functions within a business), and within their own role (called role enlargement). Expanding the idea and perception of advancement to include all three will help provide the growth employees are looking, for even in small businesses with low complexity and few administrative layers. 

— Michael Maggiotto Jr, BEST Human Capital & Advisory Group

Succession planning is a key component in not only scaling, but also in retention. Making it known there are/will be opportunities for advancement (along with the KPI's/metrics needed to advance) gives employees something to work toward and can be extremely helpful in retaining motivated workers.

— Jason Florek, Nexstar Network

Employees may be unclear on the proper direction they need to grow to help improve the company, while also gaining personal benefit. A company should have clear job descriptions of what skills are needed for each role within the organization. The company should also have a list of suggested training webinars, videos or organizations that the employee can watch or attend to achieve the growth they desire. 

— Brian Brueggemann, Wilson360

Every employer should have a coaching plan for employees that have been identified as emerging leaders and/or employees that have demonstrated a willingness to upgrade their skills in a particular area of the business. 

Cullen Talley, Exit Momentum

Provide a clear roadmap for advancement. Employees need to see not just where they are, but where they can go. By offering a transparent trajectory for career progression, complete with milestones and opportunities for growth, individuals can visualize themselves ascending to new heights within the company. This not only boosts morale but also cultivates a sense of loyalty and commitment, driving both individual and organizational success in the long run.

— Robert Clinkenbeard, Wilson360

Employers should have a career ladder (i.e. organizational chart) prominently displayed in different parts of your facility. This should not only show where all employees are at currently, but it should also show potential openings for the next couple years. (This look ahead comes through your strategic planning process). Separately, there should be Position Results descriptions for each position so employees can see what skills and experience is needed to be able to move into the open positions.

— Jud Griggs, The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting

I've seen organizations achieve amazing results by empowering their employees with clear expectations for performance. Setting clear and measurable goals at the beginning of the year is key. If the employee knows what those goals are for corporate performance as well as professional growth, he/she will reach to achieve the results. This doesn't work well unless the employer takes the time to cascade those goals through the organization and check on progress throughout the year. 

— Alison Hoffman, The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting

Offer a visualization of career progression that provides clear career paths within the organization. This encompasses opportunities for promotions, lateral moves, skill development, and leadership roles.

— Gloria Wesley, Exodus Management and Consulting, LLC

2. Regular feedback, discussion and coaching around the goals and growth

There should be a feedback model in place that allows regular and frequent touch-bases with employees to understand how they are doing both personally and professionally. This should be a two-way feedback model where the goal is to both provide and receive feedback. Do not wait for an annual or semi-annual review to provide and receive feedback. People need it more immediately and frequently.
In these meetings, what you are listening for is indicators that let you know when and how to advance/grow your people. When you can demonstrate responsiveness to their needs and goals, you will grow the capabilities of your people at the right time to balance the benefit to both the employee and the organization. It's a win-win. The trick, however, is that when you receive feedback, you must be prepared to act. A key responsibility of every leader is to provide resources and remove obstacles for their people. When you do this, you help them grow. It's like fertilizing and watering plants (providing resources) while weeding gardens and spraying pesticides to remove impediments to growth for your crops. People are no different.

— Michael Maggiotto Jr, BEST Human Capital & Advisory Group

Many employees may not actively search out ways on their own to grow and develop within their skill set. The employer needs to have a 30 & 90 day performance review policy in place that involves the new employee, their manager/leader and HR. This ensures the employee is moving in the right direction and it allows for thoughts and suggestions on how to improve and grow to be shared openly. Then, annual performance reviews for active team members are vital, along with brief quarterly check-ins to guarantee success for both the employee and the organization.

— Brian Brueggemann, Wilson360

Employers should have clear and consistent communication with the employees on an ongoing basis, not just annually. 

Carla Policastro, Cycle CPA

Managers who are genuinely interested in who their people are and where they want to go build the kind of trust that enables employees to stretch way beyond what they thought they could do. Such managers become legendary in that person's life. They talk about them for the rest of their careers. 

— Dan Silvert, Velocity Advisory Group

Employers should have regular, scheduled coaching conversations with employees to both provide feedback and coaching to the employee, and also, for an opportunity to listen to the employee's ideas, concerns, and requests. 

Jack Jostes, Ramblin Jackson 

3. A dedicated champion for employee growth & development

The champion should support all aspects of employee growth and development including onboarding, clear communication of the company vision, clear expectations of the role & responsibilities, clear expectations of KPI's, ensuring there is a path for each employee, maintaining a consistent training schedule, and more.

Ross Friedman, ServiceAdvantEdge

4. Create a culture of learning and continuous improvement

The good employers I know have created a culture of continuous learning. The importance of growth and development shows up in the interview, hiring and onboarding processes. These companies use a variety of assessment tools to determine strengths and opportunities for improvement. They have a formal (or informal) mentoring program in place, a formal succession plan containing formal education for most positions, and a leadership team that shows an interest in everyone’s career goals. 

Randy Goruk, LeadersEdge360.com

Every good employer should work to create a “learning organization”. When everyone is learning and advancing, they’re not looking for another job, and organizations like these foster loyalty. As part of this, it’s essential for every employee in the organization to have a clear pathway for advancement within the company. Even in a small business it’s possible to create a career ladder showing how to advance. This should include a training program to assist in the climb and published pay rates so the rewards are visible to all. 
I had a young 18 year old Jamaican man come to work for me that couldn’t read or write. We explained the career ladder to him and he went to work, learned how to read and write, and obtained a Connecticut pesticide license (a very difficult accomplishment). Within six years he climbed all the way up the ladder to become the branch’s operational manager.  

— Ed Laflamme LIC, The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting

What can smaller organizations with limited opportunities for promotions within departments do to offer advancement opportunities?

When opportunities for promotions within departments are limited, smaller organizations face unique challenges in offering advancement opportunities to their employees. The following strategies recommended by our partners ensure that employees feel valued and motivated, even in the absence of traditional promotional paths.

1. Create Levels of Progression Within Each Role

When opportunities for promotions are limited, it becomes even more important to have career advancement and progression for each role. For example, a company can implement four or five levels for a specific role such as Technician 1, Technician 2, Senior Technician, and Master technician, each with specific experience, knowledge levels, and overlapping pay bands.

Bahaa Moukadam, SeeMetrics Partners

2. Train, Expand & Test Knowledge in Current Role

Leaders in smaller organizations should always be looking for projects that they can assign to people in their organizations to see how they perform in a leadership role. This could be a crew member taking over for a foreman when they are on vacation, or a winter project looking for ways the organization can become more efficient. If they perform well in those situations, put them on the fast track to move into an expanded role when one opens up.

— Jud Griggs, The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting

Add to employee knowledge via cross-training to learn different jobs, taking courses online or in person for career development, and employer supported education with tuition reimbursement. This could be anything from ESL to basic pruning! Or how about financials for non-financial managers? Too many middle managers in landscaping companies can't read a financial statement! I've seen several small companies reward continuous learning via career ladders within each position. 

— Alison Hoffman, The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting

Advance horizontally. The broader an employee's skill set, the more marketable they are to both their current and future employer. 

— Dan Silvert, Velocity Advisory Group

Support professional development through online courses or seminars that allows employees to acquire new skills without requiring a formal promotion. This investment demonstrates your commitment to their professional growth, fostering a sense of value even without immediate advancement. 

— Gloria Wesley, Exodus Management and Consulting, LLC

Encourage employee participation within the industry by becoming active in association committees. This allows for visibility and possible advancement in the industry.

Randy Goruk, LeadersEdge360.com

3. Crosstrain in Other Roles

Smaller organizations with few opportunities for advancement can look to provide more cross functional training, which can maximize individual performance opportunities, especially when it comes to incentive-driven roles. If organizations cannot provide advancement into leadership roles, they should strive to broaden the scope of their employees' existing skillset to keep them engaged, challenged, and maximize their income potential.

— Jason Florek, Nexstar Network

Offer cross-training to allow employees the opportunity to gain experience and skills in different areas of the organization. This not only enhances their versatility but also prepares them for potential advancement into roles that may become available.

— Gloria Wesley, Exodus Management and Consulting, LLC

Even in small organizations training can be offered to help in various areas of the company. For example, someone that has skills in lawn care might learn about trees, irrigation systems or landscape design. It depends on the person's skills and interests. This type of cross training not only makes the work more interesting but also makes your team more versatile and valuable. 

— Ed Laflamme LIC, The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting

4. Create Incentive Plans

Create incentive plans for individuals or teams that allow them to participate when the company outperforms its standards.

Cullen Talley, Exit Momentum

Smaller organizations can offer some form of performance pay, meaning employees who get work done faster while maintaining quality standards can earn bonuses on things like gross profit, project completion timelines, and customer satisfaction. While companies cannot incentive customers to leave Google reviews, employers CAN incentivize employees to get Google reviews mentioning their name. This can incentivize employees to ask customers to leave a Google review mentioning "Carl" and earn an incentive.

Jack Jostes, Ramblin Jackson 

Sending team members to national, regional or local industry conferences and training classes can be offered as an incentive for achieving set performance and safety goals. 

— Brian Brueggemann, Wilson360

5. Support Employees When They’ve Outgrown Your Organization

As business owners, instead of sticking our head in the sand and being upset when someone decides to move on to improve their career, lets have honest conversations about limits within our company and help that person move on to their next career step. It would allow us (the employer) to prepare for the change in staffing while making the current employee feel fully supported (and more likely to recommend your business to others seeking jobs). 

— Chris Darnell, The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting

If an owner has a great employee who is ready for a position that the company doesn't have, it may be that the next logical step for that employee is outside the company. Many of us have seen people leave to achieve the next level of growth and eventually return for a better job with that employer at a later date. I bet everyone knows a few of those stories. 

— Alison Hoffman, The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting

Getting Started

Implementing a robust training and development program is crucial for fostering employee growth and ensuring organizational success. Kathey Palmer, Chief Growth Officer at Inova Payroll, offers the following steps to begin crafting a comprehensive development strategy that benefits both your employees and your organization:

  1. Create a formal, structured orientation program with details on what to expect for the next 30 days.
  2. Consider having key executives schedule welcome calls with all new hires. This is a great way to start off a new hire, especially if he/she is a remote worker.
  3. Conduct regular one-on-one meetings between employee and manager (weekly or bi-weekly) using a structured agenda to cover their successes from the past week, their challenges, how you as a manager can help, and the priorities for the next week.
  4. Conduct formal annual performance reviews to ensure that employees understand how they’re doing performance-wise and what the goals and priorities are for the next year.
  5. Discuss (at least bi-annually) each employee’s career goals, how and where they would like to grow with the company, and how you can help them achieve those goals.
  6. Train your managers to be leaders and how best to motivate and manage their direct reports.
  7. Conduct pulse surveys (quarterly) to assess the "pulse" of your workforce and culture. Be sure to share results with all employees and what you are going to do differently based on the results.
  8. Create a formal mission, vision and core values and include your employees in the development of these important statements. All of the above items should be centered on your values and mission.
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