Investing in employees’ professional development is the most rewarding thing a manager can do.  Unfortunately, actions to develop their employees are often at the bottom of the manager’s “to-do list”.

If you develop your employees, they will be more proficient with their tasks and be more productive. Once they start performing at a higher level, you, as the manager, will reap the rewards.

Developing the skills of your employees can save you plenty of time. Since they are now more efficient, you do not have to monitor them every step of the way. As such, you’d be able to focus on several other tasks. Above all, seeing your employees improve in their respective fields is very rewarding. Besides, this is what leadership is about – making a difference in people’s lives.

But how should you mentor and motivate your employees? Read on, and find out some ways managers can develop their employees.

1. Promote Personal Development

It’s not hard to encourage professional development among employees,  especially the high-performers. These employees are eager to learn, grow their expertise, and climb the career ladder. However, some leaders often overlook personal development when it comes to professional development. Managers should understand that professional development is not enough. They must also encourage personal development among employees. If leaders want to see their employees progress to new levels of success, they need to start treating them as people outside of their professions.

According to a survey of the Social Market Foundation, happy employees are 20% more productive than those who are unhappy. One way to increase happiness among employees is to encourage personal development. You may turn your attention to successfully recruiting talented HR staff who can implement growth-minded company culture. When leaders invest in their team’s personal development, they invest in producing greatness for the company. Just imagine a company culture where everyone feels like performing at their best, where employees know that their managers care about them, including their personal goals and overall wellbeing. By making employees feel that you value them as a person, they will respond by being committed and engaged to their respective roles.

So, how can managers encourage personal development to their employees? First, they should provide resources for personal development. Consider giving them access to life coaches the same way you would with career coaches. Come up with an online database filled with personal development resources, such as articles, videos, and podcasts.  Sit down with your employees and discuss stress management, time management, resilience, and growth mindset. Ask what other skills they wanted to develop both professionally and personally. Then provide the support they need to help them achieve these.

2. Encourage Employee Directed Professional Development

One way to encourage employees to invest in professional development is through self-directed learning. This involves giving them the freedom to direct their learning. By allowing them to decide the topics of study for professional development, they will feel more invested and engaged. In turn, this results in better outcomes. However, developing a self-directed learning program does not come easy. You want to provide them with proper guidance to ensure they will be getting the most out of the learning experience.  But offering so much could defeat the purpose of “self-directed” learning.

There are many ways that managers can create an effective employee-directed learning initiative. It can come in the form of leadership and management courses or bespoke workplace training and presentations. When launching the learning program, managers should provide some guidance. Although you don’t want to restrict the “self-directed” aspect of learning, you should be the one to decide on the general rules. For instance, employees must read one book about personal development per quarter or watch at least one video about soft skills per month. The guidelines can help to ensure that employees will complete their self-directed learning while also giving them the freedom to explore other learning opportunities.

It is not enough that you launch the employee-directed professional development program. You must also check with your employees regularly to ensure that they achieve their goals. Ask them to outline their professional and personal objectives along with the steps on how they plan to achieve them. You must also provide them with the tools they need to develop their professional skills. By making your employees feel that you value their development, they will want to work harder for the business and stay longer.

3. Encourage Employee Autonomy

Employee autonomy gives employees the freedom to decide how, when, and where they will do their work. According to an LRN study released at the World Economic Forum in Davos, companies whose employees have higher levels of freedom are 10 to 20 times more likely to outperform companies that have low employee freedom scores.

By giving your staff the freedom to approach their jobs on their own, you are helping the company to flourish even more. But as you strike a balance between your company and employee autonomy, consider how you can work within the company structure while coming up with a solution that can work for everyone. At the same time, encourage your staff to resolve issues by themselves to be more self-efficient and confident to handle their tasks with less supervision from their managers.

Employee autonomy will vary depending on how the business works and the type of projects the employees deal with. For instance, if your business requires going after new clients, you can offer staff the option to choose their fields of industries or go after clients they are comfortable dealing with. On the other hand, if your business requires handling long-term clients, try to give your employees the option to choose which aspects they want to be involved in or encourage them to decide how they want to direct the project. Other options include giving them the freedom to choose teammates, communication methods, or workspaces.

Remember that it is not only the employee that can benefit from employee autonomy. Autonomy can also create a strong company culture and value that respects every employee while creating a sense of job security.