Developing employees has always been a foundational component of my leadership style. Early on in my career, I learned that if you take the time to develop your people, they’re more engaged, and in return, will take care of the bottom line.
Gallup researchers have studied performance differences between actively engaged and disengaged employees. Results consistently show that nearly nine of 10 employees with strong development plans are not only more engaged, but are 22 percent more productive and 21 percent more profitable than their counterparts.
Employee development is a shared responsibility
Statistics aside, I believe a critical responsibility of all managers is to grow talent within their organizations. I also know that employee development is a two-way partnership between individuals and their organizations. As each employee plays an active role in his/her development, so must company leadership take responsibility for creating experiences and opportunities that support employee development.
When I speak with employees about their development, I clarify mutual roles and expectations upfront, to ensure understanding and buy-in. Here are four steps to facilitate the process:
…employee development is a two-way partnership between individuals and their organizations.
- Explore one-on-one. In this stage, I spend time with each employee to discuss strengths, past successes, current roles and interests. I also ask about their goals over the next two to three years. As mentioned in my book, Anything is Possible When You Lead with Your Heart: 10 Proven Principles for Leadership Success, this time spent together is very powerful, and should touch on areas of potential growth, learning, and future development. Together we explore tactics such as at-work training, job movement, career shadowing, mentor-mentee relationships, special projects, teams and training that could support their development.
- Discuss as a team. Once my managers complete the exploratory phase with each employee, they have enough information to address individual desires and developmental needs. At this point, I pull together the full leadership team to discuss our entire team of talent – in detail. I’ve found that if different managers have worked with certain people, they can offer valuable feedback to current managers. This process ignites conversations about high potential individuals and helps everyone understand how we can best support their growth. It’s important to mention that we must aggressively manage these “HiPos,” to ensure they feel challenged and satisfied with their development plans. Assigning a mentor can be great support. Other tactics include job rotations and out-of-the-box learning opportunities.
- Plan employee succession. Another key output of our leadership team meeting is defining successors for certain individuals, particularly those in key positions where we may not have adequate coverage. Mitigating this risk is a huge responsibility for leaders. At times we come across people who are very satisfied in their current roles and have no desire to move up or assume different roles within the company. This is fine, as long as they share their knowledge and job duties with a successor.
- Follow up. The final stage in the employee development process is circling back with individuals after the leadership meeting to discuss results. It’s important to share feedback regarding the group’s input so the individual’s development plan is properly crafted. Each quarter, I make a point to check in with my direct reports to review their progress. I want to ensure we are supporting our people in the best way possible. I also want our people to see that their leadership is tangibly committed to their professional progress, development and growth.
It’s no secret that following this four-part process can be time- and labor-intensive, yet it is well worth the effort. As a leader, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing under-challenged or disengaged employees come to life because leadership took the time to invest in their professional development.
Former chairperson and CEO of Xerox Corporation, Anne M. Mulcahy, said it best: “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just as an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”
What innovative ideas are you leveraging to improve employee engagement?