9 Critical Questions About Employee Development

I often facilitate leadership-development programs across the country. One of the topics that always comes up, every time, is employee development. And no wonder. According to a study by Gallup, nine out of 10 millennials say that professional development or career-growth opportunities are very important to them.

The questions I hear most about employee development are:

  • As a leader, is that my job?
  • What is employee development?
  • Is employee development really that important?
  • How do I develop my employees?
  • What if an employee doesn’t want development?
  • What if my company doesn’t reward me for developing employees?
  • How do I find the time?
  • What if employees don’t like me working to help them develop?
  • Isn’t it the role of the company to provide training and development?

Let me answer them one at a time.

1. As a leader, is that my job?

Yes. It is absolutely positively your job as a leader to maximize the effectiveness of each person who reports to you, and that means committing to employee development. As John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

2. What is employee development?

It’s simply the process of working with and coaching each individual employee to help them develop the knowledge, skills and competencies they need to reach their professional goals. As Jim Rohn once said, “A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.”

3. Is employee development really that important?

It is critical, because you can’t do it all yourself. You need to get results through others. Gallup reports that organizations that invest in employee development are 11 percent more profitable.

4. How do I develop my employees?

There are many ways to develop employees, but in my mind, the most essential one is to have in-depth discussions about where they are professionally, where they want to be and then what they need to work on to get there. Then develop an action plan toward those ends.

5. What if an employee doesn’t want development?

Yes, it’s true that some employees don’t want — or don’t think that they need — development, but even world-class athletes still have coaches. Your job is to sell them on why they need development and how it will benefit them.

6. What if my company doesn’t reward me for developing employees?

Then do it anyway; be the rebel. You will get better results, have less turnover and a high level of morale. As Jack Welch once said, “Before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself. After you become a leader, success is about growing others.”

7. How do I find the time?

I know you are busy, but you have to make and invest the time in developing each employee. It pays off in the long term. In fact, you can tell employees that, yes, you are busy, but you are investing the time to help them grow.

8. What if employees don’t like me working to help them develop?

Sometimes, employees view development as punitive, not developmental, often based on negative experiences with leadership. It is up to you to build their trust in the process.

9. Isn’t it the role of the company to provide training and development?

Yes, it the company’s role to provide training, which can be a resource, but overall employee development is the leader’s responsibility. As Dr. Steve Kerr once said, “If you want something to happen, you have to make people able, and you have to make them want to.”

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