“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” It was true more than 250 years ago, during Benjamin Franklin’s times and it continues to stay relevant nowadays. Developing peoples’ knowledge, skills and competencies is a must for any organization aspiring to success, and that is why people development has earned its rightful place when it comes to making long term investments and defining growth strategies. Learning and development initiatives lead to increased employee satisfaction and sense of personal accomplishment, as well as to an improved ability of teams to act in synergy and deliver results efficiently. At a higher level, the companies that invest in their people are able to secure the resources they need to better respond to their customers’ needs and expectations.
While everyone from HR experts, managers to juniors agrees that people development should be treated with the highest attention, global surveys* show major differences between the walk and the talk: over the last two years, 75% of the employees included in the survey stated they were not happy with the development opportunities their companies provided and only 12% said they could use their new developed abilities in their work. Moreover, 70% of survey respondents stated that the training and development opportunities provided by the employer influenced their decision to stay with the company and 75% of millennials expressed their intention to leave the company due to lack of appropriate professional growth opportunities.
“Our experience with our clients has shown us that sometimes managers are reluctant to invest in their team members’ development. Despite assertions regarding their support for in-house and external learning programs, these initiatives are sometimes delayed, hampered, or even blocked. This constitutes a high risk for any organization, considering that people are the main asset of any business, they make things work and their competency development levels have a direct impact upon organizational performance.” said Ivona Funaru, Learning Practice Architect at Business Saga.
Let’s explore in detail the main reasons managers may hesitate to address employees’ development needs.
- They believe that the investment isn’t worth the while. This assumption may be generated by either a fixed mindset towards learning, lack of knowledge about how to deal with the process or failure to see the benefits people development can produce at all levels in the organization. In this case, managers set other priorities to which they distribute available resources.
- Managers have a short-term perspective over results. So, they will stay focused on various initiatives providing immediate outcomes, ignoring long term plans that may have a higher impact.
- They don’t have clearly set people development objectives and a list of required competencies to support the endeavor. Under these circumstances, identification of any improvement areas and set-up of appropriate development plans become practically impossible.
- They are less aware of peoples’ needs and expectations. This happens whenever managers lose touch with their teams, being focused only on quantitative objectives and not allowing time or showing interest to the “human” side of the business.
- Managers fear employees might leave the company as soon as they will have developed new skills. This belief stems from a perception of reduced loyalty and engagement of staff towards their organization.
- They don’t have the expertise or resources needed so they avoid coaching team members or fail to access external support because of financial restrictions.
- They feel threatened by highly competent employees. These people are perceived more as a potential danger than a valuable resource for higher performance.
- Managers hesitate when having to decide on a course of action, spending a lot of time on getting information or analyzing peoples’ development needs instead of making decisions and acting on them.
What can do managers to support employee development?
Besides understanding the benefits on knowledge, skills and competency development to people, teams and organization, managers need to assume an active role during the process. Based on a clear view on the company’s vision and mission, business strategies and priorities, they may use development programs as a tool for sustainable business growth.
As a manager, it is within your reach to put to use these quick and practical people development tools and methods:
- Run regular 1:1 meetings with employees to discuss their short and long term objectives and to set specific action plans
- Support mentoring initiatives for professional guiding of juniors
- Create opportunities for sharing experiences among different teams
- Involve people in challenging projects requiring acquiring new skills and increased responsibilities
- Give access to development resources and tools
- Recognize employees’ progress and encourage a learning and growth oriented mindset
Do you want to have a positive impact on employees’ skills enhancement? Remember that development is not a moment in time, but a continuous process directly connected with people motivation, satisfaction and engagement, team performance and organizational success.