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Development: The Gift that Just Keeps Giving

employee gift givingWith another extraordinary holiday season upon us, many leaders struggle to determine the best way to punctuate the year and thank their employees.

Some settle on physical tokens. Others gravitate toward parties or meals. And a dwindling few find ways to offer cash bonuses. But, when it comes to motivation and engagement, the half-life of these gifts tends not to last very long. While organizations and leaders invest significantly in this effort, the effects are short-lived and quickly forgotten.

On the other hand, leaders who want their gifts to last all year understand that helping others grow is the gift that just keeps giving. They appreciate that development serves both the employee and the organization alike. And they know how to use its power to inspire engagement, tap discretionary effort, elevate skills and capabilities, enhance retention and drive bottom-line results.

Want to trade in the fruit baskets and group lunches for something that truly leaves others feeling valued? This year, give the gift of development. Commit to investing in helping each of your employees grow in ways that are meaningful and satisfying to them.

And to get you started, here are a few last-minute ideas to add to your developmental gift list.

  • Meet with employees and have a meaningful conversation about their aspirations and development goals. Commit to working together in the new year to move toward making these things a reality. Then, really do it.
  • Identify evolving issues or common development opportunities within your team and host a speaker on that topic. This can turn a routine holiday luncheon into an insightful discussion and generate group energy, support, and accountability for growth.
  • Skip the corporate swag and instead give employees a book that’s specially selected for them, their interests, and their developmental opportunities. This kind of personalization demonstrates attention and care (gifts in and of themselves) while offering tangible support for growth and improvement.
  • Allocate and award a specific amount of money to each of your employees. And allow them to spend it as they wish on their development. This not only sends a positive message about your commitment to their growth, but it also communicates your expectation that they’ll own their professional development. (And, don’t worry. You can include whatever controls make this comfortable and workable in your organization with things like pre-approvals and reimbursement upon presentation of receipts.)
  • Work with each employee to identify one developmental activity that he or she might like to engage in. And then create a plan to make it happen. While formal training, coaching, and mentoring are important, experiences are where the most powerful learning happens. (Listen to this 3-minute podcast about using real work experiences to help others grow.) Working together, you and the employee can translate development goals into specific activities that will offer exposure and focused skill-building. For instance, if an employee aspires to a leadership role, let him or her take responsibility for orienting and coaching new team members. Or if developing greater financial acumen is of interest, allow the employee to manage a project budget. In this way, collaboratively chosen experiences can be the most cost-effective way of developing others while addressing real work that needs to be done — a gift to the individual and the organization.

So, this holiday season, skip the crowd and the stress. Instead, consider a gift that requires no reservations or wrapping. Give your employees the gift of development and watch the effects radiate into the new year.

To learn more about what employees really want, explore my upcoming book “Promotions are So Yesterday: Redefine Career Development. Help Employees Thrive.” to be released by ATD Press on March 8, 2022.


Originally published on SmartBrief.

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash.

4 comments on “Development: The Gift that Just Keeps Giving

  1. Bev Kaye on

    Oh Julie….you always hit the nail on the head…your suggestion that development is a wonderful gift….and it should be on-going is right on!! I love your “spend it as you wish” gift…then everyone can really take time to think about what their learning goals are for the New Year. Bravo Julie!!

  2. Matthew Schroer on

    I enjoyed hearing from you on the Deep Leadership Podcast. I wish that many employers would consider development and inspiring their employees to help out more before “chasing them away”.

    Your work and words are a step plus in the right direction.

    Thanks again.


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