HBR: If You’re Not Helping People Develop, You’re Not Management Material 

Good managers attract candidates, drive performance, engagement and retention, and play a key role in maximising employees’ contribution to the firm. Poor managers, by contrast, are a drag on all of the above.  They cost your firm a ton of money in turnover costs and missed opportunities for employee contribution, and they do more damage than you realise.

Regardless of what else you expect from your managers, facilitating employee learning and development should be a non-negotiable competency.  Google’s famous people analytics team examined data from thousands of employee surveys and performance reviews to find out which behaviors characterise its most effective managers. Coaching topped a list that also included helping with career development.  Research by Gallup has yielded similar results.  Work groups in which employees report that their supervisor (or someone else at work) cares about them as a person, talks to them about their career progress, encourages their development, and provides opportunities to learn and grow have lower turnover, higher sales growth, better productivity, and better customer loyalty than work groups in which employees report that these developmental elements are scarce.

The best managers ask, “How can we harness employee strengths, interests and passions to create greater value for the firm?”  Systematically linking organizational performance and individual development goals in the search for learning opportunities and better ways to work is a hallmark of organizations where sustainable careers flourish. And this is not a question managers try to answer by themselves; instead, they discuss it regularly with their team members.

Here are several steps you can take to stimulate learning and development:

  • Share detailed information with your team about current operations across the firm.  Be transparent about the firm’s challenges and direction, including such things as changing customer expectations, new vendor relationships, early-stage strategic plans, and top leaders’ thinking regarding the potential impact of industry trends and economic conditions. Invite their questions, thinking and suggestions on these issues as well.
  • Support the development of internal social networks that span functions and divisions in order to give employees broader understanding of the organisation and help them spot opportunities to learn and to add value.
  • Instead of a once-annual conversation about career goals at the time of the annual performance review, have frequent short conversations throughout the year regarding employees’ career goals and interests, which may not be self-evident. Regular career conversations help employees to refine their goals. With better understanding of their learning goals, you and your employees are in a better position to spot developmental opportunities.
  • When planning your team’s work, ask employees to identify both how they can contribute and what they would like to learn. This gives employees the primary responsibility for clarifying what they want to learn and for proposing ways to incorporate on-the-job learning. It also helps to avoid having employees volunteer to perform only the tasks that they are already highly skilled at.
  • Ask employees to report back periodically to you and fellow team members on what they have been learning and how they are using new skills and knowledge.

Keep in mind that in addition to helping employees develop and pursue meaningful learning goals, regular career conversations also help to mark progress in development. And they serve as a reminder of the organisation’s commitment to employee learning, which in turn strengthens employee commitment.

The above article has been extracted from a Harvard Business Review Blog and is not owned by Engage for Success, the original article can be found here.

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