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11 Key Development Areas for Employees at Work

Are you providing your workers with regular, meaningful opportunities for your team to develop? If not, you're missing a critical element. 

These development areas can help your team members become more productive. They go beyond technical or academic skills and contribute to a culture of improvement within your business. 

In this guide, we'll explore 11 key areas of team development to focus on in your learning and development strategy and provide examples of goals along the way. 

11 key employee development areas

1. Goal-setting

2. Collaboration

3. Active listening

4. Flexibility

5. Organizational skills

6. Time management

7. Leadership

8. Communication

9. Conflict resolution

10. Accepting feedback and criticism

11. Customer service

1. Goal-setting 

Improving teams' ability to set goals effectively can help improve focus and work performance. 

Goal-setting enables team members to divide longer-term goals—which may seem less achievable—into shorter-term goals that seem more feasible.

Setting goals regularly has several benefits. A good goal routine:

  • Optimizes resource use 
  • Encourages more effective time management 
  • Offers clearer focus  
  • Enables objective progress measurement 
  • Can boost motivation to achieve more 
  • Clarifies decision making 

Setting goals can encourage new, more productive behaviors.

2. Collaboration 

Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. 

Collaborating (or cooperating) multiplies team strengths and minimizes individual weaknesses. When teams collaborate to achieve different goals, they can build the skills necessary to complete multi-disciplinary projects. 

Benefits of collaboration include:

  • Building team camaraderie
  • Generating increased internal communication and understanding 
  • Nurturing diversity 
  • Increasing creative possibilities and innovation when brainstorming 
  • Enhancing peer learning 
  • Making delegation of tasks easier 

Collaboration can also inspire more productivity than a single person managing a project alone. 

3. Active Listening  

Most people have trouble internalizing information through active listening.

The goal of actively listening to another person is to acquire information and understanding before responding, not thinking about the next thing to say when the other person finishes. Passive listening is hearing without paying full attention. 

Active listening is a vital tool for successful negotiation. There are other benefits too, including:

  • Decreased likelihood of incorrect assumptions 
  • Increased comprehension and learning 
  • Increased appreciation from the speaker 
  • Clearer communication 
  • Better Relationships

Active listening is a skill that all employees can acquire with time and practice. 

4. Flexibility 

Flexibility is the realization that there's more than one way to complete most jobs correctly. It's about adapting to changing circumstances and expectations quickly. Flexibility requires being able to adjust rapidly to the unexpected. 

Moreover, it also requires not being set in one's ways. Flexible employees can adapt their roles based on the needs of the company. Companies, in turn, can be flexible and give their employees the freedom to do their jobs in the way they think is best. 

Some benefits of flexibility include:

  • The ability to adapt more quickly 
  • Being more likely to deal with challenges effectively 
  • Not being thrown off course by the unexpected
  • More responsiveness to customer needs

Having flexible team members who respond to change is crucial in a rapidly changing business environment. 

5. Organizational Skills 

Organized people are more productive. Organizational principles should permeate all aspects of the job. This methodology applies to everything from files and procedures to schedules and office layouts.

Organized workers devote a small portion of their day to organizing, part of which is prioritizing tasks and delegating if need be. 

There are also numerous benefits to being organized. Some include: 

  • Better time management 
  • Less stress 
  • Ease of tracking progress 
  • Increased productivity 
  • Being accepting of feedback and constructive criticism 

Technology can assist with good organization. Many apps and programs facilitate effective organization throughout your corporate culture. 

6. Time Management

Time management often goes hand-in-hand with organization. Time management is the process of planning and exercising conscious control over time spent on various activities. 

Time management is about working smarter, not harder, to streamline efforts. 

Good time management involves planning and prioritizing. It also calls for avoiding distractions, procrastination, and too much multitasking. 

The more projects you undertake and the more intricate and complex they are, the more your employees need good time management skills.  

Poor time management can mean missed deadlines, incomplete projects, and missed opportunities. 

However, when your employees master time management, there are benefits, including:

  • Met deadlines 
  • Increased efficiency 
  • Higher productivity
  • Less stress and anxiety 
  • Better quality work 

As with organization, technology can help with better time management. 

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7. Leadership 

It isn't just managers who need good leadership skills; team members benefit, too. Employing leadership training for all teams should be on your list of development goals. 

While developing leadership skills can take time, there are many positive outcomes, such as:

  • More employee commitment
  • Increased accountability 
  • Enhanced team camaraderie 
  • Improved performance and productivity 
  • A shared burden of leadership 
  • United efforts 

Developing leadership in workers who are not managers will promote a culture of responsibility and accountability in your business.  

8. Communication 

Communication within a business takes several forms: oral communication, written communication, and interpersonal communication. 

It's crucial to your organization to enhance your teams' ability to communicate in all ways, because clear communication is vital to a business. Fortunately, you can teach communication skills through a team development program.  

Written  

Technology has made written communication easier and faster. Poorly worded and confusing emails can be frustrating and counterproductive both within the organization and with customers. 

Furthermore, customers may consider unclear written communication to be a lack of professionalism on your part. 

One idea to consider is a style guide that team members can use for reference. Another is team development through writing skills and standards education. 

Oral  

What you say is important, but equally important—if not more so—is how you say it. Tone and word choice are also crucial parts of oral communication. Effective verbal communication enables a person to work well with others. 

Most people don't focus on their body language when talking with others, but listeners notice it and react to it, even if it is unconsciously. This reality means body language is an integral part of oral communication. 

Improving oral communication (and the body language that goes along with it) is an essential part of many aspects of team development, especially for leadership training. 

Interpersonal  

Interpersonal communication is an important area to improve. Communicating clearly and directly without coming across as offensive or brusque can take some practice.

Poor communication between teams or with customers can create many problems, delays, and misunderstandings. 

Better communication among employees and between workers and management will only improve your business. Benefits to good communication include:

  • Less conflict 
  • Better clarity, direction, and understanding 
  • Decreased frustration and stress
  • Improved efficiency and productivity 
  • Stronger relationships and team building 
  • Increased engagement 
  • Greater trust  

Good communication plays a key role in promoting positive work experiences. 

Customers also appreciate clear communications from businesses. If you develop strong communicators in all departments, you will be surprised at how little friction you experience with clients. 

9. Conflict Resolution 

Though it's inevitable from time to time and can even work to promote growth, mishandled conflict in the workplace can be counterproductive, disruptive, and demoralizing. 

People don't always agree, which is okay. After all, diversity of thought is beneficial; however, it is essential to handle conflict effectively. 

When teams understand how to resolve conflict effectively, it benefits the whole company. Listening skills and clear, tactful communication are part of avoiding, deescalating, and resolving conflict.

Among the many positive outcomes of effective conflict resolution are:

  • Tighter, stronger teams
  • Better morale
  • Reduced tension
  • Increased productivity  
  • Fewer alienated employees 
  • Better relationships between teams 

Managers should be good at conflict resolution. However, if your team members know how to reduce and resolve conflict, your managers won't have to, which means they can spend their time on other things. 

10. Accepting Feedback and Constructive Criticism 

Feedback and constructive criticism are essential to improve results and performance.

They are necessary for keeping employees informed about what they are good at and what they need to improve. 

However, feedback and constructive criticism can be hard to take, especially if it's delivered insensitively or disrespectfully. Provided carelessly, feedback and constructive criticism can be demoralizing. 

It is important to remember that feedback does not always have to be negative. Positive feedback is just as important. 

Additionally, mixing positive points into feedback is essential to provide employees with a balanced view of their performance. You don't want to only point out shortcomings and areas for improvement. 

Businesses can train employees to accept feedback and constructive criticism and then use them to improve their results and performance in the future. 

The benefits of feedback and constructive criticism include:

  • Keeping goals aligned across the organization 
  • Letting employees know what they are doing well 
  • Improving employee performance 
  • Providing ongoing motivation

Feedback and constructive criticism are tools for continued learning. 

11. Customer Service 

Companies should cultivate good customer service skills because customer service is the face of your business. Good customer service is essential to keeping the customers you have and attracting new ones in the future. 

Almost everyone associates politeness, friendliness, and prompt service with good customer service. 

However, good customer service involves things you may not usually think about, such as integrity, openness, transparency, and ethics. 

The benefits of good customer service are vast. A few examples include:

  • Increased customer satisfaction 
  • Repeat business 
  • Increased customer loyalty 
  • Enhanced business and revenue
  • A positive brand image 

The good news is that team members can enhance their customer service skills through a good development program.

Why Invest in Team Development?

An increasing number of workers, especially millennials, report that on-the-job development is something they weigh heavily when looking for a job and when leaving one. 

Workers are increasingly seeking employers with robust opportunities for learning and development. Conversely, they also cite a lack of growth opportunities as a significant factor for quitting one job for another. 

Your teams are your assets, but they are not inventory.

If you don't meet your team members' needs, your assets can and will walk out the door. Though everyone appreciates pay increases, these measures aren't enough to keep people on board. 

Modern teams don't just want commensurate pay; they want professional development and growth, too. Encouraging and facilitating them to strive for and hit development goals will make your business more appealing to current and new talent. 

Better quality work from better qualified teams

It is more cost-effective to develop your teams than to lose them to competitors, which will leave you to find and train replacements. 

Skilled and knowledgeable employees are likely to be more productive and produce better quality work—which benefits their employer. 

Quality employees are a vital asset for your business; one could even say they are the backbone of your business.

Stop training employees for your competitors! Break the cycle by creating a well-rounded development program. Start developing your team members as resources to grow your business. 

Perhaps you have already started shaping your L&D strategy but aren't sure where to focus. Below, we'll suggest critical areas of development to drive team learning and growth. 

The cost of not investing in development 

Meeting development goals doesn't just benefit workers; it helps companies. High turnover rates mean companies must constantly seek new candidates and then interview, onboard, and train them. 

This cycle does more than just waste time. It can cost you productivity and profitability, demoralizing the rest of your team. Nobody wins by constantly going in circles. 

Don't think turnover costs that much? Think again. 

According to Gallup's findings in 2019, the cost of replacing an individual can range from one-and-a-half to two times that employee's annual salary. Even hourly employees are costly to replace. Gallup puts the yearly cost to U.S. businesses at roughly $1 trillion.

Though high turnover is costly, it is also a fixable problem. A practical learning and development strategy vastly increases retention and benefits businesses in myriad ways.

The Importance of Buy-In from All Levels

A successful employee development program requires buy-in from all levels of your organization. 

This stipulation means that employees need to invest in creating and pursuing development goals, while managers and human resources departments have to work with them hand-in-hand. 

It should be a formal program with dedicated resources, not just something your employees do from time to time when they have a moment to spare. 

Moreover, an employee development program is not just for the rank-and-file workers. Your managers can also benefit from a development program. 

Creating a development plan

Today's dynamic business world requires more upskilling, flexibility, and adapting to new demands with new skills—for businesses and their teams. 

There are several steps to take and factors to weigh when setting up a team development plan. It can be challenging to balance everything together. Fortunately, we can help with comprehensive team development solutions.

To grow your business, you need agile team members with extensive knowledge who constantly hone their existing skills while developing new ones. 

LinkedIn report revealed a whopping 94% of workers surveyed said they would stay longer at a company if their employer invested in their development. 

These are all skills that teams can learn and improve upon. 

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