Employee development is in the midst of a transformation for many organizations. And, let's face it...it's about time. For too long, development has been:
- Owned by the Human Resources and Learning functions, which have valiantly created and offered systems and processes designed to ensure that leaders engage with their employees. But too frequently the results merely reflect compliance and little genuine interest.
- Treated like an annual "to-do." Managers schedule and attend to it with the same enthusiasm as their yearly physicals: putting it off as long as possible, getting it over with as quickly as possible and then forgetting about it until next year. Sound familiar?
- Viewed as an "extra" to be doled out to some chosen members of the workforce. Yet increasingly it's clear that development isn't the "icing" but rather the "cake" for large swaths of the workforce.
- Undervalued and, as a result, underutilized. According to Josh Bersin, millennials rate development as their #1 job benefit. Gallup's report, "How Millennials Want to Work and Live," highlights that 59 percent of millennials express that "opportunities to learn and grow" are extremely important to them when seeking employment. But they are not alone in valuing development. Forty-four percent of Gen Xers and 41 percent of Baby Boomers express the same sentiment. And my own research, reported in "Blowing Your Millennial Mindset," identifies that one workplace belief rises to the top of the list for all generations. It is: "One of a manager's fundamental roles is to support his/her employees' careers."
- Aligned with the goal of advancement. But the old "do this and you can become that" formula rings hollow as organizations adopt less hierarchical structures with fewer opportunities for promotions or even lateral moves.
Where we are today
Given today's tight labor market and competition for top talent, organizations are having to confront the shortcomings of past development practices. They are exploring more sustainable approaches to growing the capacity and the careers employees want. And the word that keeps coming up time and again is "agility."
Employees need to develop agility
In today's fast-moving environment characterized by disruption in many industries and sectors, employees at all levels must become increasingly nimble. Those who can respond quickly to changing conditions will survive and thrive. This requires a clear-eyed view of themselves, their talents and performance (the good, bad and ugly). But it also requires an understanding of the broader business landscape and the ability to anticipate new directions and possibilities. As a result, agility may be one of today's most valuable skills to develop.
Leaders need to develop agility
It's no secret: leaders and managers live in a time desert. They're tasked with priorities and initiatives that regularly outstrip what's possible. Every day, they must make hard choices to address one critical issue or activity, knowing that another will languish as a result. So, what's the answer? Working harder or longer is not an option as many leaders have reached (and exceeded) maximum capacity. Working differently is the only option. And this is only possible by disrupting the status quo and introducing agile thinking and action.
Organizations need to develop agility
Supporting greater agility on the part of employees and leaders requires changes at the organizational level. Systems and processes that have historically slowed things down must be reconceived and recalibrated to work at the speed of business. So, let's start advocating for agility, starting with development itself.
We know what we need, now how can we get there?
Great question, and one that I'll be doing a deep dive on in my upcoming webinar, "5 Steps to Agile Employee Development." I hope you'll join me and Saba Software's Head of Organizational Talent & Leadership Development, Hawley Kane on February 7th at 2 pm EST. You'll gain insights into:
- How to create nimble development plans that support multiple goals and business outcomes
- When to revisit development plans and what adjustments should be made on an ongoing basis
- How to enable meaningful conversations between managers and employees around agile development plans
- The role of technology in facilitating and delivering an agile development plan framework
BONUS: During the webinar, we'll give away free Apple Books download codes for the second edition of my book "Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want" to 10 lucky webinar participants! Register to reserve your spot today, and we hope to see you there!