6 Strategies to Promote the Growth of Your Employees

Secrets of Leadership Success: Provide Opportunities for People to Grow

Manager working with group of employees during a meeting in an office conference area.
Hero Images/Hero Images/Getty Images

Promoting the growth of your employees, both the best employee and the employees who are not so good, is critical to your organization's success—no matter the circumstances and ability of your hires.

One of the best happenings you will ever experience as a manager is when you hire a new employee who is awesome. Your new hire jumps right in and solves problems, builds relationships, and thinks up new ideas. In short, you couldn't hope for a better employee.

On the other hand, one of the worst things that can happen is when you hire a new employee who is terrible. Your new hire can't handle the workload, complains about everything, and drags the whole department down. This is a hiring fail.

Since most managers aren't experts at hiring, when you hit the jackpot with the perfect hire, you want to keep that person firmly in your department. When you get a bad egg, you want to force the employee out at the soonest opportunity. What tends to happen though is that the bad employee sticks around forever, and the good one moves on in a couple of years.

6 Strategies to Provide Opportunities for People to Grow

Fortunately, you can attack both of these problems by providing opportunities for your employees—good and bad—to grow professionally and personally. Here's how.

Don't take advantage of your hard worker. It's so tempting to just keep piling the work on Jane because you know she'll do it and do it well. As a result, though, Jane ends up with no time to learn new skills and improve her relationships outside of work. She's just busy doing all of the work all of the time.

Instead, carefully consider your assignments and make sure that you're not accidentally punishing Jane by giving her all of the horrible tasks just because you know she'll do them well.

Give her the hard tasks, yes, but not the hard tasks because they are tedious tasks, but the tasks that will allow her to stretch and grow. Make it clear when you assign tasks that you are there to help and that you realize this is a stretch job for her. Hard and capable workers thrive on this type of assignment.

Don't give in to the bad worker. When you know Jane will do the task without a second thought, why give the task to Holly? Well, because you hired her and it's your job as the boss to help her succeed. So, assign her tasks or projects and then work with her to make sure she accomplishes them.

Consider the possibility that your employee does a bad job because she doesn't know how to do a good job. If you teach, coach, and help her, there's a good chance that she'll develop and grow into a good employee.

Provide formal mentoring. Everyone needs a mentor—good and bad performers alike. Your good performer can move to the next level with the help of a good mentor. Your bad employee can get up to speed with some clear guidance.

Sometimes, you can provide formal mentoring with an assigned mentor and sometimes you can provide mentoring through a program. Either way works, and what is best depends on your company's needs and the individual employee's personality.

Reward good performance. One of the worst things you can do with a good employee is to ignore their successes. You don't want Jane to move on to a new job because that exit would leave you high and dry. So you don't praise Jane (publicly or privately) and you don't suggest stretch assignments and you cause yourself a disaster when Jane resigns.

Try to do away with that thinking. Instead, figure out how Jane's continued success can allow you to grow as well. As she grows and develops, she can take on higher-level tasks, freeing you for stretch assignments in your own career.

And what about Holly, the poor performer? It's extra critical that she see rewards for successes, no matter how small. When she sees what she's capable of doing well, she'll be inclined to keep trying for additional success. She'll start to grow and may soon become a valuable member of the team.

Don't forget personal growth. Yes, your main goal as an employer is the success of your business or department, but if your employees aren't feeling growth personally, they won't care as much about your bottom line. Make sure you allow your employees time for themselves—to become what and who they want to become. This is key to employee engagement and retention.

A true leader makes sure that her employees are progressing in their careers and in their lives. This is always a primary responsibility—right next to meeting financial goals. It's what differentiates you from an ordinary boss.


Suzanne Lucas is a freelance writer who spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.