Friday, September 7, 2012

Thoughts on Employee Development

I was recently contacted by Kyle Lagunas of Software Advice, the author of this article on employee development, on my thoughts regarding his piece. Kyle lists increasing employee engagement/morale, increase employee performance, and improve retention rates as (the?) three keys to success in developing internal leaders. I think these are three generally solid goals yes, but I would add to them.

Kyle cites the identification of goals for development of internal leadership talent in his first point on increasing employee engagement and morale. This is true: Goals are the hallmark upon which the success of any improvement effort is based. I would add that those goals must be measurable and sensible at the start. The field of professional development pursuit, like many others, is littered with failed programs, partly due to unclear and/or unattainable goals. There probably isn't a single person who hasn't had an experience where sky-high goals buttressed by good intentions killed forward progress. Measurable goals are also part and parcel of the capital P-I Performance Improvement model in organizations.

My second point is this: I think that for leadership development programs to be effective, companies must really think about the feedback and feedback mechanisms that may or may not be in place to let the employees being developed know where they stand as they progress. This was a central theme of discussion the other day in my local monthly Arizona ISPI chapter meeting. One of the other attendees explained how his Performance Improvement group at work is looking at ways to build in positive feedback and rewards into their incremental interventions. While this isn't always possible, using the tactic where it is possible means you can square the feedback aspect of the PI model and give employees what they need to know about their performance, which is essential in situations where they are being developed for the future.

I'll close by saying that the three main points Kyle makes in his article do bring with them some amount of cultural shift, assuming the culture isn't already amenable to all three from the start. Cultural shifts can be quite difficult to achieve, but they are not impossible, and especially in today's global marketplace, adaptability of culture may be one of the most important underlying factors to the success of any leadership development program.

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