Recently I had an invigorating conversation with someone about “Personal Development Plans” after which I found myself curious enough to look into a few things regarding how some managers implement them. Interestingly enough, I found the majority of the people I spoke with had the same responses and similar concerns. How do we get staff engaged in their own development?
It seems some managers have the understanding that a “Personal Development Plan” is only about getting the employee to meet the company’s goals. Under this assumption some managers are coming up with the goals they would like the employee to meet and then asking them how they feel they can improve in order to meet these goals. Well it’s no wonder these same managers have asked me the same question, “How do I get them engaged?”
Now I could write on and on about motivation and encouragement but in this instance the root cause of this issue is actually much simpler. The answer is to make the personal development plan about the employee first and the company second. I know it sounds strange, but it works!
Let’s back up a moment now and think about what we are talking about here, “A Personal Development Plan.” The word “personal” is about the employee and it’s the employee’s development this plan should be concerned about, not the company. Otherwise we would call this an “Organization Development Plan” wouldn’t we? Well now I am sure I have you wondering, “Well if it isn’t about the company why would we even bother with this?” The answer is, because the organization will benefit in the end, if you work together to manage it correctly.
So how does it work? Well an important part of developing the plan is to understand and know your employee first, especially if it is unlikely that they will spend the rest of their working life doing what they do now. In the past it was common place for some people to remain within an organization and sometimes even the same job for 20 years!
In today’s day and age, this is not likely the case. Managers should understand that most of the people who work for them have no intention of continuing to work for them in time. This time frame can vary, but most people imagine themselves in a new role for approximately 2-5 years before they move on to something else in my experience.
Well, if they are just going to leave why do we bother developing them? We develop our employees for a number of reasons. What it all boils down to is this; we get a more productive employee during the time they are with us and when they move on we are both able to see the experience as a good one. If we are lucky they may have had such a great experience that they have decided to move on within our same organization!
Ok, so how do we keep them engaged then? As managers we have to take a step back and ask one question, “What is the employee interested in?” We also need to be aware that the answer may have nothing to do with the company we work with! In the end you are never going to have the genuine interest of someone unless it is for something they themselves are actually interested in. Find out why your employee is working with you and what their goals are in both the workplace and away from work as well.
As an example, I once sat down with an individual to develop a plan for their development. This person was in a leadership role and had always showed interest in the company, worked hard, and was fantastic with all of the staff they worked with. Going into this meeting my thoughts were set on how we could work together to develop their skills so they could move into a more senior role. It was to my surprise after I brought up this idea that they were not interested in this idea at all. They were happy to continue in their role as it was and had no real interest in learning more about the company. This was the indicator for me to ask, “So, then tell me what are you interested in outside of work?”
It turned out their aspiration was to be a pilot! This organization had nothing to do with avionics. Their current role was one which they excelled at and yet they had no interest in developing any further within the company. They wanted to focus on flying, which their current role allowed them to do. Well here was a perfect example of when I had to be creative with creating a “Personal Development Plan”.
I still wanted to create a plan because it was something I was proud of being able to do with all the staff I worked with and is something everyone should do for all their employees. So we talked and I asked him to describe to me what a day would be like for him as a pilot. It wasn’t long into the conversation that I started writing a bunch of notes regarding what this employee was interested in.
After our conversation and studying the notes I took we were able to relate many of the leadership skills a pilot would use to manage the crew aboard an aircraft to the skills used every day with the staff in our organization. With us being able to relate how developing these leadership skills would benefit them as a pilot, whilst knowing the development of these skills could also benefit our organization we were back on track to developing our “Personal Development Plan”!
Being creative enough to relate the leadership skills that I knew the organization could benefit from to the skills they would be able to use as a pilot was how this employee was able to become engaged again in their own development.
Creating a “Personal Development Plan” has to be personal. It has to meet the goals of what the employee is trying to achieve while strengthening the skills needed to be more productive in the organization. By tapping into the desires of your staff and help achieve their goals while still meeting the expectations of the organization you will find their level of engagement increases as well.