Why Your Company Needs a Professional Development Plan

Several key factors always hover on the list of employer concerns in nearly every industry. Employee engagement and productivity are almost always on the list as turnover rates, profits, efficiency, and customer experience are directly related to both. Which makes them critical factors contributing to a business’s lifespan, stability, growth, and health. 

Despite engagement and productivity’s nearly permanent spots on that list, it’s common for businesses to address the two with a one-and-done approach. This is especially true for small businesses that lack a significant budget for employee experience. But providing employees with a benefits package and break room won’t go very far in encouraging real engagement in their work.  

Employees need more than having their basic needs met to feel engaged. They need to see a direct investment in their success as your employee and as an individual. A vast majority of millennials say they want career development opportunities from their jobs.   

recent report by Axonify exposes the gap between what employees want and what businesses are providing them. Their principal findings include: 

  • Nearly a third of employees fail to receive formal workplace training 
  • A quarter of employees don’t receive training after onboarding
  • Almost 60% of employees fail to receive additional training and skill development from their employers  
  • 81% of employees say training makes them feel more engaged and happy at work 

It’s cost-effective 

While many employers are ignoring training as a benefit for their employees, providing training and professional development is an incredibly smart tactic for boosting profits.   

Giving employees opportunities for skill development and training can have a massive impact on the value they contribute. Businesses that provide formalized training can more than double their income per employee than companies that don’t.  

Investing in employee skills is investing in the agility and strength of your company. It creates a stronger relationship between company and employee, encouraging loyalty and engagement, which can lower turnover rates. The cost of turnover alone should be a driving factor in implementing strategies to keep your employees learning and engaged.  

Losing an employee can cost 1.5-2x their annual salary. Yet, it can cost between $135 – $750 for an individual community college course, depending on the length of the class. That’s a reasonably small investment compared to the cost of losing an employee or maintaining unproductive employees.  

Now is the time 

The beautiful thing about living in our age of technology is our access to resources. There are seemingly endless ways companies can provide learning opportunities to their employees. Online learning databases like SkillshareAlison, and Udemy are all options employees can access for learning and development in their own homes.   

Now that a vast amount of the world is learning to work from home, there is no better time to take advantage of these training opportunities. Not only will it give your employees a chance to grow and develop their skills and what they can offer your company, but it may also help address the feelings of isolation and culture loss that many are struggling with during the pandemic.  

An investment into a shared future  

Providing learning development opportunities isn’t just a way to engage your employees—it’s a value statement that can have ramifications across your company culture and employee experience.  

You’re not only investing in the potential of your employees to grow their roles within your company, but you’re telling them you think they are capable of that growth. Show them you value their contribution and also their potential as a professional.  

Having confidence in the power and potential of your employees will lead them to see the value within themselves and feel that their value is recognized. It will create a relationship of trust and confidence that is irreplaceable. It will save money. It will save time. And it will inspire growth in the deepest level of your business. There is nothing to lose but disengagement and apathy.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Aleksandr Davydov

The Power of Starting Small

Chances are if you’ve been working at your company long enough, you’ve developed some fantastic ideas for growth and improvement. No matter what department you’re in, there is always room for growth, and inevitably there are those big beautiful dreams that get talked about wistfully but with no real commitment.  

You know what I’m talking about: those pipe-dream projects, ideas that would be amazing if only there were *fill in the blank* to make it happen.  

Every company has at least one of these projects. Take a moment to think about your company. What projects has everyone agreed would be fantastic if only there were… 

  • enough time  
  • enough human resources 
  • someone with the experience 
  • add excuse here 

…to make it happen.   

You might be feeling a little defensive thinking, “Those aren’t excuses if they are real issues getting in our way.”   

Let me tell you something. There will always be real issues that stand in the way of getting a project successfully implemented. What makes them excuses is the switch from seeing them as challenges to reasons not to proceed 

Reframe the problem 

While there may be plenty of challenges created by a big project that has halted it in its tracks, those problems often stem from one source. Not enough time, not enough people, not enough experience, are all results of looking at a project from a macro point of view.   

What. What? How is a lack of time connected to my point of view? And why would my point of view affect my resources? 

When you dream up a big project—improving your customer experience, for instance—you see every aspect that needs work. You see the processes to be developed, templates, emails, updated web pages, and follow-up campaigns. You see new training for the sales team and the audit of what you already have.  

What you see is a birds-eye-view of the entire project—all the work, all at once. Who has time and energy to do all that? No one.  

Now let’s experiment. Pick one aspect of that project—we’ll use customer follow-up for this example. To get the ball rolling, write one follow-up email for customers who’ve tried a specific product, taken a quiz, or attended a webinar. Easy enough, right? You have time in your day to write one email.   

Now save that email to use repeatedly.  

And just like that, you see the problem. It isn’t that you don’t have the time or the workforce; it’s that you’ve been looking at the project from a wide-angle point of view.  

Small steps 

Whether you’re a one-person company or have 100 people on your team, this process can be applied almost every time. Start by creating your big picture. Write down all the beautiful things you want to complete—don’t be stingy. Include your goals for each part of the project. What are you trying to accomplish? 

Now step back. Take a nice long look at the whole thing and pick one aspect to start. The trick is to break it up into bite-sized pieces and spread it out over a reasonable amount of time.   

You don’t have to do everything all at once. In fact, you really can’t. So don’t try. Set small, achievable goals.  

Use each small step as a brick in the tower of your dreams. Don’t allow yourself to become bogged down by the greatness of what you imagine. Every great accomplishment is built out of a thousand small achievements.  

So go ahead, dream big. Just do yourself a favor and start small.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Yuliya Rosher

 

Four Things to Do Before You Write That Retort

We’ve all been there. A coworker, a client, a manager, an employee, a parent, a friend, a colleague has done something that really ticked you off. They forgot an important deadline, messed with your project, or ignored your request.

And now you’ve got a huge email written out that might contain some words in all caps, a few exclamation points, and maybe a couple ultimatums. Or maybe, if you’re a little quieter, you left out your usual happy exclamation points, word softeners, and cheery salutations. Your finger is hovering over send, but before you jump down the rabbit hole, there are a few things you should do first.

1. Take a breath

It may be obvious, but that doesn’t make it easy. When we’re angry, it’s easy to react in one of two ways: passive aggression and open aggression. Passive aggression usually comes from those who don’t like or fear confrontation. We’re all familiar with the one-word response to a long email: the dreaded “Ok” devoid of punctuation and supporting language.

Open aggression is a result of anger unleashed without restraint in an attempt to hurt or halt someone else. Open aggression often comes in the form of sarcasm, blaming, shouting, or name-calling.

While they may be satisfying in the moment, neither of those responses will help you in the long run. What you want to be aiming for is assertion, not aggression. A message that is clear, thought out, direct, measured, and open-minded.

2. Decide on a goal

If you want your response to make a difference, then you need to clarify what you’re hoping to get out of it. Do you want the person to change their behavior, or just understand and appreciate why you’re frustrated? Do you want to change how things are going forward? Do you want an apology or an explanation?

Define your goal and then integrate that intention into your response. This will help you identify what you want and guide you in finding a solution. It will also create an opportunity for closure. Once your defined need/goal is met or addressed, you’ll have an easier time moving on. No one likes to hold grudges. Or at least they shouldn’t.

 3. Look at the bigger picture

Sometimes widening your perspective can be the best thing for a relationship. Take the time to ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there something going on with them in their personal life that might be affecting their behavior at work?
  • How might they see this conflict? What has your role been in their eyes?
  • How do they seem to prefer to communicate?

Maybe they have a personal issue stopping them from following through or communicating effectively. Maybe they are dealing with other problems at work that are drawing their attention and energy. Maybe they don’t feel understood by you or feel you’re not holding up your end of the bargain.

Remember, everyone brings their whole lives to each conversation, fight, and relationship. More often than not, people react to you based on their perceptions and internal stories rather than your actions. So trying to understand the other person’s actions from their point of view can be invaluable in helping you see the situation more clearly and find a solution. It may also highlight areas where you had misconceptions about them and their situation.

Finally, if you’re able to meet the other person where they are most comfortable communicating, you’ll be more likely to make headway. Maybe this isn’t a conversation for email. It might be more effective to have it in person, or over the phone, or with a moderator.

4. Come up with actionable follow-ups

To prevent this sort of thing from happening again, it can be useful to come up with a few clear steps you can take to avoid future conflicts.

  • Once you’ve settled your disagreement, set up a follow-up meeting in a couple of days to talk about how things are going. Meeting after you’ve both had a chance to process feelings may allow you to come together with less volatility to talk about what worked/didn’t work and what changes you can make for future interactions.
  • Define how you could have improved your end of the conflict. What can you do better next time? What did you learn from this?

Go forward, but with caution

You may be angry and rightly so. But if you let your anger speak for you, you’ll end up regretting it. Stop. Breathe. Reflect. Do yourself a favor and step back before responding.

You’ll thank yourself in the long run. Especially as we are all navigating the difficulties of self-isolation, working from home, and communicating remotely, it’s more important than ever to deal with conflict productively and thoughtfully. Just make sure that you do respond eventually. Hanging on to anger builds grudges, communication gaps, and lowers morale for everyone. Be proactive. Be patient. Be kind. You’ve got this.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by SHOTPRIME STUDIO

When in Doubt, Organize

When things are chaotic, whether at home, or work, or throughout the world, it’s easy to feel like letting things slide. And honestly, sometimes that’s totally fine. When we’re in a position where we have to handle a lot at once (even if it’s just a busy morning of meetings), we have to decide what’s critical and what can be put aside for another time. Sometimes there’s no way around it.  

You simply can’t do everything all of the time. Though unfortunately, it’s human nature for us to try anyway. And what happens when we try to accomplish everything at once while we’re also navigating a challenging time? 

  • Regular, simple tasks start to feel un-doable 
  • We become more and more frazzled and stressed 
  • We start to beat ourselves up for not functioning like normal 
  • Our quality of work drops 
  • Our exhaustion rises 
  • We can’t keep track of things 
  • Our team at work (or home) begin to feel the effects of our state 
  • No one is happy 

While it’s true there will always be times when you have to put aside certain things to continue to function well, there is one thing that isn’t dispensable: organization.  

It’s a lifesaver 

Cities that are built by flood zones have canals constructed into them to drain the excess water away from the population. When life is chaotic, doing what you can to get yourself organized will work like those canalshelping remove the chaos from your life. While a flood can still damage a city even with canals, the damage would be exponentially worse if the water had nowhere to go. It’s the same with chaos.  

If you are in a position where you have to prioritize your duties and put certain things aside, you’ve got to get yourself organized enough to see everything clearly. This is true on the individual level up through an entire organization.  

Think about how your company, or your boss, or just you, handled the chaos of adjusting to stay at home orders and changing customer priorities. Was it handled smoothly? Are you still struggling to communicate with your team or your clients? Are there entire parts of your company you’ve put on hold (your marketing, for instance?). Do you have a constant feeling that you’re forgetting something?  

Don’t cut corners 

In a turbulent time, often our first instinct is to attack whatever is right in front of us. But without first sitting down and evaluating all the components, our efforts are more likely to be ineffective, inefficient, and draining.  

If you want clean results, then start with a clean slate.  

  • Evaluate all of your duties  
  • Take stock of the immediate damage, challenge, or roadblocks 
  • Look ahead to what might be affected later down the road 
  • Break it down into tiers of importance 
  • Clarify goals and their corresponding tasks  

It’s up to you 

No one can organize your life for you. It takes consistent effort for organizations and individuals alike. It’s incredible how much a little organization can change your ability to navigate chaos and challenges. The simple act of writing out a to-do list and getting your tasks organized each morning can make or break the productivity (and experience) of your day. The same goes for getting your team and your organization on the same page with clarified goals, responsibilities, and tasks.  

If you’re struggling to get things done, feeling the pressure of a hectic and demanding schedule, and frustrated by a lack of productivity, ask yourself if you’ve spent the time to get organized. If you haven’t, then it’s your responsibility to do so. Whether or not you’re struggling to deal with the chaos of the pandemic, or just the usual chaos of your life, getting organized may be the greatest gift you can give yourself. Either way, it’s up to you.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by New Africa

When Life Happens, Ask for Help

As much as we may strive to be, we aren’t perfect. There are days, weeks, and sometimes months, when our best isn’t quite enough. You may have a sick kid, be taking care of an elderly family member, or be dealing with physical or mental illness yourself. Whatever it is, the challenges of life are unavoidable, and sometimes they start to affect our performance at work.

It happens to the best of us. But it can easily feel like you’re the only one having a rough time. Think about a life challenge you’ve struggled with. Did you feel alone? Did you compare yourself to others at work and feel isolated? It’s incredibly common for humans to feel this way. Chances are, you’ve experienced it yourself.

While it may be unfortunately common for us to deal with personal issues that affect our work performance, it’s critical to remember we aren’t alone in our struggles, for more reasons than one.

Understanding you’re not alone is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself and getting through whatever it is you’re dealing with. But it’s also essential to recognize how it influences the way that you act at work and the impact you have on your peers.

Unwrapping yourself

It’s incredibly easy to get wrapped up with your struggles and to feel like you deserve a break at work because of it. While this may indeed be true, it’s critical to approach any change of responsibilities in a way that takes into account the people who rely on you to do that work.

Ignoring the work until someone asks about it isn’t a solution. Think about the last time someone failed to follow through on work you were relying on them to do. How did they break it to you that they hadn’t completed the work? It can be frustrating, stressful, and create resentment between colleagues when a peer fails to hold up their end of the load.

Dropping the ball every once in a while isn’t so bad. But when someone has extended time dealing with personal problems, they are likely to drop the ball more than once. This can put intense pressure on their teammates and start to damage morale.

Feeling like you’re alone in your struggles may seem real at the time, but it isn’t ever true. Every one of us faces challenges every day we have to navigate around, often with only partial success. So telling yourself it’s ok to drop the ball at work because you’re going through a difficult time isn’t just bad for your standing among your peers, it’s also misguided and damaging to the community you’re a part of.

You may need some extra space and support to help you get through a challenging period of time. But it’s critical you gain the courage and insight to recognize when this is the case and to do something about it before you fall behind.

Reach out

Get in touch with your manager or your team members. Let them know what you need. It’s scary to ask for help. You may be afraid you’ll look weak, or your manager will retaliate. But a strong leadership team will recognize it’s much more cost-effective to help existing employees through rough times than to hire anew.

Working with employees in times of need builds loyalty and trust and will help you recover and be able to return to your best all the sooner. Your colleagues will thank you for preventing things from falling behind and making an effort to find solutions that support the team and the work.

It takes strength and insight to ask for help, but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll ensure your peers aren’t left to deal with a mess and that you don’t get lost under a pile of projects you can’t complete. Above all, it shows you have the integrity to be honest and to take the necessary steps to care for yourself and your team.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by New Africa