How to Grow Employees for Success

Posted by Penn Foster on May 1, 2019

It's no secret that finding skilled talent is getting harder. For decades, the labor pool had been more of a labor stream. It flowed in a predictable direction and employers knew where the best fishing spots were. Students graduated from high school, went to college, then were hooked by employers who gave them a job and, in many cases, a lifelong career. In this system, schools were responsible for educating and training. All businesses had to do was stand at their trusted fishing spot and catch whatever came by.

As anyone who has been in business over the last decade or so can tell you, the old fishing spots aren't yielding like they used to. In 2018, the number of job openings in the U.S. rose to its highest level in almost two decades. That means more than 7.34 million job went unfilled in December.  It would be nice to be able to blame someone for this change in the market. It's easy to blame the schools, the students, or the workers, but none of them are really at fault. At least, not entirely.

The truth is: changing technology and a shifting economy has altered how employees find work and what it takes to keep them. Employers who want to succeed in the changing skills economy need to stop waiting for the fish to come to them, and start raising the fish themselves.

What employers and employees want

Perfect employees have all of the essential skills to do the job. They are engaged at work, pouring energy, effort, and ability into every task the job presents. Because these employees are engaged, they stay within the company rather than looking for opportunity outside of it. In short, these employees view their work not simply as a job, but as a calling.

According to a Mercer survey, nearly all of the 28% of people who view their current job as a personal calling or vocation are engaged employees. Why do some employees view their work as personal calling rather than only a way to earn a paycheck? Three reasons:

  1. The work they do makes them feel accomplished
  2. They're optimistic that their career goals can be met
  3. They feel like trusted partners and colleagues

A focus on training and development can help employees check all three of these mental boxes. First, learning something new fosters feelings of accomplishment and makes them better at their work. Second, all that training prepares them to move to the next level in their careers, reassuring them that their career goals can be met. Finally, they feel valued by their employer because the employer is spending time and resources to help them grow. In fact, 79% of workers told EdAssist that tuition assistance makes them more likely to stay with their organization.

For a real-life example of the benefits of employee development in action, look no further than the recent Wall Street Journal article about KitchenAid. The appliance maker helped the employee featured in the story, Jennifer Hanna, grow from a high-school graduate on the production floor to a manager responsible for more than 1,000 people.

The crucial point here is that most new hires won't come to you already engaged and enthusiastic. Many will show up thinking this is just another job or a stepping stone to something better. By investing in employee training, you show them that this job is really a career and that the "something better" is inside your company not outside it.

Jennifer Hanna is a particularly compelling example because she works in manufacturing - an industry that has been traditionally viewed as low-skill or not career worthy. Although that, too, is changing. What's clear is that an investment in training and development can help workers in any industry see the career path available to them.

Employers must take responsibility for employee learning and development. Without employer investment, many workers would never pursue higher education. According to An EdAssist survey, 56% of workers would not pursue education on their own. This might be due to financial concerns, time constraints, or a simple issue of confidence.

On the other hand, educated employees become confident employees. According to the EdAssist survey, 85% of employees who used tuition assistance programs say they've become more effective employees, and a staggering 93% say they've developed the skills for growth within their organization.

How can employers grow their own employees?

Stocking your own pond of highly qualified employees is something that any employer can do with a little help from a learning partner. Here are three accessible methods to help employees grow and develop:

Tuition assistance is a great place to start. Stop thinking about tuition assistance as a perk, like a gym membership, and start thinking about it as a valuable tool for employee development and retention. Encourage employees to use tuition assistance programs. Your learning partner can help you minimize cost and maximize return on investment. Also, create clear paths within the organization to show them where a degree could take them. Most importantly, get in the habit of looking inside the organization for people to fill management and leadership roles.

Apprenticeship programs are another tried and true method of growing your own employees. Historically, apprenticeships were reserved for the trades. Electricians and plumbers have a long history of growing employees through apprenticeships. Today, many other industries are embracing the power of these hands-on learning programs.

Employers in manufacturing, healthcare, veterinary care, technology and engineering are all creating customized apprenticeship programs for their employees. By working with a learning partner, you can create a DOL-approved apprenticeship program that combines academic learning and hands-on training.

Targeted skills training, like Penn Foster's skills playlists, can help fill knowledge gaps for employees. These short, online courses focus on specific foundational, technical or career skills. By giving employees access to these stackable micro-credentials, you give them the power to learn quickly, improve performance, and feel more confident at work.

Start growing your own employees by talking to the training experts here at Penn Foster. We'll help you turn your employees into big fish in your pond.