Executives are the Reason Development Efforts Fail

This might be a touchy subject. But we have to say it. You are the reason your people aren’t learning, growing, and fully engaging.

Picture this all-too-familiar scenario. An employee is struggling to get things done. He’s missing deadlines and always seems rushed or stressed, especially if you ask him to do anything extra. His manager notices these behaviors and immediately diagnoses the problem. He picks up the phone. “Um, yes, HR Person, John needs time management training. What can we offer?”

Naturally, the helpful HR Person does a little research and provides a solution. Then she picks up the phone. “Um, yes, Ms. C-Suite, John needs time management training and I found this class. Can you approve the cost? Thanks!”

Poof. Problem solved…

Not so fast. Do we even know what the real problem is? Does it really have anything to do with his time management skills? And has anyone spoken to John, the stressed-out employee?

Executives, HR professionals, and managers have to work better together to align goals in order for the learning and development efforts of the company to reach their full potential. If you don’t plan exactly what you want to accomplish with your training, you’re simply wasting resources. Might as well throw your cash out the window to the next lucky pedestrian that walks by.

In an ideal learning culture people work together, employees and managers alike, to determine what is needed to help employees improve performance and work on their soft skills. And here’s the thing. The soft skills are among the hardest skills to learn.

As human beings, it’s in our nature to want to solve problems for people. So, that’s when we start to diagnose and fix. Oftentimes what we see on the surface is only a symptom of what lies underneath. Let’s go back to John for a minute. He seems stressed. He’s missing deadlines. Could it, in fact, be a time management issue? Possibly. But odds are, it’s something deeper than that. And how would his manager even know where to begin?

This isn’t simply John’s problem to fix. And it’s not his manager’s problem, nor HR’s problem either…though that’s the typical assumption. This problem with a front-line employee actually leads all the way up to the C-Suite.

John’s real problem…is you. We’re quick to say, “He doesn’t get it. He needs this class.” Then approve the resources and expect it to go away. And during the timeframe when the employee attends training, what is it that you do? You go right back to your day-to-day activities, expecting better results. But it’s your lack of planning and full commitment to learning and development efforts that is holding your employees back.

Find out what employees want and what they need.

You can do this as a whole or individually. Use a company-wide survey or (depending on your company’s size) schedule 1:1 interviews with key employees. Don’t just target the “problem children.” However you decide to do this, make sure you hear from a good mix of top performers, struggling employees, and people from different departments or positions. You could find out that John’s time management issue was actually just a situation where he didn’t fully understand a procedure, or that he was really wanting to move to a new department to utilize his strengths. But you won’t know…unless you ask.

Create a plan and commit.

More than likely, you’ll see trends in what employees tell you. You’ll probably find some outliers too. That’s exactly what you want. Trends will tell you what the company needs as a whole, while the outliers will help you target specific issues within departments or processes. And now that you have this information, you can create a plan. Does the company need a culture overhaul or a reminder of how we treat each other? Do your HR professionals need more resources to help provide guidance to others? Do your managers need a reminder to coach and develop, rather than blame and discipline? Your plan needs to be specific enough to address the issues you uncover. Focus on answering all of the following questions: where, when, why, what, how? And if you get stuck, reach out to other executives you know, or even an outside consultant for ideas.

Allocate resources and stay involved.

You might be thinking, resources? Sure, but I don’t have time to be involved in the development of every employee. We’re not talking about it on a granular level. But, you need to set the stage for what’s expected and make sure it’s enforced. Your training initiatives should not just be the next flavor-of-the-month. That just says you haven’t fully committed to it. Inspect what you expect. And model what you’d like to see. You can’t just “fix” everyone else without first taking a look inward. Participate in the process along with your people. Knowledge should be shared freely. It should be adaptable. And cross-training should not only be encouraged but required.

As an executive, we know it’s not your job to make people happy. But it is your responsibility to make sure that you are giving them opportunities and creating an environment for them to be happy. Provide ways for them to be challenged; help them see the difference they make. And you can’t do that if you don’t even know what they want or need. You can’t do that when you aren’t committed to yourself. You can’t do that without a concrete plan. And odds are, if you’re providing the right environment, the rest will fall into place.

Check out what programs we have coming up to ramp up your development efforts by clicking here!

Whose responsibility is the development efforts of your employees? See what Courtney says here!