The speed of change in today’s world requires employees who are continuous learners, adaptive to change, and able to innovate at the pace necessary to meet global competition. Organizations change only when their people change, and this requires a continuous emphasis on employee development. During the 65 years our firm has assisted businesses in improving the quality and productivity of their human capital, we have learned some important lessons about employee development.
- The biggest challenge in employee development is in helping employees recognize the importance of continuous personal change and skill development for job success now and in the future. The skills and competencies that enabled them to achieve their current job success are insufficient to continue their success in the future.
- Employee development begins with examining the skills and competencies that the individual and the organization will need to achieve their goals, now and in the future. This includes not only knowledge-based learning, but also increased self-awareness of how an individual’s personal style helps or hinders her success in achieving work and personal goals.
- True development takes individuals out of their comfort zones and requires them to stretch and learn. Those who are willing to put such demands on themselves are more likely to be successful leaders now and in the future.
- If employees are not continuously learning, they are not growing—or worse, they are repeating the same mistakes.
- More often, the problems that leaders encounter in their organization are a result of their getting in their own way as they try to accomplish goals. Seldom do leaders ask themselves the hard questions: “How do others feel after I have met with them?” and
“What can I do to more positively impact my direct reports to achieve workplace goals?”
The movie Twelve O’Clock High remains an excellent example of how leaders get in the way of others achieving success. It is recommended viewing for anyone in a leadership position.
- Career development should not be limited to individuals at managerial and professional levels. Companies can benefit significantly from providing developmental opportunities to employees at all levels, including hourly and union and non-union, to improve their skill sets and future potential for success. I have seen hourly employees assume responsibilities previously thought beyond their ability, both through the use of self-directed work teams and, for some, by progressing into professional and management ranks.
- Just as organizations must change to be successful, so must individuals. It is the executive leaders who model these change behaviors who will have greater success in getting others to follow. In short, executives who strive for excellence and make continued demands on themselves to grow and develop also stimulate others to do the same. This synergy can exponentially increase the contributions that executives can make to their organization because it helps them to gain greater control over factors that affect their own performance as well as the performance of their direct reports.
- A training needs assessment is the foundation of an effective employee development program. This assessment should include ratings from regular observers of the employee as well as career development testing.
- Customized training plans are critical for success in any employee development program. Such training programs need to focus both on skills required, as well as specific behavioral competencies that individuals need to develop and practice.
- Employee development needs to distinguish between short-term and long-term learning requirements. An example of short-term learning requirements may be obtaining information that affects one’s industry or functional area, such as a change in tax laws. An example of long-term learning may be the need to improve a worker’s listening skills or develop his leadership or social impact. This kind of learning requires greater commitment and involvement over a longer period of time.
- Employee development ultimately always rests on the individual accountability of employees for their own development, if they are to progress as future leaders. Companies can give them the tools to work with but it is up to the individual to take advantage of these opportunities and stretch themselves to grow and develop. This self-direction is what will separate those who go on to achieve future success and those who do not. It remains an excellent way to identify future leaders.
There is already a skills and leadership shortage in the employment marketplace. To be competitive, companies need to be able to identify employees who have the potential to grow and develop now and in the future. Your employees can and will develop if you make your expectations specific, measure their progress, and create a culture where continuous personal growth is emphasized.