MVP Seminars Blogs

This is not just for Human Resources. Employers need to use an informed approach to help boost employee satisfaction, retention and productivity while protecting the company’s legal and financial interests. It is the biggest economic burden of any health issue in the world and is projected to cost $6 trillion by 2030. Two-thirds of these costs are attributed to disability and loss of work. And yet shockingly, of the 450 million people worldwide who suffer from mental health conditions 60% do not receive any form of care. “Jobs” is the key word in American politics these days. How to get them back from other countries is important, of course, but what about helping companies retain the employees they have by successfully promoting mental wellness in the workplace?      How? Here are four ways: * Prevention: Promote mental health as part of an overall corporate wellness campaign. For example, bring in professionals who specialize in mental health and substance abuse issues to present mandatory, yet interesting educational seminars. That will help reduce the stigma attached to mental and substance abuse disorders. Businesses who have done this reported reduction in health expenses and other financial gains for their organizations. * Awareness: Changes in sleep, mood, appetite, weight, behavior, and personality are caused by many drug addictions and mental health disorders. Other telling symptoms include tardiness, missed deadlines and unexplained or unauthorized absences from work to counter these problems, it is critical that management and HR be given sensitivity training and that professional information and referral resources are readily available. Taking these steps can help employers manage situations before they get out of control. * Work-Life Balance and Accommodations: The Family Medical Leave Act entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and professionally diagnosed medical reasons, including mental illness or alcohol/substance use disorders. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to assist people with disabilities, including mental health impairments, perform job duties. Employers can help employees with mental health issues by encouraging the use of written checklists, instructions and offering more training time. Sometimes providing a mentor for daily guidance and meeting regularly to discuss progress. * Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs designed to address substance abuse and addictions, as well as personal and family problems, mental health or emotional issues, marital or parenting problems, and financial or legal concerns. EAPs have evolved and grown in popularity during the last 25 years. The number of organizations with an EAP increased from 31% in 1985 to 75% in 2009. Providing a variety of treatment options for an employee will not only help reduce their suffering - it will curtail the incidence of impaired functioning at work. More jobs in America? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, some 60% to 80% of people with mental illness are unemployed. In part, this is the crippling nature of the disease. But a large part of the problem that we have in hiring people who have some mental disorder is that we lack the sophisticated vocabulary to talk and act regarding these illnesses. Managing mental health should hold no fear for managers – whether they realize it or not, they already have many of the skills needed to look after their employees’ well being. Sometimes all it takes is an open mind. Mental health is the mental and emotional state in which we feel able to cope with the normal stresses of everyday life. If we are feeling good about ourselves we often work productively, interact well with colleagues and make a valuable contribution to our team or workplace. The good news is that line managers already have many of the skills needed to promote positive mental health at work. They are usually well-versed in the importance of effective communication and consultation, and the need to draw up practical workplace policies and procedures. Add to these skills an open mind and a willingness to try and understanding mental health problems, and organizations can make real progress in tackling the stigma often associated with mental health. “The problem with the stigma around mental health is really about the stories that we tell ourselves as a society. What is normal? That’s just a story that we tell ourselves.” -- Matthew Quick (Author of The Silver Linings Playbook) Invest in your employee training and development by offering Business Training Seminars that produce tangible results.  
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Several years ago, I was facilitating a talent review meeting with a room full of executives.  

After hours of great dialogue, we all settled on where their people fit on the 9 box talent grid.  

The leaders were engaged in the process and were excited to be able to make more informed talent decisions to match the organization’s strategies.

And then came the moment of truth:  

What do we say to those being reviewed?
  • Do we tell them which talent box they were placed in?
  • Do we tell them which position we pictured them filling, in 1-3 years?
  • Do we leave it up to each manager to decide?
  • Or, do we not say anything to them at all?

After much dialogue, the eventual decision was to tell everyone how much the organization valued them… and that was it!  

This approach worked well for the leaders in the room, but it was not very helpful, or engaging, for the people being reviewed.

So what is the best approach in having talent conversations? 

Each organization chooses to answer this question differently. Yet there are best practices that, when followed, can build the credibility and effectiveness of the talent process. They can help you inspire and motivate and also increase the engagement and commitment of the employees being reviewed.  

This will require courage of you as the leader, but it can pay off massively for your talent, team, and organization.

Below are the three talent conversations that you must have to help inspire, engage, and retain great talent.

We've also included a complimentary printable Leadership Conversation Guide at the end for your convenience. 

What’s the key message for me to convey?

“We want to invest in you and your growth.”

Who should I have this conversation with?

This is the conversation with highly talented individuals who deliver beyond expectations and have great potential.  They want to be challenged and expect greater expectations to come to them.  

How can I best convey this message?

Your discussion points could include:

  • You have a long runway and you add tremendous benefit to the organization.
  • We like what we see and we want to see more in the future.
  • We as a company want to provide opportunities, resources, and support to develop and hone your leadership ability.
  • I want to meet with you regularly, identify and discuss your career goals, and work through a personal individual action plan.
  • Senior leaders will be cheering you on and paying attention to your current and future successes.

A Word of Caution:  The caution with this conversation is not to promise, directly or indirectly, any specific position.  Do not mention specific titles for future jobs. This will create expectations that are beyond anyone’s ability to keep.

What’s the key message for me to convey?

“You are a valuable and solid contributor!”

Who should I have this conversation with?

This is for the steady performers, those with longer tenure, and/or those with great knowledge of the organization’s history and practices.  They are often the glue that holds teams together during the ups and downs.  They know their position and specific function well.  They are subject matter experts and can have strong relationships with others throughout the organization.   

How can I best convey this message?

Your discussion points could include:

  • You are greatly appreciated for all of your contributions.
  • You are a strong performer.
  • You provide great stability for the department and team.
  • You have strong expertise in your field and the organization recognizes and values your knowledge and abilities.
  • I want to make sure you feel supported and engaged.
  • You are in the right place to optimize your value to the team and organization.
  • I want to help you feel challenged within your current position.

A Word of Caution: Do not lead them to think they are getting ready for a promotion. Clarify with them that they will be able to add value in their current or similar position for the near future. Questions about future positions can be addressed case by case.

What’s the key message for me to convey?

“Your performance needs to be better.”

Who should I have this conversation with?

This is for the underperforming individuals who are not delivering what the organization needs.  They are not consistently hitting the expected bar for quality, cost, or timeliness. 

The conversation does not address potential; it is all about performance.

How can I best convey this message?

Your discussion points could include:

  • I want to help you be successful.
  • Your performance is not where it needs to be.
  • We will focus on the short-term, the next 1-6 months.
  • Let’s inventory your skills, strengths, and motivation to make sure it is a good match for the position.
  • Let’s write down very clear expectations and set very specific and measurable performance goals.
  • We can identify logical check-in points to assess improvement.

A Word of Caution:  Avoiding this kind of conversation can negatively impact the high performers because poor performance can pull down others’ engagement and their confidence in leadership.

Final Note:

Employees who have been in the organization or in their position for less than 6 months are typically too new to be put into any of these conversations.  After 6 months, you will have a much better idea which of the three conversations you need to have with them.

The best thing for you to focus on with new employees is to ensure that they have the resources, expectation clarity, and leadership support to achieve quick wins.  


Our Gift to You

We've created a complimentary Leadership Talent Conversation Guide for you to download and use, absolutely free!

Click here now to download the guide now.



About Stewart Leadership

Stewart Leadership is a talent management and leadership development consulting, coaching, and training company building leaders in start-ups to the Fortune 500.Click here to contact us and discover how we could partner with you.

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My colleagues and I are often brought into corporations to do teambuilding. Whether the audience is executive management or employees that work on the manufacturing line, the purpose for hiring my organization is to help teams strategize how to be more cohesive and productive. Early in my career it was theory, structure and small group exercises that illustrated effective teambuilding, but that has all changed. Talk is out the window: taste, touch, feel and experience are in.

I recently read an article in a popular business magazine that suggested video games and online gaming are responsible for the change in what organizations are looking for to help increase teambuilding. I have also heard that Millennials are more action-oriented and need to experience business strategy rather than read or talk about it. Regardless of the origin of change, training in teambuilding is now an out-of-your-seat, participatory experience that reveals vulnerabilities, leadership styles, communication and problem-solving skills, and a myriad of other strengths and deficiencies of all parties involved. The learning is in real time with adequate time built in for feedback, reflection and application in the workplace.

In response to the need for a new delivery style, the training industry has responded with training approaches that can be divided into three categories: simulation, real escape and theme adventure. Simulation exercises have a written adventure scenario, background information, maps, and usually a pressure-sensitive scoring form. There is a group task, individual task and a problem to solve. The timed activity is done on-site and concludes with reflection on how effective the team was, how they could improve team performance, what insights they gained about each other individually and as a team, and how they could transfer the experience to their daily work.

Real escape teambuilding has its roots in gaming, and some give credit to real escape games that began in Japan in 2007. There are many variations of real escape teambuilding, but basically it requires that groups be put into an off-site room specifically designed for the task of finding a way out. The group has to work together using clues within the room to gain their freedom. It is a timed escape at a minimum of an hour. Participants apply communication skills, critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership skills to escape. Companies such as FedEx, Frito Lay and 7Eleven have used real escape teambuilding with their employees.

My favorite theme adventure is from a company called Recipe for Success. All of their teambuilding exercises revolve around preparing food. Their exercises are held off site and run for a minimum of two hours. Themes such as Team Breakfast, Chili Cook-Off, and Ultimate Pizza Challenge can be adapted for groups of 10 to 250.The benefits include building skills in negotiation, prioritization, communication, innovation and problem solving. When the task is complete, the team has an enhanced sense of teamwork because they have completed a project that they can see, touch and eat. It is important to note that the skill sets used in theme adventure teambuilding exercises, such as Recipe for Success, are immediate and transferable.

Whatever method your organization uses to promote teambuilding, the desired result is better communication, a more cohesive unit and increased productivity. Talking about teambuilding no longer produces the desired results in today’s interactive market. The employee of today needs to experience in order to learn.

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People often talk about cultural diversity in the workplace, but it’s clear that most people do not understand the criticality when it comes to making a workplace truly culturally sensitive and effective. Most people think of a culturally diverse workplace to be one where the workforce includes employees of various different cultural backgrounds and where employees are able to work in a harmonious environment. It is certainly a good thing for an organization to have a culturally diverse workplace that seems to be working well. However, the questions is: do we really know if the organization is being truly effective in maximizing its work output? Here are a few cultural traits that give an idea of what I am talking about: ·         Some employees grow up in an extremely “perfectionistic” culture – do we really understand how an employee can become too much of a “perfectionist” for the overall success? ·         Some employees can come from a culture where it is not acceptable to make a mistake. How can that impact overall effectiveness of an organization? ·         There are many employees whose cultural backgrounds do not allow them to accept constructive criticism/evaluation that can be extremely valuable for their professional development There are many other traits like these that can have an impact on the overall effectiveness of a culturally diverse workplace. That is why it is critical that employees and their supervisors are well acquainted with characteristics of this nature so they can act most appropriately.
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A CEO I was working with recently mentioned something powerful to his executive team.  Of all the leaders he had let go in his career, he never wished he had waited longer before taking action. In fact, he realized he had sometimes waited too long before taking action. This insightful message reminded me of a very unique word I had heard years earlier that describes a person’s performance.  The term was “whelming.”  Some leaders can be underwhelming, performing below expectations, and others can be overwhelming, delivering amazing levels of value to the organization.  Then there are some who are just whelming—not adding much value but also not messing up a lot, just delivering average performance. It takes courage to communicate an improvement plan to the underwhelming performers.  And it takes time and planning to develop, mentor, and challenge the high achievers.  These are acceptable and often expected responses to obvious levels of both low and high performance.  The hidden, uncertain and yet real challenge of leadership is what to do with the whelming performers.  Do you allow them to continue in their role because they keep the lights on and stay under the radar?  Do you deny them developmental opportunities because they aren’t the star performers? Let’s take a closer look:  

3 Levels of Performance

The first step is to identify each of your leader’s current level of performance.  Once this is clear, informed decisions can be made to achieve higher performance across the team, department, and organization.  We’ll start with the underwhelmers, or detrimental level.  

Level #1: Detrimental

Leaders and employees who fall in this category tend to prevent progress, destroy value, and hamper fruitful conversations and idea generation.  For whatever reason, they are clearly not the right fit for their job and/or organization.  Perhaps they lack competence, experience, or maturity.  Or they choose to misunderstand the organization’s direction and consistently act or talk against it.  Whatever the reason—whether it be behavior, attitude or performance, it is clear they frequently take away more value than what they contribute. Addressing this level of performance involves simple, frequent, and straightforward feedback with a short leash and a fast timetable to turn things around quickly or else mutually understood consequences will occur.  This involves a performance improvement plan in concert with HR and contingency planning if and when an exit occurs.

Level #2: Neutral

As mentioned before, neutral is the hardest performance level to identify.  Consider what level the leader is not. If they are not detrimental (underwhelming) or high performing (overwhelming!), they are most likely in the neutral level.  They may occasionally add value, but not often or consistent enough.  This performance level is also characterized by costly errors due to large egos, an unwillingness to adopt collaborative approaches, withholding or ignoring detailed metrics, or an overly loyal yet underperforming team. The biggest concern when addressing this performance level is not communicating high expectations and consistently making excuses when neutral performers don’t hit the mark.  Sanctioning average performance over time will do more to erode engagement and excellence than almost anything else a leader does.  Unapologetically set high expectations, provide the tools and development for success, provided the space for someone to thrive and then expect to see consistent thriving!  When one does not advance out of this performance level, they may slip into the Detrimental level and appropriate actions need to be taken.

Level #3: High Performer

Leaders and employees in this category exhibit a high degree of ownership, consistently show proactivity in addressing challenges, and translate the organization focus into day-to-day execution.  These are trusted leaders who can deliver and do it without casualties.  They seek solutions and encourage others to solve problems, not complain about them.  They keep customer needs in clear sight and use collaborative approaches.  And they fess up to mistakes, learning from them as they go. The best thing to do for people at this level of performance is to get out of their way!  Provide a clear vision for the future and let them build change coalitions, engage in courageous conversations, and encourage innovative approaches.  Give them tools, coaching, developmental feedback, and opportunities to challenge them.  Build confidence in them so they can show up each day like the leader they know they can be.  Watch how their performance elevates the performance of others!


The CEO referenced earlier was not talking about low or high performers; he was talking about waiting too long to act on the neutral ones---those who are only whelming in their leadership roles.  For organizations who are striving to transform themselves, to become the best place to work, and to attract, grow, and retain amazing talent, there is little room for mediocrity led by whelming leaders. Those who settle for neutral performers send a message to the workforce that doing just enough is enough.  That perception will not create a high performing culture with leaders that inspire and engage. Identifying the right performance level of each leader and employee is a great first step. Acting on the detrimental and high performing levels is important and expected; but paying attention to minimizing leaders in the neutral level may even be more important to building high-performing individuals, teams, departments, and overall organization success.  

Note this article was originally posted on LinkedIn

About Daniel

Daniel Stewart a Leadership, Talent, and Change Consultant at Stewart Leadership. He thrives in supporting top performing companies manage and retain exceptional talent, and coach the leaders of tomorrow.

About Stewart Leadership

Stewart Leadership is a talent management and leadership development consulting, coaching, and training company building leaders in start-ups to the Fortune 500.

Click here to contact us and discover how we could partner with you.

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© 2015 Mark T. Sorrels Having been raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky, though not a consumer, I do know a little about the process of making bourbon. Though it must be made of at least 51% corn mash and must be stored in charred oak barrels, the process that leads to the end product can take anywhere from three years to twenty! Depending on the distiller’s desire for taste, the influence of the mash and the charred oak barrels is a process that may take a long time. The first two installments of The Basics of a Leader’s Influence focused on a leader’s presence and power. This final installment seeks to help us understand the leader’s influence on others is a process. In order for you to see the result(s) of your influence as a leader, be prepared to wait. Why? Influencing people is a process. Few things in life come immediately or quickly and a leader’s influence is no exception. It may be weeks, months or even years before you celebrate the fruit of your labor. Thought patterns and lifestyles of people do not change quickly. So, in order to see the result(s) of your influence as a leader, be like a master distiller; be aware of the process; be willing and prepared to wait.
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Is your Life Ambition to be GM of the Year?

Great Sports Teams have always had great General Managers. Is your life ambition to be GM of the year? The metaphor of a sports team "GM" really is about the people who build teams from the ground up. The sometimes need to retool teams on a budget. Most of the time though they are handed a team and they have to make it work with only a few changes. That is the sign of a great GM. And most of the times these great ones understand how to create environments where this can be accomplished. The GM's I have known use emotional intelligence to build their teams. So if you would like to understand how you can get the most from the people you work with, then see what team building in sports will do for you. If you head a project, a business unit or the entire company, you want that title of GM of the Year, because it means your efforts are creating meaningful relationships, products and reputations. I think many of the components of a team building program used in sports can be critical to businesses and there are things that offer transference to the business world.

Team BuiTeam Building with the mental gamelding for Businesses, Non Profits and Direct Sales Organizations.

Let me show you why the sports world offers you great insight into how your organization can function at the highest levels, even under pressure. Great teams and GM’s create an atmosphere that instills Cooperation and Cohesion even in a competitive work environment. Not every team starts with good chemistry, but every team can have it. Every wonder why people who played on sports teams miss them so much? What if you could create a corporate culture that no one ever wanted to leave? Let me help get your organization moving in the right direction. Respect, admiration, discipline, cohesion and even competition are all attributes of good teams.

A competitive environment is not in opposition to a good working environment. Respect and Cohesion are easier to achieve when missions and goals are clearly defined. Learn how to utilize everyone’s emotional intelligence to further your organizations mission. The secret however is how to succeed through both cooperative and competitive environments. If you think about a football or soccer team players must work together to succeed while at the same time compete for playing time with their team mates. Good teams thrive in this competitive environment. In the corporate / business world employees find themselves working on projects or in teams where they must both cooperate and compete with others. Learning to thrive in this pressurized environment can have great effects on an organization.

Every wonder why people that played on sports teams miss them so much? What if you could create aTeam Building with Mike Margolies corporate culture that no one ever wanted to leave? Let The Mental Game help get your organization moving in the right direction. Respect, admiration, discipline, cohesion and even competition are all attributes of good teams. A competitive environment is not in opposition to a good working environment. Respect and Cohesion are easier to achieve when missions and goals are clearly defined. Learn how to utilize everyone’s emotional intelligence to further your organizations mission. These activities are fun, intellectually stimulating and can have a tremendously positive effect on your company or organizations direction. Events are flexible and designed to work with you mission statement and goals.

Team building events and presentations for all types of non-sport organizations are a valuable way to understand this dynamic. I have programs that will blend into your event or I can put an event on for you. Most Team Building workshops offer insights into how a team succeeds through cooperation and many organizations play down the competitive nature of the business environment, yet this is the reality for most organizations. Promotions, project selection and salary are dependent on being competitive. Building Competitive Cooperative Teams is critical to an organizations success. Using team building with emotional intelligence can take you a long way to earning the title of “GM of the Year”

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Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft, once said, “Take my 20 best people, and virtually overnight, Microsoft becomes a mediocre company.”  The power of outstanding talent has huge benefits for a team and organization.  The real question is not if talent matters, it is how to do an amazing job of focusing and furthering develop it.   For many organizations, this is the season of talent reviews, endless meetings that can take a lot of time and effort talking about and identifying the current and future positioning of leaders.  Often times, the end product of these meetings are a beautiful 9 box talent grid with lots of names in each box.  This grid will then sit and is unearthed at the next talent review.  How can we make the talent review and development process as stellar as the very talent we want to cultivate?  Here are four ways to avoid mediocre talent reviews:  

1)      Be Selective on What Positions to Discuss:  Too often every leadership and management position in the company is considered during a talent management session.  Unless you’ve been doing this process for several years, be very selective as to the number of positions you discuss.  Not all SVPs or VPs provide the same value to the organization’s success.  Focus on the positions that great talent can optimize the greatest.

2)      Focus on Skills before People:  Instead of jumping in and describing the strengths and opportunities of each person, first identity the 3-5 skills needed for that critical position.  Then identify how the individual compares to those leadership and strategic skills or competencies.  This creates a more informed conversation for current and future positions with using an agreed upon set of high performing standards.


3)      Do Homework Before the Session:  To make the talent review session as productive as possible, each leader needs to come prepared.  This preparation usually involves three things:  1) having the individual complete the talent profile or summary, 2) having a conversation with the individual on performance, competencies, engagement, and career aspirations, and 3) having a conversation with their boss about the individual.  With this information, the 3-5 minutes that each individual has to be discussed, can be focused and informed.


4)      Have Development Opportunities Ready:  During talent reviews, we often talk about if the leader is ready for the next step.  Well, are as an organization ready with development tools and resources for that leader?  Enter talent reviews with development ideas organized around on-the-job, social, and formal development opportunities.  This can include coaching, mentoring, shadowing, stretch assignments, networking, rotations, classes, etc.  Build in mechanisms to follow up on this development, so it is not forgotten.  With all of the work we put into identifying top talent, we need to put the same energy into developing them.

  This talent management season, let’s make talent review sessions more productive and engaging.  Let’s make them worth the effort and time we invest.     Jim Collins once said,” People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”  The talent management process is a fantastic way of identifying the right people and building their development for key positions to achieve the organization’s results.  Let’s elevate how we lead the talent management to match the high caliber of the talent we are assessing.          
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I know last week I said we'd talk about temporary employees and FMLA--but I remembered afterward that I already blogged about that here.  So let's face down that intimidating monster   challenge known as intermittent FMLA. In order to do that, we are going to return once more  to Splendiferous Supermarket Inc and Betty the Boss to see how they might handle an intermittent FMLA situation--after the jump, of course... Click here to read the entire post on The EmpLAWyerologist. 
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Career development is one of the cornerstones of an effective business strategy because employees are an integral part of business success. Many small businesses do not have a career development plan for employees because they do not have a designated human resources department to create that plan. Small business owners concentrate on the growth of the business and not the growth of their employees. Several small business owners are short-sighted about making career development a part of the initial orientation process or including it as part of the employment package. Small business owners cannot risk the revolving door of itinerant new hires.  Larger companies can adjust to incorrect employee staffing through various human resource processes. The consequences of poor recruitment can be devastating to the small business and can have an overreaching effect on the entire business. The best indicator of small business success is predicated on a business roadmap complete with a growth strategy.  Growth frequently demands adding new employees. When contemplating adding a new hire, the small business owner carefully evaluates the business needs and targets what type of skill sets to look for in the marketplace before advertising for new talent. Critical additional considerations are the social fit of the potential new employee with the current staff and career development for the new hire. As a small business owner, I recognize that adding career development for my employees to the list of other responsibilities of running a business could be a challenge, but when I listed the pros and cons of adding career development to the business equation, I was pleasantly surprised about the benefits to the business. The following is a short list or pros and cons to consider: Pros
  • Shows a new-hire the plan for a long-term relationship, not stepping-stone employment
  • Creates a culture of loyalty and opportunity for development
  • Displays respect for employee skill sets and employee worth to the company
  • Indicates a vision of growing together (the company and the employee)
  • Builds business consistency for customers because of low employee turnover rate
  • Develops a reputation as a great place to work and attracts top talent
  • Sustainability (investment for the long term)
  • Initial cost of implementing a career development plan
  • Pressure to take appropriate time to find the new hire with the right skill sets and social fit
  • Adjusting the business roadmap to accommodate career development for each employee
  • Fear that added expense spent on employees and not spent on product will cut into profits
Small businesses can been hesitant to jump on the career development bandwagon. I must admit it was not on my immediate radar screen when I went into business fourteen years ago. But now I am convinced that putting stock in your employees is crucial to the success of a small business for the long term. The initial cost crunch and time allocation of creating a plan, meeting with employees, revisiting their skill sets, and researching training opportunities without concrete proof of return on investment is daunting and risky. However, having embraced adding career development for my employees to my business roadmap has made my business better, stronger and more profitable. I no longer question whether there is a place for career development in small business; rather, I strongly advise small business owners to include career development as part of their new-hire onboarding process.
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