Management talks about it. They get HR to develop programs for it. They study methods at other companies and its merits for them. And then it dies!
What is it? Succession planning and employee development! Two all-important efforts to get the right people ready to take on higher levels of responsibility when the need arises.
Management has good intentions but somehow can’t turn them into sustainable efforts. It’s understandable. Developing people is messy. We aren’t like a building, a profit and loss report, or a new product. Those things are tangible.
Getting people ready to advance is about behaviors, interactions, and change. People take a few steps forward and them a couple back. Helping us build our skills and knowledge takes patience, insights, and teaching.
The employee development process isn’t all that satisfying at the beginning for anyone. We prefer quick fixes. So we can tire easily of the development process.
Giving up is perilous.
Having no bench can be costly in more ways than you’d think. Your employees expect you to lead. That means making sure that you have future leaders in mind to sustain the culture they work in or to transition the culture into something better.
Employees know when you have no plan to develop the good people around them. They fear the empty bench because they know that only turmoil follows when you have an unanticipated vacancy.
Way too many organizations do this:
- Think about succession planning when time has run out and people are getting ready to leave
- Figure they’ll just go “outside” to fill a vacancy, even though bringing in a new face means unsettling the chemistry of the organization and lost productivity that often goes with it
- Abdicate their responsibility to develop people from within because they don’t understand the value or don’t know how
Every organization needs to revisit their real commitment to employee development because it’s simply good for the business, not just the employee.
Keep your head out of the sand.
Employee development is often done poorly because management:
- Doesn’t forecast future needs
- Is comfortable with the players they have in place
- Is unable to assess talent confidently
- Believes that they can’t afford the costs
- Have a self-centered “what’s in it for me” attitude
Managing expectations around development is important, and many employees aren’t focused on their part in this effort either.
They often see their development as a job perk, an entitlement. They expect the business to:
- Tell them what and how they need to develop, providing opportunities
- Pay for training classes and conference attendance
- Orchestrate job growth and promotions
Employees sometimes forget that working for a company is a business deal. It’s in both the company’s and the employees shared interest for the employee to increase his/her capabilities.
How a bench is built!
All good bench building is collaborative. When it comes to employee development, here’s the model:
We, as employees, must own and execute our own growth because our capabilities become our career currency. We will use it to position ourselves for promotions within or outside with other companies.
Management must support the development of its employees by developing growth plans with them, providing feedback, mentoring, and offering opportunities. Their job is to support and ours is to engage.
No bench. No sense.
You’d never see a professional baseball team without a minor league system from which to rehab and develop players. That’s because the bench in baseball is their ticket to immediate and future success. So why would a business not follow that model? Beats me!
The private and public smart moves that build your business fitness are the formula for managing your own development and influencing your company to support you. First we warm the bench and then we get to play. Now, go ahead and hit one out of the park!
What kind of employee development has had the biggest impact on your career? Or how has a “benchless” company you know paid the price? I love hearing from you!