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Support Your Employees and Help them Discover their Potentials

Talent management and talent retention are the pressing needs today in the face of a mobile and volatile employee market overcrowded with poor talent. Motivated, productive and talented employees are the key to survival of business organizations. And the productivity needs to be both short-term and long-term.

Training vs. Development

Supportive BossTraining does not automatically lead to development, because in today's management practice, training strategies and developmental strategies differ. We use the term training in relation to short-term efforts designed to equip individuals with the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to be productive in the workplace. In contrast, we use the term development with regard to employees for describing long-term efforts designed to ‘equip individuals with the results of work-experience' to prepare them for higher level responsibility. Development is most important for helping talented employees realize their potentials, and according to research “90 percent of all development occurs on the job.” (Rothwell 77). Research has firmly established that the most important developments of employee talent occur on the job and is under the direct and immediate control of the employer. The challenge lies in managing the development.

Development strategies help employees to realize their true potentials for the employer, however development does not occur in isolation from work – it rarely happens at training sessions – but takes place when guidance and training is interwoven with work and target tasks. As an employer, you need to find out the development gaps in individuals and expose them to work that provide them with the experience necessary to build required competencies. How you shape people depends on the work-experiences you choose to give them.

Developing employee potentials

To properly discover the potentials of an employee, you need to find the performance gap – the gap between what they can do and what they need to do.

Good training can do a lot to bridge performance gaps, but in order to be effective it needs to be continual, sustained, and mixed with office work – and that makes it very expensive. For employers today, sustained training modules are a weapon of last resort due to their expenses, and isolated training modules are unacceptable just because they rarely work. With proper exposure to work, if an employee learns to do something once in the correct manner, he/she rarely requires training in that work. Newly hired workers do need training sessions for orientation, but employee development depends upon managed exposure to varying levels of tasks.

What you need to create an effective development strategy

To create an effective development strategy, first identify the following:
  • What is the development gap between what people can do at present and what they must be able to do to perform at a higher level of responsibility in the future?
  • What specific, measurable objectives can be established to narrow that development gap?
  • How (that is, through what means) can those objectives be met? Remember that people are developed by whom they come in contact with, what they do, when they are tasked to perform, where they work, why they are asked to work, how they are asked to work, and how much or how many resources they are given to do the work.
  • When (over what time span) should those objectives be met?
  • How will results be compared to objectives? In short, how are the impacts of the learning experiences compared to the development gap?

Putting employee development strategies into practice

Taking into account the answers found above, create an IDP (Individual development plan) for each targeted employee. In addition to apportioning tasks and measuring progress according to the IDP, you will find that keeping the following in mind would enormously help you to realize employee development:
  • Encourage the person to develop himself or herself.
  • Help the talented person gain a realistic sense of his or her own abilities.
  • Expose the person to other people, places, work assignments, or time-sensitive challenges that would build their competencies and thereby help make them promotable.
  • Reassure talented people, even when they make mistakes or feel crushed by challenges.
  • Connect people with strengths to those who need to work on those areas so that they can learn from each other.
  • Tell people very specifically what you believe they are really good at—and take time to brainstorm with them how they could leverage their strengths to their own (and the organization's) advantage.
Many start-up companies fail just because the management finds itself too busy to apportion tasks designed to develop employee potential, and instead, delegate the responsibility to isolated training sessions. It does not work. Even if you find you have too much to do rather than bothering about those who report to you, the trick is to manage your own priorities so that talent management work becomes daily responsibility. As an employer, or when representing the employer as a manager/supervisor, this is the only way that you can continue to develop employees while meeting your personal work goals every day. Dumping development responsibilities entirely on company HR is a mistake, because the employee you are trying to develop, should experience development on the job, and as the reporting authority, you are best suited to nurse that development.

Source: William J. Rothwell, The Manager's Guide to Maximizing Employee Potential: Quick and Easy Strategies to Develop Talent Every Day (New York: American Management Association, 2010)