Most of us who have spent time in the HR or training space understand development planning often manifests itself as an ugly compromise within organizations. Those who see learning and development as a line-item expense, rather than an investment in future performance, fight to minimize the impact development planning has in terms of taking people away from productive work.
Whether you just finished your performance review, or you have one right around the corner, I often see that this is the only time employees have even somewhat of a conversation around development.
If the bullet points employees add to their plan wind up shoved in a drawer, or submitted online (buried in a virtual drawer), the result is often the same: a forgotten conversation that manages to exclude learning and development – the very people the organization has hired to help grow employees’ skill sets.
So it’s easy to despair or dread launching into an uphill battle for new processes or new tools. However, I believe effective development planning can still be done with nothing more than a generic “areas for development” box on an annual appraisal. Employees and managers simply need a little help.
5 ways to get employees engaged in personal development:
- Send an email or other communication to employees before the annual appraisal approaches letting them know about the L&D team, where to get information on training that is already provided, how to request additional training, and to consider these things as they complete the development part of the appraisal. Remind them to consider revisiting earlier training they have taken or prompt them to take additional training before hand. Meridian’s Career Explorer offers tools to show skill gaps and plan training to bridge those gaps.
- Expose job descriptions and requirements somewhere employees can easily browse and apply for open opportunities. Remind them of this during development planning season. Encourage them to have an honest internal review with what they have been doing to full-fill those obligations or what steps have they taken to grow outside of those descriptions.
- Point employees to an easily-searchable resource that lists available training interventions for desired skills, competencies or jobs. If all you have is a spreadsheet, make it available! Your learning management system (LMS) provider will likely have tools to make this process easier.
- Suggest a structure for filling out that aspect of the form. Something like, “I want to get better at ______ so that I can _____. To achieve this, I am going to ______.” Asking for the “what, why and how” of each part of the plan elicits important context.
- If you can’t capture what’s being added to plans via an automated system, send out a standalone survey asking what development needs are out there and what learning opportunities are desired. Your LMS has survey capabilities to gather that data.
At the end of the day, development planning is much less about a system, and more about employee-manager conversation, and the ability to create meaningful, actionable next steps. That meaning, the “What’s in it for me?” becomes more apparent when it’s framed around future aspirations. Most importantly, learning and development should be occurring monthly if not weekly. Encourage your employees to utilize training that is available to them. Your LMS has features to highlight or promote additional training based off the employees job title or previous interests. Take advantage of LMS automation to promote the usage of your learning management system. Review your LMS reports frequently to see who is engaging and who isn’t. Employee development is a two way street. Engaging with your employees in learning and development will encourage them to participate in their own success.
When L&D can set the table for these conversations, everyone benefits. To help you brainstorm on some of those topics for your conversations, read the whitepaper from the Aberdeen Group to help bridge the gap between content and employee development.