Resources How-to's Practical ways to foster development on-the-job


Practical ways to foster development on-the-job

Research by the Center for Creative Leadership tells us that up to 90% of what we need to know to do our jobs, we learn on the job.

Learning pyramid

So how can managers and organizations foster on-the-job learning that broadens or deepens an employee's knowledge, skills, abilities and experience? Here are a number of suggestions you might try:

  • Ensure managers give their employees performance feedback and coaching at least once per week.
  • Pair less skilled or experienced employees with high performers who act as their "work buddy" and guide their work, answer questions, share their knowledge/skills/experience.
  • Assign a stretch goal that takes an employee just beyond their comfort zone and challenges them to try something new or different, and acquire new skills and experience.
  • Assign an employee to a short term "acting role" where they temporarily take on some or all of the duties of another.
  • Ask an employee to diagnose and/or suggest resolutions for a problem.
  • Assign work on a cross-functional or cross-cultural team.
  • Invite an employee to research emerging technology or a new trend in your field and give a presentation on their findings.
  • Assign work on a high-stakes project.
  • Assign work that exposes the employee to another part of the organization.
  • Allow an employee to shadow another employee who is in a more senior role or in a different but complementary role.
  • Invite an employee to use their core skills in a different application (for example, technical writer creating marketing materials, trainer providing technical support, etc.).
  • Assign an employee to train or mentor another employee.
  • Assign an employee to work with a low-performing or challenging employee.

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, any developmental assignment should provide the employee with at least one of the following:

  • Unfamiliar responsibilities
  • New directions
  • Problems to fix
  • High stakes
  • Different cultures
  • Cross-functional teams
  • The need to influence without authority
  • Problem employees

By carefully considering an employee's developmental needs when assigning work, and looking for on-the-job opportunities that address learning needs, you can create a work environment that supports ongoing employee growth and success.

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