It’s tempting to think that the elegant solution to this is simply hiring only very experienced and competent people to begin with, but that’s not how it works. Great businesses don’t need to limit themselves in this way, because they don’t just find great employees, they create them. Doing this well is first and foremost about supportive and empowering leadership.
The easiest way to quickly acquire competencies at work is to learn directly from someone much more experienced. Encouraging and incentivising experienced team members to take newer employees under their wing can have major benefits. Not only will new team members learn faster, they will also integrate into the company culture much more quickly. A good mentor should also be a peer, not someone in an explicit position of power over the mentee. This way, mentees feel more comfortable asking questions and making mistakes, allowing mentors to quickly identify and fill in any gaps.
This experience is also beneficial to the mentor. Coaching someone else effectively requires a deeper understanding of a job than simply doing it yourself. By taking on a leadership role, more experienced team members will develop a more thorough understanding of their own work while also developing their leadership skills.
Incentivise ongoing professional education
Great companies aren’t built on basically competent workers, but on great ones. Great employees don’t just show up and do their job, they work to become industry experts. People who understand their industry as well as they do their individual jobs are going to be able to better anticipate and respond to client needs. Additionally, they’ll be able to accommodate and work with co-workers from other departments more readily.
Finding people who will go out of their way to educate themselves on their own initiative is extremely difficult, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a team of industry experts. Successful businesses don’t just hire experts, they create them. Building that knowledge requires additional sustained effort from your team members, and means taking time every day to read and get educated about their industry as a whole, and their specific role in it.
Work with your leadership team to build a company culture that values learning and expertise as much as simple hours logged or work done. Recognise workers who demonstrate deep knowledge, and provide resources that people can use to develop themselves on or off company time.
Provide regular feedback
Understanding how well they’re performing and how they’re viewed by their employer is becoming increasingly difficult for workers all over the world. Rare performance reviews, vague feedback, unclear expectations, and modern “perks” like flexible working hours, unlimited time off, or optional work-from-home days serve to create a sense of uncertainty and insecurity. Do you like their work? Will taking two weeks off make them look lazy and expendable? Is it bad that they show up later in the day than other people?
While this insecurity might motivate employees to work longer hours, the additional constant stress can quickly turn a work environment toxic. To prevent this, leaders need to provide frequent, clear, and honest feedback. By keeping team members informed about what’s really expected of them, where they stand, and what they should work on you provide a concrete sense that you’re invested in their success and that you’re aware and appreciative of their contributions.
Create individualised development plans
Training employees to be interchangeable like car parts can seem convenient, but it’s not a good way to get the most out of every worker. Not every individual is looking to get the same thing out of their job, and this is a good thing. Sit down and discuss each worker’s professional goals at your company and work to accommodate them in some way.
This gives you the chance to align your business’ and your employee’s interests. As a result, employees will be able to show up to work knowing that they’re working toward their own goals, as well as those of your business. This will help to keep morale high, and makes it significantly easier to keep everyone focused.
Great employees don’t just show up for work and do their job. They actively work together to cooperatively pursue a common goal. Facilitating that can seem like a tall order for any leader, but it doesn’t have to be. Focusing on empowerment, growth, and providing support allows team members to focus their own energy on advancing your business’ interests rather than just looking out for their position. They’ll naturally provide the solid foundation you need to grow and develop your operation going forward.