A successful employee development plan:
• Must be tied closely to the work of the individual, the team, and the organization -- both the current work being done and the work that is anticipated.
• Usually requires that both supervisor and employee overcome their own emotional resistance to detailing clear, specific desired areas of growth.
• Involves the active, intelligent participation of the employee with the supervisor in:
o Setting concrete standards for improvement
o Spelling out appropriate steps toward the attainment of desired goals
o Getting mutual acceptance of the costs associated with the plan.
Moreover, if the employee is to be successful in carrying out this plan, the employee and supervisor must assure:
• clear, ongoing feedback mechanisms;
• functional work processes;
• Sensible consequences.
The Work Focus on developing 3 aspects of the employee's job performance:
• Normal work output
o What products or services constitute normal work output for this person?
o What are the measurable units for these products or services?
o What type of output will be required during this next period?
• Normal work output improvements
o What improvements are necessary or desirable?
o How much improvement is realistic and achievable during this period?
• Personal or organizational improvements
o What are this individual's current capabilities?
o What are the team's current capabilities?
o What areas of development would result in the greatest overall benefit to the team and to this individual?
o How much improvement is realistic and achievable during this time period?
Overcoming Resistance Source of Resistance
Self improvement often embodies an old conflict:
• logic ("I should." "I want to.") vs. emotion ("I can't." "Don't make me.").
Two sources of resistance against discussion/decision about professional development:
• Internal -- psychological
o Emotionally, we despise the thought of being less than perfect.
• External -- professional
o "When my need for improvement seems important enough for us to talk about, what does that mean for my future here?"
Language and Motivation
It is often possible to get a lot more mileage out of talking about development in terms of the individual's "desire to improve" instead of their "need to improve." It's not just playing games with words. People do not change -- however much others may think they need to -- unless they want to.
Standards Does the Team Have "The Right" Standards?
The team leader can ask the team member several key questions to make sure that appropriate standards are clear, well understood, and appropriate.
• "Have we properly and accurately described the current situation (or, "improvement opportunity") we are addressing?"
• "Have desired goals been properly and accurately described?"
• "Have major goal-blocking factors been identified?"
• "How do you know when you're doing a good job?"
• "What result(s) do you think I am most concerned about?"
Managers frequently tell employees that "results are what count" (product), then evaluate them on methodology (process). Be clear about relevant standards that will be used.
Attainment Steps Behaviors
Identify which behaviors to repeat, which to change, which to eliminate. For each behavior, ask:
• Does it really help the employee get toward the goal?
• Is it observable? How will both know it has been done?
• Does it lie within the control of the employee?
• What's realistic?
• Obstacles and remedies?
Plan of Action
Create together a plan for development:
• Identify personal actions and their sequence of occurrence.
• Assign responsibilities for these personal actions.
• State a time for each action.
• Set dates for review of progress.
• Specify the resources required to perform it.
Annual development plans should focus on shorter term development goals or objectives (2-3 months; 6-9 months).
• These goals or objectives probably will be easier to visualize and more manageable.
• You can better gauge the likelihood of success, anticipate obstacles, and develop reasonable measures of success.
• Seeing goals realized within a reasonably short period is likely to provide reinforcement and motivation.
• Team member and team leader will have something to examine, discuss, appraise, and build on in the year end appraisal (which, realistically, will begin about 10 months after this meeting).
Mutual Acceptance of the Costs
Mutual Acceptance of the Costs Everything has a cost. Determine the realistic costs of this development plan. Costs include money, staff time, training, technology, and lost opportunity.
What realistic investment of time and other resources is the team leader willing to make?
• "I can't promise you that work priorities won't sometimes interfere. But this commitment is important enough that I do promise to take it seriously. You can hold me accountable for supporting you in getting the time and resources to pursue it."
What realistic investment of time and other resources is the individual willing to make?
• "I know that meeting day to day work priorities and investing time and energy in development is likely to be a stretch at times. But, yes, I'm willing to be held accountable for working at meeting the goals and changing the behaviors we agreed on."
Does this change align sufficiently with work priorities?
• If it is not important enough, it will not get the attention it needs. If too many changes are attempted at the same time, they will not get the resources they need.
Improve the Feedback
Improve the Feedback It should be:
• Frequent. Generally, the more frequent the feedback, the better.
• Immediate. There should be little delay between the action and the feedback.
• Specific. The feedback should be clear about the precise effects desired from a precise behavior.
• Understandable. The degree to which performance should be improved must be clear to the person receiving the feedback.
• Positive. Reinforcement works a lot better than enforcement.
Functional Work Processes
Functional Work Processes Distinguish Sources of Deficiencies
Deficiencies of knowledge -- an employee's not knowing what to do, how to do it, or when to do it -- are ideally suited to development plans.
Deficiencies of execution -- an employee's failing to exhibit learned behavior on the job -- usually come from factors in the work environment. Deficiencies of execution can completely frustrate well intentioned development plans.
Is It Necessary To Reengineer the Job?
Task interference problems constantly creep into jobs as procedures are modified, assignments subtly change in scope, and systems slowly evolve.
Analyze the factors that make it difficult or impossible to perform as desired.
• Is there enough time to perform the work?
• Is there enough equipment to perform the work?
• Are there enough support people and services to perform this work?
• Are there competing priorities?
• Are there things that distract the employee from this work?
Sensible Consequences Make Sure the Consequences Fit
Performance deteriorates over time often not because people forget, but because they learn what the real rules are.
Five guidelines for analyzing the balance of positive and negative consequences to performers:
• Usually people don't just fail to do something; they do something else instead -- because the consequences of that "something else" (the rewards, benefits, penalties) are more real, more certain, or more appealing.
• Do not mistake organization policy and platitudes for real consequences to the individual (e.g., having to drop a project they really like, putting in excessive hours to meet all goals).
• Separate immediate consequences from long term consequences.
• Consider the certainty of the consequence. People will often do something with a high probability of immediate results and low probability of negative consequences.
• Remember: what one person considers a positive consequence, another may not.