When most companies think about footing the bill for educating their employees, the ever-present caveat is that it must be related to you role. The typical argument is it becomes a measurable ROI for the organization because it will have the most immediate and direct impact on the part of the organization where that employee works. Good logic, but is it too narrow?

When we only give employees an opportunity to grow in their current role, are we truly doing them or the organization any favors? Sure development and training is important to help grow them where they are, but there comes a tipping point where more training doesn’t develop them; it dooms them to being in a silo.

We need to ask people what their career aspirations are. What direction they see their career going. Just because two people are in the same role doesn’t mean they have the same career path in mind. There isn’t one department that operates in a vacuum, so developing people in areas outside their role makes for a stronger and more innovative organization.

I asked the question, “Should a company develop an employee in an area that has little to nothing to do with their role? Why or why not?” on The Leadership Advisor Facebook page. There were some great answers and thoughts. Here are 3 great comments made.

  1. Steve Browne – I think it’s critical to develop people as “businesspeople” vs. allowing them to stay in just one area or specialty. It allows you to see if they can be broadened and how essential they are/aren’t to your performance. Just letting people “develop” in a silo isn’t development and they will soon prove to be very limited in the larger scope of the company’s moving forward.
  2. Heather Coleman-Voss – Absolutely! I am a good example of this, actually. My supervisor allows me to cultivate skillsets in areas which would have originally been seen as ‘outside of my role’. Because she trusts me and supports my continual need to be challenged professionally, I’ve been able to become involved in community relations, public relations, blogging and spearheading the social media for our organization. I have more to offer my organization, our community and our customers – and I am very satisfied with my work and professional growth. This type of leadership results, in my opinion, in a win/win/win/win.
  3. Shawn Murphy – Absolutely! I believe we need to see the “whole” employee. And by that I mean they are not merely employees. They are human beings with interests. I believe when businesses can help employees pursue interests outside their role and benefit from it, the organization wins, too. Just think, when an employee can say I go to work and do my job, but I also grow as a person – who wouldn’t want to be there? Who would want to leave if their whole being is being fed?

The other responses were along the same basic line of thinking. Improved talent retention, better employee engagement, greater ability to move the company forward in its strategy, and greater innovation/creativity are just some of the amazing benefits that come from developing people, not just employees.

The companies who choose to focus on holistic development of their talent pool, on a personal and professional level, will definitely be the market leaders over the next 10-15 years. Will you be one of them?