As I work with leaders, teams and organizations to improve their effectiveness, it’s apparent that for many, learning and development has taken a back seat to, well, just getting the job done. Getting the product out…acquiring new customers…all while working lean and OVER-working everyone.
This is short-sighted and a sure-fire way to encourage top talent out the door. If you want to keep that talent and grow your business you’ve got to provide opportunities for your people to learn and grow. The best way to do that is by creating and implementing effective employee development plans. Here’s how.
Ensure job descriptions are current and well-defined. Roles often morph over time as responsibilities expand or business needs change. This can be frustrating to the individual in the role – and detrimental to the team/organization – if training around new skill requirements and responsibilities isn’t included with the change. It’s also difficult to hire for, train for or promote someone into that role if you haven’t updated the current skills and responsibilities for the role.
Create career path outlines. People want to know what’s next for them, what skills and experience they will need to get there, and the opportunities available for them to learn and develop those skills. People will be more engaged and loyal if they can see a future for themselves in the organization.
Incorporate development into Performance Management. According to a recent Gallup poll, 48% of employees say that they are reviewed just once a year. And only 14% say that the performance reviews they receive inspire them to improve. That’s no surprise. The annual performance review – dreaded by managers, hated by employees – typically focuses on weaknesses, and rarely includes a development component. How inspiring is that? Effective performance management is a continuous process (not an event) and includes a development component that both builds on strengths and develops areas that are not a strength.
Develop for future needs. Development plans should take into consideration organizational goals and the skills and behaviors employees will need to contribute to achieving those goals. They should also take into account the skills and behaviors employees will need in the future to succeed (yes, even if it’s not in your organization). According to a report from the World Economic Forum, the top 10 skills in 2020 will be:
- Complex problem solving
- Critical thinking
- People management
- Coordinating with others
- Emotional intelligence
- Judgment and decision making
- Service orientation
- Cognitive flexibility
Consider employee goals and interests. It’s also essential that individual employee career goals and personal interests be taken into account in development plans. All too often employees have skills and talents that are under-utilized. Take the time to identify, develop and leverage those hidden talents and unspoken interests. Employees want to use their strengths and feel that they’re contributing to the organization in a meaningful way.
Creating, implementing and supporting development plans for your employees will not only help keep them loyal and engaged, it will ensure that your organization is ready for the challenges and opportunities of the future.
“Developing talent is business’s most important task – the sine qua non of competition in a knowledge economy.” – Peter Drucker
Till next time,
I heard a rather startling statistic the other day – since 2010 traffic on Bay Area freeways has increased by 80%. The bad news is that it’s taking longer to get where you’re going. The good news is that people are working – the job market is healthy again. This means that employers can no longer be complacent when it comes to keeping their people.
Let’s talk about how you can get them to stay. Employees need to feel valued, connected, challenged and recognized. They want to use their strengths – every day - and know that they’re contributing to the success of the organization. They also want to have time to spend with their families and/or to pursue interests outside of work. And they want to be fairly compensated for the work they do. It’s not rocket science.
Help your employees feel valued by communicating how their goals align with team and organizational goals. Provide them with opportunities to build on their strengths, learn new skills and prepare for the future needs of the company. Development can happen in many different forms: on-the-job training, personal development, cross-functional projects, coach and/or mentor, special projects, stretch assignments, training courses, reading and personal study, online courses, peer coaching, job shadowing… The important thing is that it is available and encouraged.
Help them feel connected by communicating with them regularly about what’s going on in the company. Provide opportunities for employees to connect and build relationships with one another, not through forced team events, but more naturally through spaces to gather and cross-functional team projects.
Do you have career roadmaps and succession plans in place? If not, what are you waiting for? Help your employees feel challenged by communicating the next level in their career path and what they need to do to get there. Give them temporary assignments that will stretch their skills and comfort level.
Recognize their efforts by saying “thank you” early and often. Don’t wait until review time to tell them what a good job they’re doing. And be specific – what was the situation, what did they do, and what was the impact. Applaud the behavior you want to see repeated and emulated.
Organizations need to acknowledge that their people are the lifeblood of the business. Don’t take your employees for granted. As the economy continues to improve and there are options for them elsewhere, you want to keep those employees in your organization. Find creative ways to develop and challenge them. Let them know they are valued, and that they are a critical component to the business moving forward. Build succession plans to ensure that your bench strength is available and ready to grow the business.
“Connect the dots between individual roles and the goals of the organization. When people see that connection, they get a lot of energy out of work. They feel the importance, dignity, and meaning in their job.” – Ken Blanchard
Till next time,