The most important employees for an organization to develop are those that are currently meeting or exceeding performance expectations. It’s about helping successful people become even more successful in current and future roles.
It follows then that this kind of employee development results in positive business outcomes. Why, then, do so many development plans sit around getting dusty rather than getting put into action?
To learn more, Halogen spoke with Development Dimensions International (DDI)’s Dave Fisher, a manager in DDI’s leadership solutions group. For more than 35 years, Dave has helped organizations identify, develop, and manage organizational talent. He works with clients to leverage intellectual capital, maximize leadership and workforce productivity, engage associates, and enhance customer loyalty. Dave also serves as product manager for many of DDI’s learning and performance enhancement solutions.
We asked Dave to answer some key questions on how to keep development plans relevant. Here’s what he had to say.
What gets in the way of employee development?
Dave: In a word, “time.” In most cases and in most organizations, development is one more thing that gets added to already overwhelming workloads. As a result, when employees are trying to figure out how to utilize the limited time they have available, development becomes a nice-to-have or low priority item on the to-do list.
How can organizations ensure that their development plans don’t just sit on a shelf and collect dust?
Dave: The most important thing an organization can do is to integrate work and development by focusing on areas where the employee can develop a skill or competency while completing an important work responsibility. When work becomes the way to develop, it’s no longer another thing on the to-do list, it’s now part of successful job performance.
There is a school of thought that that believes that building employees' strengths is a more effective approach to improving performance than trying to improve weaknesses. What do you think?
Dave: Frankly, I’ve never understood the logic of building strengths and ignoring weaknesses. We have ample evidence that weaknesses, blind spots, and derailers prevent people from being as effective as they can be.
And, we have many, many examples of individuals who, after focusing on and developing their weaknesses, went on to become highly effective leaders and productive individual contributors. If those individuals had simply ignored their weaknesses, they wouldn’t have achieved those levels of success. You can’t just ignore weaknesses or development areas that are holding you back from achieving higher levels of performance. A plan that addresses both strengths and weaknesses will yield better performance in the long run.
Once a plan is put into place, what is the best way to keep the development momentum going?
Dave: First, if the plan includes opportunities for immediate, job-related application, it will be much easier to maintain focus and momentum. Second, both the employee and the manager must be committed to the success of the plan. For the manager, this means providing ongoing and consistent coaching and feedback on a regular basis.
I’d recommend scheduling regular update sessions to review progress. That schedule will also serve to keep the employee focused on execution. Third, measure, measure, measure. Track both outcome and progress measures to create process tension (what gets measured, gets done) and be sure to celebrate success when it occurs.
Want to learn more about effective development planning?
Download our new white paper, jointly produced with DDI, Nurture Great Leaders: Development Plans that Succeed.