Over the last twelve months, in response to the pressing need to prioritise staff recruitment and retention, we have seen a tremendous groundswell of enthusiasm and interest in employee development. Businesses are waking up to the idea that helping staff to bring their best, most fulfilled selves into work each day, can make a significant difference to productivity and performance  – and ultimately support business growth.

But, how can business leaders be aware of and pre-empt employees’ personal needs while also prioritising their wider company mission? We explored these issues last week at the employee development conference BridgeCon.  From my perspective, there are three key and less obvious trends I believe will become increasingly important over the next year.

Raison d’être relevancy

In an ideal world, the company and individual’s purpose would be clear, aligned and supported with development initiatives. But a tremendous amount of thought and effort is required before we can get to the stage where we are helping both individual staff members and the organisation itself fulfil an aligned raison d’être.

Before anything else, ask yourself – does your company’s vision have meaning? If not, then it’s not reasonable to expect the goals and purpose of your employees to line up. Too often, these goals end up a jumble of buzzwords that simply don’t resonate with staff. Of course, this can be an opportunity to encourage collaboration – to ask staff what they see as the vision of the company – building from the inside out and more naturally helping to align the raison d’être of the business.

Even for companies with a really strong purpose, it’s still worth engaging employees to get an honest appraisal of what drives them and what they, uniquely, offer the company. Then when it comes to regular catch-ups and meetings with managers, you can work with employees to understand how their particular motivators can influence and feed into the collective goal. It’s hard work, but it’s something businesses will be looking to undertake in the year ahead.

Tethering employee development to business results

You can have the best will in the world when it comes to employee wellbeing, learning & development, but at the end of the day, if it is not clearly linked to the business priorities of senior leaders, it’s going to be hard to convince colleagues that it’s worth investing time and energy into your vision.

That’s why I expect to see more people tethering L&D initiatives to business results. The word tethering here is chosen to show the strength of the link, but also the fact that when one moves, the other should move too. Improving your employee development game should have a demonstrable impact on business results, and as results, challenges and priorities change, it’s time to reassess what kind of employee development you are delivering. Anything less and you risk your carefully crafted plans for improved employee motivation and growth taking a back seat.

The (In)side Hustle

The side hustle has become a hallmark of modern life. The term refers to a job that you undertake on top of your full-time job, but this isn’t just to make ends meet, rather to direct some of your time towards outlets that fit with your interests, passions, and desired growth areas.

But employers have the power to offer this kind of fulfilment within the organisation. The first step is to find out what each employee is passionate about.  Then, leaders can make efforts to allow flexibility and space for employees to pursue their interests and suggest ways that staff can work on projects or spend time in other departments that align well with these passions.

It’s not always going to be possible in every company, but when you get it right, it shows an employee that you’re invested in them as a person and care about what makes them tick. Not only that, but you discover and unlock new talents that can help your business too.

So – plenty to think about here. And it’s important to note that these trends all have something in common: that they put the employee front and centre of any corporate initiative. It’s only by determining what drives your employees and understanding their motivations that you’ll be able to meet your business objectives. Your staff are your unique selling point — the thing that will set you apart from your competition — and it’s vital to nurture and support them in order to succeed.

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