Investing in Your Employees

Seven Simple Steps Towards Refining Your Employees’ Skill Sets and Productivity

I will begin this post with a parable about a man walking through a forest. As he walks he hears rigorous chopping sounds and soon comes across a wood cutter. The wood cutter is clearly exhausted, so the man says to him, “Friend, why don’t you rest a little, and I will chop the wood for you.” The wood cutter accepts the man’s offer and sits down to rest. Meanwhile, the man picks up the wood cutter’s axe and begins chopping the tree. He notices that the axe is so dull that it would take him all day to cut down that one tree. He turns to the wood chopper and exclaims, “Friend, your axe is dull! You spend all day cutting wood. Why don’t you take time to sharpen your axe?” The wood cutter quickly responds, “Take time to sharpen my axe? Don’t you see all of these trees around me that need to be chopped? I don’t have time to sharpen my axe.”

The moral of the story is that when people do not consistently “sharpen their axes,” their effectiveness decreases. However, it is quite common for company founders and developers to struggle finding the perfect time and resources to help their employees refine their skills. When is the right time to send engineers to trainings, workshops, and hackathons when they could work on current projects? When does it make sense to provide employees with Google 20% time to pursue endeavors that they are passionate about? The truth of the matter is, employers may have gut feelings that hold them and their employees back from sharpening their axes. However, entrepreneurs best propel their companies forward by utilizing the vast amount of resources and methods available to invest in their employees.

Here are seven simple ways to invest in employees that will boost an organization’s productivity:

  1. Employers should spread knowledge in a formal process. Companies should not position themselves in a fashion in which only one employee possesses a specific skill set. A company’s leadership faces a troubling situation (a single point of failure) if that employee gets in an accident. For this reason, companies should create a structured education system, which could include a weekly or bi-weekly lesson or a quarterly hackathon.
  2. Employees must have the freedom or a means to express themselves. Oftentimes, company founders and product developers have difficulty identifying their product or service’s major flaws. Employees, however, can recognize these shortcomings with greater clarity. By giving employees freedom, employers are allowing the company to sharpen its axe.
  3. The company’s leadership should allocate energy and resources towards top notch employees. Organizations are more likely to retain employees who possess opportunities for growth and development. Not only will investing in top employees increase loyalty within the company, but also it will attract more employees who seek to better themselves.
  4. Employers should strive to fit regular training into the schedule. Training is a crucial piece of the puzzle of investing in employees. It promotes a healthy a safe work environment, creates opportunities for personal and career development, and educates employees about how to best perform on new and upcoming projects. Training sessions do not only correlate with higher levels of retention, but also directly influence the company’s productivity.
  5. Employers can bring in mentors when needed. Mentoring is a popular practice that is on the rise. 71% of Fortune 500 Companies offer these services to their employees. Employers should search for experts that know niches in the field, who pass on their knowledge to specific departments that stand to benefit.
  6. The company’s management can facilitate cross department training. Allowing departments to switch jobs for a day is not as crazy as it sounds. In fact, many employers use cross department training to motivate employees to learn more about the organization. They will also master new skills that will increase their value to the company. Additionally, it prevents the existence of single experts in a certain skill (the single point of failure).
  7. Finally, company founders and developers should encourage every employee to engage in customer support. All employees can stand to improve themselves by better connecting to and understand their users. When employees engage regularly with customers, they become empowered to increase their knowledge and problem solving skills regarding the product or service in order to provide outstanding service.

With all of the resources available in today’s corporate world, organizations have every reason to invest in their employees.

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