By Jean Roque, Trüpp.

While small businesses may not be able to compete with the resources and career advancement opportunities of larger employers, they shouldn’t underestimate their ability to provide a fulfilling work experience for employees who are hungry to develop and learn. Here are four employee development strategies that can be deployed even in the most boot-strapped environments.

  1. Establish a development plan. Employees are eager to learn and be challenged, which does not always need to equate to career progression. Meet with your employee to better understand their strengths and interests and identify how existing skill-sets can be advanced or new competencies gained. When considering new competencies, think beyond their current role—while you will certainly want to help them gain mastery in their current position, you may also want to consider assisting them in advancing their career or how they may contribute as a backup or as-needed resource.
  2. Continuous improvement project. Every company has areas where it can benefit from improvement. Encourage your employee to act as a consultant—looking with fresh eyes at the company’s processes, quality, and systems and identify where they would like to roll their sleeves up to understand how improvements can be made. Have the employee take responsibility for implementing recommendations and measuring the outcome of those efforts.
  3. Innovative business plan. Employees are full of great ideas that often aren’t shared or are overlooked. Encourage your industrious employees to explore those ideas by transforming one of their best into a business plan that fully vets its ability to contribute upside to the company along with any risks or downsides that may exist. Then, encourage your employee to present their business plan for consideration to leadership.
  4. Internal trainer. One of the best methods for gaining competency in a new area is to assume the role of a trainer, where the employee is now relied upon as a subject matter expert. Consider areas where your employee has interest or strength along with areas where your organization would benefit from improved expertise. Then, have your employee create and deploy a training program to pass on their newfound expertise.

As managers of people, we have a responsibility to understand our employees’ strengths and aspirations, keep our employees challenged and engaged, and facilitate their development. Even if that eventually leads them to applying their talents elsewhere, we can be assured that their time at our company will be valuable to both the employee and employer.

Want to discover more strategies for developing and engaging your team? Check out our upcoming Management 2.0 workshops.