Why employee development is a necessity

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Every half-full glass corresponds to a half-empty glass. The good news is that we are out of the Great Recession and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that our unemployment rate stands at 5.3%. Naturally, workers are more confident about job prospects. Here’s the half-empty news: With this positive trend, employers need to redouble their efforts to retain and develop key talent.

What does this mean for the leaders of the organization? Employee development planning is no longer optional, it’s essential to staying competitive. Here’s the really good news: there are resources to help managers create meaningful development plans for their employees.

Why employee development now?

Long-term relationships between employees and employers have eroded over time for a variety of reasons. Employees are now less dependent on their employers for health and pension benefits, leaving them with less incentive to stay with one employer.

Affordable Health Care Act. Whether you agree with it or not, the Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare) has reduced the need for employees to keep their jobs for health care benefits. The increased flexibility has persuaded some workers to change or embark on an entrepreneurial adventure.

The Great Recession. Many employees felt mistreated by their employers during the economic downturn. Multiple layoffs and below-market wages have led some to reject full-time work with a single employer in favor of multiple contract options that offer higher wages, more flexibility, and the all-important “right to refuse.”

Increased opportunities. With the recession behind us, companies are hiring again and asking recruiters to find specialized skills and preferred talent. As the pool of unemployed dries up, employers will have to woo potential employees away from the competition.

Access to information. Anyone with internet access has the ability to browse a plethora of jobs 24/7 and network with thousands of groups and individuals. Websites like Glassdoor provide candidates with information about the internal culture of organizations before they decide to apply or accept offers. Access to salary information equips candidates to better negotiate these issues.

Reduced pension benefits. Employers used to keep their employees long-term, the reward for their loyalty taking the form of a pension. Those days are almost over. According to Watson Towers, the percentage of employers offering traditional plans to newly hired employees had dropped from around 50% to just 7% in 2013, and the numbers are expected to decline further in the coming years.

Enter the POI

Employers cannot recruit all the talent needed to compete in a dynamic business world, so they must develop their capabilities internally. The Individual Development Plan (IDP) for employees, although not new, is re-emerging as an important tool for managers. A carefully constructed IDP can meet the learning and development needs of almost any employee.

Regardless of their experience with employee development, managers can use IDPs to foster a culture of development and continuous learning to make their organization a place where employees want to work. Employees, especially Millennials, place a high value on career development opportunities in the workplace. Building relevant and flexible IDPs is a first step towards providing this support to valuable employees.

Internally displaced persons simplified

Creating a meaningful IDP takes time and thoughtful communication between employee and manager, but the potential rewards are well worth the continued effort. Here are some tips that will make your development efforts easier.

To ask questions. Invite your employees to discuss their career direction and possible learning activities. This will promote motivation and buy-in when creating a specialized plan. Asking questions and listening shows that you care about their development and their ideas.

Let the employee take the lead. Ultimately, your employees will own their plans. Encouraging them to take the initiative in implementing and sustaining the plan will make it their plan, not yours.

To be open minded. Be prepared to hear your employees’ ideas, even if they don’t match yours. Asking clarifying questions and exploring different directions can open up new ideas for everyone.

be creative. The possibilities for challenging assignments are limited to your creativity and that of your employees. Think beyond the obvious assignments within your own department.

To delegate. One person’s strength is another’s development opportunity. Chances are that your employees are less qualified and know less about some of your responsibilities. Many managers have earned their role because of the depth of their skills and knowledge. Delegating meaningful work to employees not only gets work off your roster so you can focus on leadership needs, but also provides rich development opportunities for less experienced employees.

Be brief. A common concern among managers when creating IDPs is the time it takes to check in regularly to assess progress. “Registration” doesn’t have to be a formal meeting; a few minutes during a one-on-one will usually suffice.

be proactive. An IDP is a proactive strategy. It is better to spend time working on developing your employees now than to wish you had some later. Your employees need time to learn new systems, skills and roles, before it becomes essential to apply them. In addition, employee development promotes retention. While there’s no guarantee your employees will stick around, millennials in particular are more likely to seek out an employer who supports their careers.

Clearly, the need for timely development aligned with an employee’s career direction will continue to be an important strategy for employees, managers and companies. To help you navigate this business, there are two new, convenient and timely resources at TD Works.

First of all, Keep your career on track by Susan Kaiden aims to help individuals identify their best skills and assess how their background compares to the demands of today’s job market. Its companion issue, “The Manager’s Guide to Employee Development,” is a concise, practical guide to discussing career and development with employees and creating and implementing an actionable IDP.

For more information, join me for the webcast, Lead conversations about employee development November 6 at noon EST.

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