Whether you run a Fortune 100 company or a small start-up, you need great people. Getting great people comes from some combination of hiring talent from the outside and developing talent from the inside.
This is where big companies have an advantage. In a big company, there are lots of formal ways to develop people.
You can move an employee into another formal position in the company so that he or she gets experience in a new role. In some cases, you can even create formal roles for the person you are trying to develop. You can build formal learning programs or send people to outside seminars.
All of these require infrastructure and budget, which small companies often don't have.
So how do you develop people if you run or work in a small company (or even a bigger company) with limited resources?
Here are six creative ways you can develop your people that don't require any budget or infrastructure at all:
1. Let them you shadow you for a day.
If there is one great way to broaden someone's perspective, it is to have them see what you do every day. The concept is called shadowing, and it isn't new. But it is surprising how under-utilized it is, probably because it isn't the easiest thing to do logistically.
It is a great opportunity for your people to see what "a day in the life" looks like at levels above them. It spurs great conversation about what is really required at the next level, and it always helps people see the bigger picture around how the work they do fits in on a broader scale.
2. Formally assign them another leader who can formally mentor them.
Mentoring provides a great and free way for your people to learn from others who have "been there and done that." It also is a great way for your people to use more experienced leaders as sounding boards.
I've had several great mentors in my career, and I still call on them today.
3. Let them take on work outside of their formal job responsibilities, even if no formal role exists.
Small companies don't have the ability to regularly move people into new roles simply because there aren't that many roles available.
You don't always need a formal role to put someone in, though. Simply letting your people take on additional responsibilities in areas outside of their formal job responsibilities is a great way to broaden them. The key is to make sure that this is coupled with leadership mentoring to help them be successful.
4. Run a quarterly business book club. Then ask your people to figure out ways to apply what they learned on the job.
Getting together on a monthly or quarterly basis and talking about a short business book or a few key business articles is a great way to broaden your people's perspectives.
The key is to then translate whatever came out of the book back into the specifics of what is going on in your company. Make it practically relevant for them in their work, and the conversations turn into opportunities for applying what they learned at work.
5. Cross-train people, but let them take the lead in putting the cross-training process together.
Cross-training has been around for a while, and it is a great way to cost effectively build depth of knowledge. It helps the company mitigate single point of failure in any area, and it broadens the skill sets of your people.
If you want to really develop your people, don't create the cross-training approach for them. Let them figure out the best way to cross-train each other and put it into play. It not only gets you the benefits of cross-training but it also builds their leadership skills.
6. Ask them to identify a key project they think will help the company. Then let them do it and present it to leadership.
The best ideas for improvement or innovation often come from people doing the work every day.
By formally asking your people to think about a project or initiative that would benefit the company and then asking them to put it all together and present it to you and other leaders, not only are you developing their ability to identify high impact opportunities but you are also developing their ability to "sell it" and influence leadership that it is worth doing.
The great thing about these approaches is that they don't cost you a penny but give the people you are hoping to develop lots of great opportunities for growth.