The role of the manager in developing employees is to help employees figure out exactly where they want to go, and then to give the support and organizational resources for employees to get there.
But employee development is a two-way street. Employees must also contribute by identifying the areas where development will aid to make them better and more prolific workers in the future and relaying this information to their managers.
Once needs are identified, plans developed, and resources identified, managers and employees can work together to turn them into reality.
In the following steps, we’ll explore the best way for managers to approach the development process with their employees.
Step 1: Meet with your employees about their careers.
What’s the best way to determine the path your employees want to take in their careers? Ask them! You might, for example, think that your top software engineer has her sights set on your organization’s chief technology officer position, when she would actually much rather keep coding software.
Once you determine where in the organization your employee wants her career to go, then you’ll have a baseline from which to work.
Step 2: Discuss your employees’ strengths and weaknesses.
Every employee has certain areas of strengths, and other areas of weakness. A decision will have to be made: Do you further develop an employee’s strengths (making him the best die cutter in the business), or do you try to shore up weaknesses (turning a lone wolf, for example, into a team player)? Or do you do both? Be frank with your employee about both his strengths and weaknesses, and then decide where you will direct your focus and resources.
Our own feeling is that it’s more important to develop your employees’ strengths (further increasing their value to the organization, along with their self-esteem) than to improve their weaknesses (which may raise these areas only to the barely adequate at best).
Step 3: Assess where your employees are now.
A career plan is like a story – there is a beginning, an end, and a lot of events in between. To better understand where your employee should go, you’ve got to first determine where she is now. By assessing the current state of her skills and talents, you’ll end up with an overall road map to guide your development efforts.
Step 4: Create career development plans.
A career development plan formalizes the agreements that you make to provide formal support (tuition, time off, travel expenses, and so on) to your employee in developing his or her career.
Effective career development plans contain milestones for the achievement of learning goals and descriptions of any other resources and support needed to meet the goals that you agree to.
Step 5: Follow through on your agreements, and make sure that your employees follow through on theirs.
Once you agree on specific career development plans with your employees, be sure that you uphold your end of the bargain, and that your employees uphold their end as well.