By Ann Marie Carmichael
Do you have a company program geared towards helping young professionals develop their skills? Or maybe you are thinking about starting something up but you don’t know where to begin?
Today’s workforce is looking for more out of their employers than the traditional structure (i.e. they work, you pay) – they want the opportunity to grow and develop on the job, and look to their organizations to provide programs, like mentorships and leadership development, to help get them where they want to go.
At Citrin Cooperman, a firm made up of primarily accountants and business advisors, we launched an emerging professionals program geared towards building networking and business development skills. The program is focused on developing skillsets that are helpful to professional service providers as they advance in their careers. The program consists of a combination of learning opportunities, including: education on firm’s services so participants have a strong grasp of all of the services we offer; support and mentorship as they grow; and, networking opportunities to get them started. If you are interested in starting something similar at your organization, here are some tips on what has made our program successful so far:
- Get their input. Ask your staff what they want to learn more about and what growth experiences they are looking for out of the program. This will help to increase engagement and set the program up for success from the start.
- Build in accountability. Accountability is something that is important to have at all levels. If you are not held accountable, it can be hard to stay motivated and easy to let things slide or to change directions too frequently to make any real progress. At the beginning of the year, we asked our participants to set goals for themselves of what they want to accomplish in the program this year. We meet throughout the year and check in on goals to keep people focused and address any obstacles or challenges that may be getting in their way.
- Be open to feedback. There is always room for improvement, no matter how successful something is. With our program still being new, we regularly check in with participants and offer both open forum and private opportunities for feedback. Every recommendation that comes in is discussed with the leadership group and then we adjust the program as needed to address the suggestions.
- Don’t just share the success stories. It can be very inspiring to hear success stories from leaders and that can certainly lead to motivation. But it can also be discouraging if staff don’t see that same success right out of the gate. Be willing to talk about awkward moments, how hard it really was when you first started out, mistakes you made, and how those experiences contributed to your learning and professional/personal growth.
- Have fun with it. In our first meeting before we launched into networking tips and LinkedIn 101, we kicked the meeting off with a video clip from the comedy “Tommy Boy”. It highlighted the main character, depicted by Chris Farley, struggling with taking over his dad’s sales job. He ultimately figures out his own authentic approach, so in addition to sharing some laughs we were also able to start things off with a great lesson: to find your own personal brand.
It may take some initial time and money to get a new program set up, but developing well-rounded staff will prove to be valuable beyond measure in the long-run. Companies that invest in their employees will see improvements in retention, will attract more quality candidates, and find their employees are more engaged, which in turn contributes to overall company performance.