It is difficult to think of an important aspect of management more neglected than development planning – help your employees shape the future direction of their careers. Yet, for a variety of reasons, this valuable activity is often overlooked … or treated as a bureaucratic exercise … or an afterthought. Companies pay a high price: the loss of the best young talents.
I know when I was a manager I didn’t spend as much time as I should have on developing my own people. I do spend some time, but in retrospect, I wasn’t as consistent and thorough as I should have been. And I’m sure it would have been helpful over the years if my own managers had spent more time with me.
These long-standing but general impressions were confirmed recently when I came across a harvard business review study last July. The article “Why Top Young Managers Are in a Nonstop Job Hunt” by Monika Hamori, Jie Cao and Burak Koyuncu, described a study based on the analysis of international databases of more than 1,200 high performing young people, and concluded that many of the best and brightest are not receive the career development support they desire. The article said:
“Dissatisfaction with some employee development efforts appears to fuel many early departures. We asked young managers what their employers are doing to help them grow in their work and what they Like their employers to do and found big loopholes. Workers reported that companies generally meet their on-the-job development needs and that they value these opportunities, which include high visibility positions and significant increases in responsibilities. But they don’t get much in terms of formal development, like training, mentoring, and coaching – things that they also appreciate a lot.. “
Why is employee development a chronic problem and why should it be not to be? Based on decades of management experience, here are three reasons why development planning is often overlooked … and three reasons why it’s a costly mistake.
Why is development planning often ignored?
1) We tend to focus more on the here and now. So many companies are in a constant state of frantic upheaval, reorganization and trying to do more with less. In this environment, managers naturally tend to be more focused on essential day-to-day operations and less interested in longer-term activities perceived to have a less certain return on investment.
2) Some bureaucratic exercises are carried out but not followed. When I was in business management, we spent quite a bit of time trying to put employees in almost incomprehensible matrices with too many descriptive boxes (“Intergalactic Star”, Diamond Amid Coal “,” Wolverine Tendencies “, âWicked Lot of Problemsâ and so on – my own fancy categories. constructive with the data.
3) There just ain’t no time for it. It is (as the youngest I often say) the most âlamentableâ excuse of all. There are always time for important activities. If you think development planning is a valuable management function, just make it a priority and set aside minutes and hours for it.
Why Development Planning Makes Good Business Sense
1) People care if you genuinely care about their future. The emphasis here is on “authentic”. Development planning should be something a manager really cares about – not an HR-focused mandate. (Note: I a m a strong believer in the value that a good, strong HR organization brings to a business. But I am also opposed to making the simple unnecessarily complex.)
2) It helps build loyalty and loyalty increases productivity. The logical corollary of point # 1. Taking an honest interest in someone builds loyalty. Loyal employees are more engaged. Engaged employees are more productive.
3) Good talented people naturally want to progress and appreciate meaningful support in the process. As the HBR study showed, ambitious and capable young employees to want training, mentoring and coaching. They want to learn skills. They want to become more versatile and valuable to an organization. My company invested a lot in my MBA many years ago, and it has always meant a lot to me. Who doesn’t appreciate caring support that helps you advance your own career? But the flip side is that if a company doesn’t provide it, enterprising employees will look for it elsewhere.
One final thought: Development planning does not have to be elaborate or expensive. Basically, it’s mostly a question of good managers take the person-to-person time to understand their employees… recognize their skills and needs … and guide them to fill in the gaps. If done right, the payoff can be substantial in terms of long-term loyalty. If not, the costs can be substantial in terms of long-term talent.
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