Effective development is one of the foundation stones of a great business.
Get it right and it drives great, consistent work for clients, allows continuous growth and improvement of the company as people grow into their next role, and supports company culture and employee engagement.
But development tends not to be a focus for many companies. After all, you’ve hired top talent so if you just let them get on with it, you’ll get the results you want, right?
Wrong. Without a focus on development, companies risk inconsistent or even poor performance, and the promotion of ways of working that don’t support the company’s outcomes or values. And that top talent you just hired will only put up with poor development for so long before they become disengaged and maybe even consider leaving.
So how can businesses put the right focus on such a key area?
Step 1: Have the right mindset as a company
Prioritising development can seem a difficult choice – it takes time and effort to deliver effectively. But it will take more effort to course-correct down the line if things go awry.
Step 2: Define your business outcomes and values
What are you seeking to achieve? What does great look like for the business? Without clear direction, you won’t know whether developing your people will help you achieve your aims.
Step 3: Agree what these outcomes mean in terms of competencies and behaviours
Think about the skills needed to achieve your business outcomes (clue: they may not always be the obvious ones). For example, if you want to be the go-to company for complex analytics, it’s likely that analytical capability will be high on your list for people to develop, but you should also consider skills in communication to make that analytical output compelling. Don’t forget to also define the behaviours that are the manifestation of your values. This is how you make values real in a company and not just words written on the wall.
Step 4: Bring these together into a single point of truth
Collate into a single document to use as a point of reference for all development conversations. This allows for consistency across the company and encourages fairness when judging for promotion.
Step 5: Create a culture of psychological safety and effective feedback
You can’t have growth and development without mistakes – people need an environment where they can try out new ways of working or thinking safely. This will be heavily influenced by leadership and the culture they drive. People also need sight of their performance through effective, timely and well-intentioned feedback. Training people to give and receive feedback well should be a priority.
Step 6: Provide the supporting structures to track and drive development
We are not always the best judges of what we need to grow. Providing mentorship around development, and regular check-ins (not just a dreaded annual appraisal) are essential.
Step 7: Remember that employees are humans
Effective development is not just a transactional process where employees are shaped to fit the hole the business requires. It also looks ahead to the person’s long-term goals and aspirations, helping them to develop areas that are important to them, and to set them up for the future.
It’s worth checking back in from Step 2 on a regular basis – whether your outcomes and values are still the same, and if you are developing the right skills and behaviours in your people to deliver those outcomes.