Want to develop your people? The 4 things you need to know


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With an improving economy and an increase in job availability, the people on your team have greater choices of where they work. If any of them choose to leave, the cost of finding, hiring, training and trusting the replacement is enormous, both in terms of money and in terms of your time.

One of the most important factors influencing whether people stay in jobs or not is the amount of personal development they can enjoy. But this is sometimes easier said than done. Often, conversations with team members is only an annual event. In more enlightened organisations, it’s every quarter. However, even with four conversations a year, it’s very difficult to offer the very best development opportunities for your people.

A better approach is to see it as an on-going process: something you speak about every week. And over the course of those conversations together, there are four questions that need answering.

1. Why do you come to work?

Very few people go to work for one reason alone. They may say it’s all about the money, but if they see another job advertised that pays more they may not apply if they feel they wouldn’t also enjoy it. There are all sorts, and combinations of reasons that people go to work, including: realising a sense of achievement, enjoying a challenge, interacting with other people, expressing their creativity and enjoying learning new skills.

As well as earning money, people often see one job as a stepping-stone to the next job. Sometimes they go to work because it’s local, or because a flexibility of working practices means that outside interests and commitments can be met.

Both manager and team member need to understand the reason/s so that development plans are sensitive to the main drivers that team members have.

2. What do you want to do in 3, 5 and 10 years?

Once you and your team member are clear on the motivations and drivers for doing the current job, it’s time to explore what his/her aspirations are for future jobs. The clearer people are about what they’d like to be doing over the next few years, the easier it is to prepare a development plan (and for it to be successful!).

3. How much does it matter to you to meet these objectives?

By answering this question, you will both have a sense of the urgency and importance of the actions of the development plan. If your team member wants to be promoted in the next five years but also expresses a wish to keep up with an active social life, then that reveals the importance of the job relative to other interests.

If, on the other hand, the team member is determined to be supervisor and would like to know how to be promoted in under five years, then you know this person is highly driven and you’ll need to prepare an ambitious development plan.

4. What are the types of activities you most and least enjoy?

Often, people see their development as a linear path. In reality, it’s often better for people to move sideways in order to develop skills that will be necessary for later in their career. This is most often seen on graduate programmes. Graduates are given stints of six months in different departments so that they can understand what they most (and least) enjoy, and attain a broad range of skills that will serve them well later in their career. A similar approach can be applied to your team members. Explore what they do and don’t enjoy and think laterally about opportunities for them to develop their careers.

Developing your people is essential. When you develop your team members well, they’ll become more effective for the team and the rest of the organisation. They’ll be more motivated, more engaged and more productive. What’s more, it’s a key part of your role as manager. In the words of American businessman, Harvey Firestone, “the growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership”. What could be a better endorsement than that?


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