Why Career Management Isn't Going to Be Done by Managers
Remember the old days - like, back in the 90s - when managers were held accountable for the percentage of employees with completed development plans? Back then, it seemed like managers were more involved in employees' careers and development. They were physically closer to employees and could offer feedback regarding things that were happening in the moment. They provided coaching and feedback and advise about how to be more effective on the job. Right? Remember?
Well, color me cynical, but I don't remember either. Then, like now, you either had a boss who cared about and was committed to developing their team or you didn't. What I do remember is the mad dash of filling out a development plan template to get it "done" before the deadline. I remember reading development goals that included "Manage my quality of life better." "Learn interviewing skills." "Handle stress better." - topics completely unrelated to what the business was trying to accomplish. Hilariously, I even remember flipping through an American Management Association booklet, searching for the cheapest class to send employees to so that they had a "development plan". And it's not just me. For decades, research has shown that employees' biggest gripe about the workplace is the lack of feedback, training, and development.
So, as nostalgic as we might be, it really didn't work that well back in the old days. And now, it's even less likely to happen. Managers have bigger spans of control, employees work virtually more frequently, and jobs in general are more complex. And we can criticize managers as poor people leaders all day long, but the reality of it is, it's not so easy to develop employees. First, you have to assess what they do well and not-so-well within the context of your organization's priorities. Then, you have to nail down specifically what needs to be improved. Last (and most difficult, in my book), you have to identify concrete, realistic and value-added ways for employees to get better. At no cost, of course. So it's not so easy!
What's the answer? How can we make this happen? Many companies are fundamentally changing the way they view the development model by encouraging their employees to develop themselves. We applaud this. After all, if you're 26 and perfectly content to do the minimum at work while living in your parent's basement, a company probably isn't going to be so keen on investing in you. Nor should they. But if you demonstrate an interest in learning, the willingness to seek out feedback and the initiative to build and implement a plan to develop yourself, that's an important data point to your company. And worthy of investment. So letting employees drive their own development makes the most sense.
We're going to see a lot of changes in this area in the next few years, we predict. We hope.
So . . . what is the development planning process at your organization? What tools and information support it? What do your employees want more of?
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