I have the spent the past few weeks having conversations with senior managers in a variety of small and mid-sized organizations, ranging in size from one with 7 employees to one with over 700.
These conversations focus on how we can work together to assist their people to help these organizations achieve 2013 goals, but often the conversation turns to how to develop the staff they have.
These managers like their staff and want to see them grow and contribute more, as well as be more connected to the organization and more fulfilled in their work. They want to retain these team members and to provide meaningful rewards.
Many managers and organizations seem to be challenged by the prospect of how to develop employees, such identifying what skills are needed and how to accomplish this when there is “no time for training.”
A recent book (Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni) may provide some answers, and challenges some of the myths that prevent smaller employers from focusing development efforts on their team (if they grow they will leave us, the employee is responsible for her own career, it’s about the money, development plans are for the Fortune 500 or just senior managers).
According to Kaye and Giulioni, “Career development is as important as it’s ever been (maybe more). In today’s business environment, talent is the major differentiator. And developing that talent is one of the most significant drivers of employee engagement, which in turn is the key to the business outcomes you seek: revenue, profitability, innovation, productivity, customer loyalty, quality, and cycle time reduction.”
One insight is that employee development can be accomplished with informal, brief, focused “10-minute conversations” that uncover an employee’s aspirations and goals and matches to learning opportunities.
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You have rewarded your best supervisor with a promotion to manager.
She is the one person you could rely on to put out the fire, lead the charge on an install, and to get stuff done. Now you granted her the authority to lead the team and changed her role so now she has the time to “be a manager.”
But for some reason, she is not transforming the department as you expected.
You ask yourself, why does she:
- Continue to react to problems instead of implementing process improvement
- Work at the level of tactics and today’s work instead of thinking more strategically
- Struggle with holding team members accountable
- Spend more time than you expect in the field/ warehouse/ or “wandering around”
- Fail to implement those projects that have been on your wish list for months or years
Your star supervisor may have the competencies to be a manager, or may need business systems and coaching to develop these skill sets.
Here is a short list of common competencies that both supervisors and managers should have:
- Decisive Judgment
- Planning and Organizing
- Driving for Results
- Managing Others
- Coaching and Developing Others
Supervisors and managers also approach their work at different levels knowledge, methods, time horizon and involvement with process:
Adapting to Change
Functional or Technical Acumen
| Time Frame
1-2 years (general managers 2-5 years)
| Systems/ process
Follow and support systems
Create, monitor, improve systems
If this situation sounds familiar, take a moment and rate your manager on the level of competence for each of these skills to answer the question “is she a supervisor or a manager?” Her development plan would then be designed to improve in these key areas.
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“McJob- a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement” (Webster dictionary).
But how wrong they are!
According to a recent article by our firm’s founder Dr. Jerry Newman and McDonald’s Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Richard Floersch, McDonald’s actually has very high employee perceptions of advancement opportunities.
Reward/ Percent Who Love This About McDonald’s:
- Learning and development -80%
- Skill development and opportunity -79%
- Career opportunity -76%
Contrast McDonald’s results with numerous studies that consistently show about half of employees do not see long-term careers at their company, and more than one-third of employees believe they must leave their current employer to advance to a higher-level job.
Opportunity is Key to attracting employees: A recent Experience Inc survey of 2011 college graduates, 55% list career advancement opportunities as the most important factor in choosing a job (just above pay and challenging work).
Opportunity is Key to engaging employees: Aon Hewitt found that a clear career path and career development were two top drivers of engagement.
Typically organizations have positions with multiple levels, but they are not always clearly defined or communicated.
For example, a client had production workers with three levels of responsibility and skill, but they were not apparent to employees.
The company decided to title these three levels production, senior production and team leader. The job levels corresponded to different performance expectations and pay levels. Managers were trained to discuss with employees performance against their current job, communicate the “next” level job responsibilities, and mutually agree on a development plan with each employee who was interested in that next level.
Employees now know the clear career path, how they get there, and what the reward will be when it is achieved. (Or they can choose to stay in their current position as long as they perform to expectation). Managers now have a clear development plan for every employee and can focus their feedback and training on this plan. This also provided a succession plan by building a core of senior and team leaders to assist the Plant Manager and identified an Assistant Manager who is now quite successful.
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When I was in college, I was a member of the novice crew team, in a long skinny boat with 7 other women rowing on the Charles River.
The reason that inspirational posters feature a crew boat is that all the “oarsmen” need to row together at the same time towards the same goal. If you do not row with your teammates you either crash your oars or you can actually be thrown out of the boat!
Of course, this is an ideal analogy for employees in a work team, department and company. Your employees need to know where they are rowing and need to row together.
If you ask your employees, do they know how they can contribute to the monthly goal for the company (you do have them, right)?
How clearly do they know what to focus on every day when they report to work?
The solution is three –fold:
1) clearly outline what the organization wants to achieve,
2) break these down to individual responsibilities (and ideally measurable ones), and
3) communicate individual, team, department goals and results to employees on a regular basis
Hopefully your organization has long term goals (3-5 years from now), but these need to be broken down into annual goals, and quarterly action plans.
Quarterly action plans are essential because they list in detail what steps need to be achieved by whom and by when. Then the person accountable has tasks that drive their daily and weekly performance.
For example, your organization has a goal to get 50 new subscribers to sign up for your email newsletter by May 1. The head of marketing might have tasks that include a postcard mailing to current customers by 4/1 and training customer service representatives to ask every customer to subscribe to receive this newsletter. Customer service reps will be accountable (and measured) to achieve newsletter signups for 10% of their phone contacts per month.
Read more from local coach Rick Wallace (Next Level Coaching newsletter): Does your company execute well?
Employees like to feel that what they do contributes to a “greater” whole.
Spend some time and effort explaining the direction of the boat, how they contribute, and be sure to share successes and misses.
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