If you own a business and want the best employees possible, ones who are really dedicated to their work, the best way to do that might be to take on what's known as the whole-person approach. This method is getting more and more attention among training and development professionals, and for good reason.
The whole-person approach is a holistic method that accounts for an individual's life and their vision of self, and offers up the resources that person needs to make that vision real. Developing the "whole person" requires an investment in professional, personal and skill-related areas in a way that supports mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.
"These are all important, as they tackle personal development in different ways," said Stacey Engle, executive vice president at Fierce Communications. "There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to embracing the whole person, but instead, organizations will be most successful if they address the concept on a personal level."
Here are some ways that companies can implement the whole-person approach with their employees.
1. Offer personal development funds.
These funds allow employees to spend a certain amount of money, usually decided by the company, on whatever type of activity they like, including fitness classes, art lessons and gym memberships.
"At Fierce, every employee is given an annual personal development fund to use for any activity we feel will help us grow in the ways we want to," Engle said.
Incentives like these also speak to a company's culture. If your company wants a program like this but just can't fit it in the budget, Engle suggests spreading the message anyway. Let the employees know that you want what's best for them and support where they are going.
2. Allow flex time if possible.
Flexibility with work schedule comes in handy if employees are taking continuing education classes or involved in activities that happen during the normal work hours.
"Flex time requires employees to work the same number of hours and during days and times that function with their pursuits outside of work," Engle said. "Accountability is needed here – give trust and hold you employees 'able.'"
3. Provide learning opportunities.
"Offer opportunities to educate employees on the latest advancements in training, technology and industry," Engle said. She added that covering the entry or sign-up fee for online courses or learning events is a great way to get your employees involved and interested.
"Most importantly, offer human-to-human support. A mentorship program, for example, can be a welcome addition at any organization."
4. Offer participant-driven learning.
Giving employees the option to learn about advanced technology and workplace-related topics is great, but it's also important to keep personal preferences in mind, provide options that allow employees to work at their own pace, and support them in those efforts. This will ensure they take in more of the knowledge and want to apply it to their work, Engle said.
Engle said that this is the most important of the suggestions. As an employer, you should be having conversations with employees individually. Ask them how they want to develop, whether it's at work or home, and what would help them get there and feel supported.
"So often, this is a conversation that simply doesn't take place," Engle said. "Truly listening to your employees on a one-to-one basis to understand what they need to feel supported both personal and professionally is the key here. Ask directly, 'How can I support you?' Depending on the answer they give you (and they may need some times to think about it), create some action items, if applicable."
The benefits of employer support
The secret to success for both employees and employers is happiness. Happy employees are more productive, effective and pleasant at work, and these are all things that could increase the bottom line.
"Many organizations think that salary and stock options are what keep people in their jobs, but studies show this isn't the case," Engle said. "Sure, it's definitely a factor, but feeling appreciated, challenged and supported are all incredibly important to any employee."
Keep in mind that not all of these suggestions are feasible for every company or employer. But the idea, Engle said, is to do what you can, right now, to support the personal growth of your employees in any way you can.