There are so many investments out there that you can make to put your fast-growing startup on the road to success — from adopting the fanciest technology, to setting up shop in the hippest location, to partnering with the most impressive industry leaders.
But not all that glitters is gold. Perhaps the most important investment you can make is the one with the least amount of curb appeal: your staff.
With the economy on the rebound, a recent Future Workplace and Kronos study found that 87 percent of today’s business leaders surveyed said they were making employee retention their top priority. For many, that translates into boosting salaries, offering enticing job benefits and even bringing in consultants to enhance the employee experience.
But, as the leader of a growing company, you don’t have to pull out all the stops to keep your employees happy and engaged at work. You just need to invest in their future by promoting a culture of learning and advancement.
Putting on the training wheels
The early stages of growing your business are usually hectic, exhausting and confusing. Your focus is mainly on filling desks, keeping the wheels turning and surviving on a coffee IV drip — which might explain why so many bleary-eyed business leaders breeze right past important tasks such as properly training new hires.
However, taking the time to train and coach your employees is a crucial step in moving your company to the next level. It not only demonstrates how valuable team members are to your organization, but also gives each one a better sense of purpose and a stronger connection to the company’s big picture. In turn, employees are inspired to work harder to make the company a success.
Training and coaching your workers also keeps them more engaged and satisfied with their work, significantly reducing turnover rates. IBM found that when its employees lacked career support and advancement opportunities, they were 12 times more likely to find work elsewhere.
Finally, investing in an employee-training program helps to establish a standard of practices and procedures. With a program in place, it’s easier to evaluate employee performance, identify weaknesses and fine-tune the customer support experience — all of which aid in boosting productivity and customer satisfaction.
And based on American Express’ findings that 70 percent of consumers are willing to pay more if a company provides stellar customer service, any money spent on training should produce a substantial return on investment.
As you can see, developing a culture of learning and coaching within your organization is a solid investment in both your employees and your company’s future. Begin implementing changes within your company by following these steps:
1. Refocus the onboarding process.
Too frequently, organizations view onboarding as nothing more than filling out paperwork and signing up for benefits. In reality, the onboarding period is your first opportunity to welcome your new employees and ensure they are prepared and equipped to fulfill the duties of their job.
Based on its findings from a study of more than 260 new employees, the Academy of Management journal advised that the traditional 90-day “probation” period be used as a time to establish rapport with new hires.
The journal study found that when a company’s team and leaders provided new employees with ample support, the latter individuals had a more positive outlook on their jobs and, in turn, worked harder. On the other hand, when support and direction were lacking or nonexistent, the opposite occurred: Employees languished in their roles until they quit — no more than four months later.
During new hires’ onboarding period, then, encourage managers and peers to include, support and show appreciation for new employees, to ensure that their spirits and commitment remain high. This is also the perfect opportunity to assign new employees to qualified mentors who can answer questions, offer insight, provide camaraderie and teach necessary skills.
2. Lay the groundwork for a formal training program.
A comprehensive training program is not only an investment in all of your employees at every level of your organization, but it’s also an investment in your company’s ability to attract top talent. PwC reported that 35 percent of millennials surveyed said they viewed career training and development as one of the most desirable benefits a company can offer applicants.
That said, consult with your team to determine which topic areas your corporate training program should cover. Start by focusing on new hires, draft a time line for branching out into other areas of need and periodically look for ways to modify your training methods to meet the demands of your evolving industry.
At Agentology, one of our core values is continuous improvement of not only our tech and software, but also of our team — our leaders included. We take our mission very seriously, and we’re constantly adjusting and improving our in-house formal training programs to meet the demands of the industry and our business. By extending the opportunity for employees to attend real estate classes, formal management training and conferences, we encourage them to strive to further their career goals as well as their personal goals.
3. Let your employees teach their peers.
Once a preliminary employee training program is under way, push the program onward and upward. Begin by providing ongoing education opportunities that keep your entire staff up to date on changing protocols, regulations and technologies. You might also consider offering scholarships or tuition reimbursement to employees furthering their education or obtaining professional certifications.
Next, analyze where low-cost tactics — such as cross-training, peer-to-peer coaching and job shadowing — could help to improve employees’ performance or advance their careers. For example, Business Insider recently reported that Amazon’s new Pivot training program uses “Career Ambassadors” to help underperforming workers boost their productivity and save their jobs.
And finally, create avenues for employees to teach others within your organization. Give the positive influencers on your staff opportunities to mentor new hires, serve on corporate committees, supervise their own teams and even take the lead on major projects.
When employees are consistently offered opportunities to acclimate, grow and lead, they’re more satisfied with their work and committed to their organization. So, if your growing startup needs an advantage over the competition, begin investing in a culture of learning and advancement.
Read more: Entrepreneur