If You’re Not Investing in Training and Development, Your Employees Won’t Invest In You
It may seem obvious that providing training to your employees is beneficial. Hopefully, we can all agree that this is not a controversial topic that will spark a heated debate. But I will say, there are a number of different directions training can go with some being more productive than others. The wrong material or teacher can even cause more harm than good if not well vetted. There’s a spectrum of learning materials available and no one-size-fits-all solution. We believe encouraging a culture of continuous learning makes our business stronger. Here’s how we’ve embraced a mixture of options for Helen & Gertrude.
Conscious leadership training. When we first introduced leadership training we prioritized top to bottom training across our agency. Meaning whatever training we were expecting our managers to participate in, Leire and myself would also participate as the leaders of the agency. This gave us insight into the lessons and allowed us to be a resource for our managers as they implemented the practices. Honestly, they also received less pushback from us because we understood why. While not every training is right for every employee (depending on where they are in their career path) that doesn’t mean they don’t see the benefits. The whole company benefits from upper management going through training because the practices trickle down and affect each team member, which then is integrated within the whole culture. Exercises like the DISC assessment and aligning on team core values were implemented across each team. The self-awareness that comes from these sessions - from understanding yourself as a leader, your strengths and shadows, how to adapt to others’ styles, and how your own personal style affects your working relationships is immeasurable. Personally, I reflected on my own tendencies to just roll up my sleeves and take on tasks where I should have leaned on my team for support. While I thought I was being helpful and a team player, I was actually creating a dependent environment. Employees were less likely to take initiative and take on the challenge of the task themselves, which is a missed opportunity to learn. I had to consciously push myself away from that inclination in order to create a culture of risk-taking and giving space to make mistakes.
Cross-functional knowledge sharing. The digital space is changing every 30 seconds, we are required to stay nimble and in the know to build successful strategies for our clients. Our departments each conduct their own presentations across the entire company. From what we call “First Fridays” with the creative team, to media lunch & learns, to all-company “Hangovers” on the most recent trends within the alcohol industry or “Creative Salons” on the beauty space. We all have our team and individual specialties, and the best way to expand our skills across everyone is by learning from one another. That recent book you read on having tough conversations? It could be beneficial for others to hear about and gain takeaways from.
Diversity, equity, and inclusivity training. If you’re not already providing a focus on DEI, this is your call to action. First, whether you’ve taken notice or not, it absolutely has an effect on your company culture. Maybe you have made efforts to hire more diverse candidates, but then what? We too have made the mistake of “culture-fit” vs. the much more beneficial “culture-add”. If you, your leadership team, and current employees don’t have the language to talk about DEI appropriately, then any new hire you bring to the team is not going to feel safe bringing their true self to work. Here’s the thing I’ve learned along the way, you’re going to get it wrong and that has real human consequences. That doesn’t mean you should avoid it. At Helen & Gertrude, we’re striving to use those opportunities as real-world examples to discuss how we should have put our training into practice and how to do it better next time.
Outside partners. Inviting industry professionals from beyond your company is a great way to spark inspiration and innovation. These experts provide an outside perspective and motivate teams to think of solutions with a different mindset. In the vetting process, make sure the instructor understands where the team is at on the topic; too advanced or too elementary could mean a waste of time and money. This includes topics from leadership, functional expertise, to DEI initiatives.
Supplemental materials. This could include conferences, books, or online classes that reinforce the practice. Formal lessons should not be one and done. To ensure you’re getting the most out of your employees’ training, provide ways for continued education on the topic.
Individual goal-setting. In addition to ongoing training, I would be remiss not to mention the importance of goal-setting and peer feedback. Ensuring team members understand why these trainings are important to their personal success is the easiest way for them to find meaning and motivation from the lessons. Encourage employees to not just chase the proverbial ladder, but assist them in finding what will truly motivate them in their careers, such as specific skill sets, rather than a title. Then, there is a clearer path to the types of training that are appropriate for their growth. Additionally, from a business perspective, this also means you’re grooming your team to take on the appropriate roles and not spending precious energy and money on someone who will ultimately decide to go in a new direction. No one can stay stagnant, so measuring against goals and creating a clear growth path that excites employees helps with both productivity and motivation.
When team members are adequately trained under their leaders to gradually move into the role, it pushes organizations to great heights. All employees are building to the next level and are prepared for what’s to come - growth. It also helps with PTO, maternity leave, and any time designated managers need the extra support. Job security shouldn’t feel threatened, success isn’t measured by the ability to do it all alone.. A wise mentor once advised me to hire people that are smarter than me and aim to replace myself. Then, I would have the space to also continue growing and moving forward to the next big thing. Training is based on an individual’s personal needs, so ensure you’re providing the correct level of training for the people going through it. They cannot all be big-pointed time commitments for all employees, nor just book initiatives or one-off events. Embracing a spectrum of efforts is key to long-term retention and development.
Co-founder + CEO
With a background in New Media Design, Becca has spent her career building world-class creative teams developing content for the world's most well-known brands, including Walmart, Starbucks, American Express, GE, and Jose Cuervo.
On her off hours, she can be found tackling a home project, getting her hands dirty in the garden, or convincing her husband to adopt another dog.