Experts Explain the Proper Way to Train and Develop Employees

by Justin Reynolds on Sep 27, 2016 11:00:00 AM

The last thing any business should want is massive turnover. Not only is it expensive when employees leave, but companies also have to figure out how to keep their customers and clients satisfied when they’re short-staffed.

Luckily, you can counter an exodus of employees by creating robust employee training and development programs. This, in turn, ensures workers have the resources and support they need to reach their full potential at the office.

Last week at TINYcon, three experts shared their thoughts on what today’s organizations need to do to reduce the likelihood their staffers will jump ship. Here’s what they said:


Grady Karp, Senior Engineering Manager at EMC Isilon

Speaking at the “Perform, The Next Level of Engagement” panel, Karp stressed the fact that companies wanting to keep their millennial employees engaged and on board need to offer immediate feedback — which is not the same as instant gratification.

Millennials are particularly interested in learning what they are doing wrong and how they can improve. They don’t want to wait until the end of the year for their manager to tell them they’ve been doing things incorrectly for several months.

Karp characterized millennial workers as having a mix of “wild energy, ownership, and passion.” Businesses need to tap into that energy. By offering immediate feedback and coaching, managers can guide employee behavior to help match business goals. Everyone wins.


Josh Bersin, Principal at Bersin by Deloitte

To attract the best employees, you need to offer what they’re looking for. Taking the stage for a keynote, Bersin said that there are five things that matter at work:

  • The ability to do meaningful work: Even the best-paying jobs get boring if you don’t like the work you’re doing. It’s not uncommon for folks to trade some salary dollars for the chance to work on something enjoyable, and possibly world changing, every day.
  • Having managers who support you and are invested in your success: We’ve all had managers who weren’t exactly the world’s best bosses. On the flip side, when managers take an active role in nurturing their employees’ talents, it doesn’t go unnoticed.
  • Getting to be part of a fantastic environment every day: Having to show up at a workplace where everyone is miserable on a daily basis is pretty disheartening, to say the least. On the other hand, being part of a great team and an awesome culture can make it feel like you’re getting paid to have a good time.
  • Having ample opportunities to develop professionally and move up the ladder: Despite the fact that a majority of millennials are extremely interested in professional development, only 25% of employees say their organizations offer adequate opportunities. This should be an area of concern for organizations, as the most important job benefit for workers under the age of 35 is training and development.
  • Being able to trust leadership: Bosses expect their employees to be honest with them. But honesty should go both ways. If employees can’t trust their bosses, how can anyone honestly expect them to reach their full potential?

Bersin further described an example of supportive management: Traditional performance frameworks aren’t really designed for feedback and coaching. Bosses tell their employees how they’re doing, and that’s that. Instead of using that outdated model, companies should institute a new process by building a feedback loop that runs frequently.

The entire performance management framework has changed rapidly over the last several years. Everything from how we set goals to how we conduct reviews, hold 1:1s, coach employees, and gauge compensation has changed. To keep your employees engaged, your organization needs to change similarly.

Feedback is directly correlated with performance. You can’t expect your employees to produce at higher levels if you’re never telling them what, specifically, they can do to improve. The more feedback you give, the better performance you can expect.

Bersin also offered an example of what organizations should do with respect to career development and growth opportunities. Does your company have any onboarding or transition programs that were designed to specifically help employees grow? Take a look at Wegmans, a family-owned chain of grocery stores. Wegmans is all about its staff. They are almost anti-technology. Everyone talks face-to-face. The company wants its staff to engage with customers — not their own devices. The company believes in developing its employees, so it can continue to expand. It doesn’t have a fancy system for development. But development is a priority.

If your company lacks the resources to devote personnel specifically to hands-on professional development, you could always use an automated learning platform like Lessonly to streamline the process.


Mark Roberge, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School

To develop the best employees, you’ve got to hire the right people first. During his fireside chat, Roberge — HubSpot’s former Chief Revenue Officer who now serves in an advisory role there — discussed the process he used when tasked with building the sales team at HubSpot, something that was no easy task.

To hire the right people, he began by interviewing dozens of VPs of sales to figure out how those folks made their hiring decisions. Ultimately, he zeroed in on five factors that correlated with success at HubSpot:

  • Even the world’s best athletes have coaches. The best employees understand they’re not perfect and there’s a lot of room for improvement.
  • There are zillions of things in the world. Nobody knows all of them. Workers who are addicted to learning are likely to develop more skills and be more effective employees.
  • You need a base level of intelligence to succeed at any given job. Choose candidates who are smart in relevant areas.
  • Candidates that have a track record of success are likely to work toward achieving it again.
  • The coolest, smartest person in the world would make a terrible employee if they didn’t want to do their work. Look for employees who understand the value of working hard.

For Roberge, coachability is by far the most important factor to be considered during the hiring process. Interestingly, it wasn’t even something he considered in his original hypothesis.

So how can you determine whether a prospective candidate is coachable during the interview process? Roberge suggests using role-play scenarios. For starters, ask interviewees to take a self-assessment to see whether they are humble enough to admit they need to improve and are self-aware enough to know which areas need the most attention. Next, offer coaching in an area to see whether they are paying attention to what you’re saying, taking notes, and really trying to process the advice.

Remember, a perfect performance isn’t important. The fact that candidates are willing to put in the effort is what matters.

Now that you’ve heard from the pros, it’s time to take a close look at your company’s training and development programs to see where changes should be made. Make the right switches, and your employees will become more engaged and more productive. They’ll stick around longer too — a benefit to your customers and your bottom line.



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This post was written by Justin Reynolds

Justin Reynolds is a freelance copywriter, journalist, and editor based in Connecticut.

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