Develop staff to develop business

Employee development is business development. Ignore an employee development programme and watch your business slow down and stagnate.

We have recommended in the past high-level methods of developing our human credentials, from getting team members to speak at industry conferences through to creating non-monetary awards to recognise their ideas and encourage business development effort.

Our experience is that there is real power in combining approaches to developing our team members, but this month we want to recognise and suggest that employee development starts from a fundamentals standpoint.

So what are our must haves?

Build a plan. Challenge yourself to look at employee development in the long term. Right from the start have clear in your mind the steps that take your employee from the first contact with your business through an internal or external job advertisement, through a top quality interview to employment and then converting your entrant (or current employee in a new role in your business) to a ‘valued contributor’ as swiftly as is possible. What tools or support will need to be in place?

First things first. Through your business plan you’ll already have a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of your Features > Business, the competitive situation that exists around you and the leverage you have in your market.

Now build a job description that details the key competencies of the role you need. It is likely these will contain topics such as customer service, problem solving, team working or commercial focus. These competencies will help the employee understand the skills, knowledge and behaviour that they will need to perform the role to your standards. Continue this theme by adding in to the job description the interdependencies and relationships of the role, plus the key tasks, critical success factors and boundaries surrounding the role.

Get your interview right. We have become convinced that competency based interviewing (structuring set questions around the competencies and critical success factors of the role in question) provide the best outcome. They allow you to ask the same questions to each interviewee, capture these questions in a template format and in writing down the answers provide a platform to make the best business-based decisions on who to employ.

Build an Induction Plan. This applies both to new employees or current employees changing roles. Ensure a written induction plan is produced. Build the induction plan around the interdependencies and contacts that make the role work.

Write a Development Plan together. This is a platform for discussion and a written record of your employee’s progress against set criteria for the period in question. That period is often a full financial year, with regular reviews to chart progress. Our experience here is that monthly one to ones are really helpful, a simple update of progress following perhaps a ‘plan-do-review’ process.

We’ve used plans like these several pages long and also built them on just one sheet of A4. The development plan should be produced before the period begins, line manager and employee together lay out expectations and agree targets.

A good development plan will contain at least a group of SMART business objectives, a confirmation of core competencies of the role, an observation of competencies or business objectives that are likely to need support and how that support will be delivered with clear responsibilities and timelines.

Build a Performance Development review process. This is the appraisal. It is a time for both manager and team member to build a genuinely mutual understanding of performance, to record that performance and agree opportunities for personal development of the employee and subsequently the business. It is often formally completed on an annual basis but quarterly reviews can have significant impact. The Development Plan has a key part to play in the appraisal.

These fundamentals have worked for many organisations in the past. We believe they are a minimum and provide a robust opportunity to build on and really explore some other methods or tools of advanced development.

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