Encouraging & Incentivizing Employee Growth & Development

Discover strategies to encourage employee growth and development, ensuring motivation and engagement for those content in their current roles.

Danielle Riha
July 1, 2024

In today's fast-paced and ever-evolving work environment, fostering employee growth and development is essential for organizational success. However, not all employees aspire to climb the corporate ladder or take on managerial roles. Some are content and highly effective in their current positions, contributing significantly without the desire for traditional career advancement. 

Understanding and supporting these employees is crucial. Here, as a follow-up to our first article on employee development essentials, we explore insights from industry leaders on how employers can encourage and incentivize growth and development in employees who prefer to remain in their current roles. The responses are grouped into four key strategies: setting clear expectations, integrating training into the culture, assigning special projects, and ensuring rewards are genuinely motivating.

1. Set clear expectations from the get-go.

Define specific outcomes expected within each position and build levels of improving performance that can easily be measured and tracked.

— Bill Arman, The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting

Make sure the employee understands that it is fine if they don't want to advance their career, but that we want to make sure they understand they are making a difference with the company and feel they have a voice within the organization.

— Kathey Palmer, Inova Payroll

The first part is making sure they understand they are valued and you support their desire to stay in the current role. That said, increasing their value and skills in that role is an expectation as well as part of the culture of the company.

Cullen Talley, Exit Momentum

Leaders need to confirm that they are here to support the employee’s growth and development in their current position. Confirm with them that they are important in helping you become the best in the business.

— Robert Clinkenbeard, Wilson360

Have open and honest conversations about their career goals and aspirations. While they may not want traditional advancement, they may have other professional development goals that the company can support.

— Ross Friedman, ServiceAdvantEdge

If employees do not wish to advance in their career, find out why. What makes them tick? What do they want? Most people do want to advance in their career, but they may not necessarily want to be a manager. Help people figure out what advancement and growth could be like if they were to stay as a specialist in their craft. 

Jack Jostes, Ramblin Jackson

2. Make training part of your everyday culture.

Encourage employees to learn about different aspects of the company by cross-training them in various departments or roles. This not only enhances their skill set but also provides a broader understanding of the organization.

— Ross Friedman, ServiceAdvantEdge

Training your people will help them grow in their abilities and capabilities to perform their jobs more effectively. Take time to have meetings in the early morning before shifts to perform training. Schedule meetings at the early part of the season with new hires and veterans alike, pairing them up for knowledge transfer and building camaraderie. Bring in resources (such as your Workers' Compensation vendor) to share safety tips.

— Michael Maggiotto Jr, BEST Human Capital & Advisory Group

Every employer and leader would like to see their team grow and advance, however companies also need satisfied employees that are happy in their role. These core employees create a solid foundation for divisions or departments and ease the disruption as new employees are hired and others hopefully advance to further their career. Capitalize on these satisfied team members and their skill set by giving them the opportunity to showcase their talent as the dedicated trainer and mentor for new hires within their department. This takes advantage of their expertise, work ethic and dedication to the company and demonstrates to new employees what it takes to be a part of a winning team and culture!

— Brian Brueggemann, Wilson360

3. Assign Special Projects & Leadership Opportunities

Allow them or assign them to take on new tasks that don't require oversight of other people and/or managerial responsibilities. Also, creating "leadership" opportunities (as opposed to management requirements) will allow them to utilize their skills, increase influence, and possibly realize that having a supervisory role might not be as bad as they had imagined.

Randy Anderson, E3 ProfessionalTrainers

Assigning special projects aligned with their interests and strengths can provide opportunities for growth and challenge without the pressure of a promotion. These projects can allow them to showcase their abilities and make meaningful contributions to the company.

— Ross Friedman, ServiceAdvantEdge

Involve them in various roles within the company. For example, asking them to help in evaluating trucks and equipment you are considering purchasing.

— Ed Laflamme LIC, The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting

4. Ensure the reward is actually rewarding.

I believe there has been a fundamental shift in thinking over the last few years. We are finding that many employees are more motivated by things like flexibility, work environment, and culture than the all-mighty dollar. I love it when companies go beyond increases in compensation and look to use incentives like extra paid time off, flexible work schedule, and company paid trips as motivation. These things can be huge when it comes to encouraging performance and development alike.

— Jason Florek, Nexstar Network

Support initiatives that promote work-life balance, such as flexible work hours, remote work options, or wellness programs. Employees who feel supported in achieving a healthy balance are more likely to be engaged and productive.

— Ross Friedman, ServiceAdvantEdge

Examples of how to incentivize continuing education on the job

Incentivizing continuing education on the job is a powerful strategy for fostering a culture of growth and development within an organization. By linking training to specific, measurable outcomes and offering tangible rewards, employers can motivate employees to enhance their skills and knowledge. Below, our partners offer examples of how to effectively encourage ongoing education, which not only benefits the individual employees but also drives the overall success and innovation of the company.

Link training to specific measurable outcomes e.g. safety, gross margin, handling more responsibility, customer retention, job quality etc.

— Bill Arman, The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting

The best way to incentivize continuing education is to sponsor it i.e. cover the cost for employees. Provide reimbursement afterwards, or even upfront in some cases, for an employee to earn their pesticide license, for example. Send team members to Cultivate annually or on a rotation that may also include a local horticulture or agriculture association conference. Not only will they learn new techniques and skills, but they’ll also generate innovative ideas to bring back to the business. 

— Michael Maggiotto Jr, BEST Human Capital & Advisory Group

Pay raises need to be tied to performance rather than just longevity. We can't afford to continue giving annual pay raises for no reason other than they were part of the company for another year. Pay raises should also be tied into an employee learning a new skill, or how to run a new piece of machinery. As an example, it could be helping their crew beat gross margin goals for the month/quarter/year.

— Jud Griggs, The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting

I encourage our members to leverage continuing education as a requirement in advancing their role or status. There is a strong correlation between those who want to advance their career and those willing to invest in bettering themselves to get there. 

— Jason Florek, Nexstar Network

Make training part of your development plan and employee quarterly check-in meetings. ‘A-player’ employees are going to want to keep learning and improving. Make it clear that the incentive for training may not only be a bonus at a particular level, but will also open doors for a future promotion. 

Carla Policastro, Cycle CPA

Have a clearly defined progression. "Once you do (this), you will be eligible for (this)." Whether that is compensation or advancement, it creates clear expectations and milestones.

Randy Anderson, E3 ProfessionalTrainers

Mapping out career pathways opens people's awareness to what's possible if they embrace a learning mindset. 

— Dan Silvert, Velocity Advisory Group

Employers can incentivize continuing education with raises, job titles, public praise and acknowledgement, and increased job responsibilities. 

Jack Jostes, Ramblin Jackson 

I offered tuition reimbursement along with an additional bonus once the employee passed the course or was granted certification for the course. One of my managers wanted to obtain a college masters degree in business and the course required every other Friday off work to attend classes, so we allowed this and we paid the employee for this time. 
Other ways would be to provide the employees with access to resources such as trade magazines, continuous improvement courses and professional memberships. Another idea would be to develop a “train the trainer” program within your company. 

— Ed Laflamme LIC, The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting

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