Your Questions About Agile Employee Development, Answered

by Julie Winkle Giulioni | Posted | Learning

Your Questions About Agile Employee Development, Answered

Saba and CLO Network recently hosted a live webinar titled, 5 Steps to Agile Employee Development. It focused on the need for development practices that are more agile and able to meet the needs of today's fast-changing workplace.

As is frequently the case, the 60 minutes passed quickly with more questions than time to answer. So here, my co-presenter Hawley Kane, Head of Organizational Talent and Leadership Development at Saba and I take on some of the most frequently asked and pressing questions.

What are your thoughts on the idea that developmental goals must be within the realms of one's job rather than what one would like to be in or doing tomorrow?

JWG: Development that supports growth in a way that enhances current performance is great. But focusing exclusively upon one's current role doesn't promote the agility nor skills needed to thrive in an uncertain future. As a result, leaders should work with employees to understand the kind of work they're interested in doing in the future and identify steps they can take today to start moving in that direction.

How do we create 'experts' in the era of continuously pivoting and changing requirements?

HK: Experts create themselves! Know and recognize your rock stars by rewarding their extra efforts and recognizing their expertise. Leveraging software to build public profiles allowing employees to share their skills, receive recommendations and impressions (recognition) from their peers. Your experts will float to the top.

How do you define coaching, in the context of development planning?

JWG: I frequently say that the term 'coaching' is used a lot like Kleenex ... as a catch-all for nearly all kinds of conversations. So, I really appreciate this question. I see this brand of coaching as encompassing the conversations that help people clarify what they want and need, understand how that might fit into the big picture (personally and organizationally), identify and take actions to move development goals forward, and hold people accountable and provide support for success.

How does the concept of multiple goals work when the traditional model allows for only 3-5 at most for one time?

JWG: Agile development planning means moving beyond (or perhaps redesigning) the forms. And, it's important to note that employees aren't going to be pursuing all goals concurrently full-throttle. It's more like keeping an eye on multiple doors and taking steps to keep them open and viable... versus walking through them all at the same time.

How do you overcome objections from employees who refuse to change their mindsets and are not open to change?

HK: The multi-billion-dollar question! It is 2019 and there is one thing we know for sure, ongoing growth and development is not optional. Employees who are closed to this grand opportunity will ultimately find career opportunities difficult to come by. Organizations cannot afford to take employees along for the ride if employees are not willing to grow with them. To the resisters, having an open dialogue about what is in it for them, and how the organization is there to support them through change, is a start; and it is a way to build trust. Change, growth, ongoing learning can be a scary thing for many people, we have the opportunity to support them as they adapt.

Employees must see themselves as accountable for their own development and growth, with the organization providing support rather than driving it. How do we best do this?

JWG: I couldn't agree more. There's a lot of talk about employees owning their development but too few organizations are backing that talk up with the tools, systems and support required to allow them to take action in the direction of their goals. We need to enable people with greater access to learning, more transparency about organizational strategies and needs, and an expanded support network that can offer insights, coaching and greater accountability.

How can we get employees to provide insights and learning to share, and ensure it is appropriate (e.g., best practice, consistent with guidelines/policies/regulations)?

HK: In our ever-changing work environment, our role in HR is changing from control to empowerment. No one signed up to the police force of an organization (the other side is way more fun!) Kidding aside, there is always a risk and leveraging software solutions, we have an opportunity to enable peer to peer content monitoring with the ability to flag content that is deemed inappropriate. My experience has been very positive in this area. So often it starts with our ability to let go and trust our employees.

How can we help employees grow into opportunities that align with where the company is going?

JWG: If employees are going to align their aspirations with the organization, they need a lot more information than is typically available today. They need to understand the strategies and tactics that are being undertaken. They need to develop an appreciation for the context within which the organization operates and learn more about the forces that drive the business (economic, demographic, political, environmental, etc.). Once they understand the big picture, they can better paint themselves into it.

How do you do job shadowing etc. when you are so short staffed? (It is harder for managers to spend the time teaching the new person.)

HK: Peer Support! Similar to mentor programs where an employee steps forward to mentor another: provide an opportunity for employees to step forward as a buddy for job rotation. Employees can "sign up" for special projects or sign up for a number of shadow hours.

Another example I have seen that works wonders - listen and learn programs with customer support. Employees that want to better understand the customer and product and hear first-hand feedback, schedule themselves to listen in on customer support calls. It is amazing how much you can learn about the whole organization by listening in on customer calls.

How can we help employees understand the value of finding sources of development outside of the workplace... and how can we help them get the most of these opportunities?

JWG: Employees are becoming increasingly aware that they may not be able to meet all of their development needs in the workplace. It's a reality that many bump up against regularly. So, seeing the value of looking elsewhere isn't the issue. The challenge is more around how to leverage external venues for relevant learning. Leaders can play a key role here. By understanding employee development goals, managers can provide coaching and ideas for mining other experiences. They can express interest and offer encouragement along the way. They can help employees unpack their external learning and find application to their jobs. And they can work with employees to highlight new skills in the workplace.

As a learning professional, what cadence do you recommend for checking in on development planning and progress taking?

HK: I am probably a whole lot biased here. I strongly believe in monthly development conversations. We are not talking hours. It is amazing what 15 minutes a month can do to encourage growth. It is not the manager's role to lead the conversation, but to help open-ended questions go a long way!

  • Simple questions from the indirect - What has challenged you since we last met? Do you feel challenged on a regular basis? Is there a part of / someone in the organization you would like to hear more about?
  • To the more direct - What development opportunities are you committing to between now and the next time we meet? How can I support you?

Want to learn more? The entire webinar is available on demand below. Additionally, we've created a tool that helps you evaluate your career agility quotient and take action to make development more agile and powerful today.

5 Steps to Agile Employee Development

Get a step-by-step process for creating and maintaining agile development plans that set your employees and organization up for success


Watch On-Demand
Cover of the book
Cover of the book

5 Steps to Agile Employee Development

Get a step-by-step process for creating and maintaining agile development plans that set your employees and organization up for success


Watch On-Demand


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