Leadership styles and methods have evolved greatly over the years. If we go way back to the first half of the twentieth century, we can trace the roots of modern leadership principles in the works of Abraham Maslow. The great American psychologist was the first to introduce the concept of the hierarchy of needs (Maslow’s hierarchy), upon which forward-looking business leaders have been building their leadership styles for decades. Fast forward into the 21st century, and the leadership world has almost completely replaced the concept of employee management with the concept of employee development.
Why? Simply put, developing your employees instead of managing them opens up numerous opportunities for business growth, elevated productivity and happiness, and the ultimate fulfillment of one’s personal and professional goals. What’s more, it makes you a proactive leader, so let’s take a look at the key principles of employee development and why it matters for your company.
Know the individual
Leaders who put the individual ahead of the group can take a much more personalized approach to employee training, education, and development in general. This is because, by getting to know the individual, you are effectively learning about the unique character traits about the employee, and you are familiarizing yourself with their unique needs, goals, and long-term aspirations. Collecting all of this information will prove invaluable for creating individualized development plans down the road.
On the flip side, getting to know your employees sends a clear message to your entire employee collective that you are a leader who truly wants to help everyone in the company succeed. And remember, every employee is unique, and they have their unique challenges and stressors in life that require you to take a personal approach instead of trying to help them using a cookie-cutter solution – spoiler, it won’t work and it might even drive them away.
Being genuine can go a long way
Never underestimate your employees’ ability to differentiate between honesty and dishonesty, especially when they are interacting with the higher-ups. People will see right through your façade if you try to trick them into thinking that you care, no matter how much you try to hide it. Whether you’re honest in your communication with your employees because you cared about them from the very start, or if you’ve learned to care through leadership training, the most important thing is to actually be genuine with your team members.
This is especially important if you are working with millennials who want more from the entire performance management process, which in this case should also include honesty and a genuine interest in the individual. Being honest will help you develop trust and loyalty in the workplace, it will help you boost brand loyalty, improve productivity and workplace happiness, and it will elevate your employer brand in the competitive job market.
Create individual development plans
Now that you have taken an interest in your employees and have learned about their goals and aspirations, but also their stressors and pain-points, you can start working on individualized development plans. These comprehensive plans should include everything from tailoring their workstation to their needs, all the way to long-term professional growth and education, as well as an individualized approach to their salary and bonuses.
When we are looking at compensation, this is an area where you have to emphasize an individual approach in order to better manage your finances and reward the individual. Business leaders will often give a personalized payroll card to each of their employees that allows them to manage their finances and tailor the financial compensation according to the job position, performance, and the needs of the individual. In turn, this simple change will motivate the employee to achieve more in the long term.
Challenge your employees in a positive way
To keep growing professionally and to retain their productivity and zeal on a daily basis, your employees need to overcome certain challenges. Now, there is a big difference between positive challenges and negative ones, as the former focus on employee development and success, while the latter will only introduce another stressor into their daily life.
Setting positive challenges for your employees (if only by creating a positive work environment) is one of the best ways to make your team hit their KPIs on a regular basis while maintaining workplace happiness and overall satisfaction. To challenge them in a positive way, you can simply provide friendly guidance and support, but without actually getting them out of a tough spot.
Build a thriving company culture
And last but not least, one of the key reasons why you should focus on employee development instead of management is because it allows you to build an amazing company culture. No matter if you are predominantly working with boomers, millennials, or Gen Z-ers, it’s important that your company culture is built on the foundation of honesty, transparency, equality, collaboration and communication, co-dependence, and fair pay. Be sure to weave these values into your personal brand, and every document, presentation, and interaction in order to help your employees grow personally and professionally.
Leadership styles have changed over the years, and if you want to be a successful leader in 2020 and beyond, you should focus on employee development. With these tips and benefits of employee development in mind, you’ll be able to push your company forward as a whole.
Lauren is a regular Bizzmark Blog author that has many articles published with the main focus on clients who want their brands to grow in the fast-changing and demanding market. Her personal favorites are successes of small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. She goes through life with one strong moto – Kindness, always.