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Home > GSC > Leading Others > Developing Others

​Developing Your Employees

Supervisors coach their employees to help them learn and grow in their jobs. They create individual development plans to give structure to their employees' efforts to become exemplary performers or to prepare to take on new responsibilities.

Why do it? The vast majority of people have a natural need to learn and grow in order to avoid stagnation. When they find themselves in situations where they are not learning and growing, they try to create such opportunities or they look for new situations where they believe they will have such opportunities.

Good coaching and development practices produce two positive results. First, they tend to raise the level of performance in the workplace as employees polish their existing skills and gain new ones related to the agency's work. Second, as a result, employees tend to be more motivated and less likely to leave.

Everyday Coaching

Good coaches seize opportunities to help their employees learn in their jobs and grow in their careers. They catch employees at the right moment, when they are puzzling over a problem or wrestling with a decision. The supervisor-as-coach does not do the task or solve the problem for an employee, but helps the employee discover a solution.

Through coaching, supervisors make good employees better. They invigorate long-term employees whose jobs may have grown stale for them. They help employees find ways to fully use their strengths in their work, or to discover new strengths to apply to the job.

Supervisors who are good at everyday coaching are good at asking questions. They ask open-ended questions that encourage employees to think about situations differently.

            • Are there alternatives? What are they?
            • If you were in the other person's shoes, what would you do?
            • Why do you think this happened?
            • What are the three most important considerations?
            • To what is this situation similar? (Trying to find an analogy)
            • What are the most likely causes?
            • Describe what you saw (or heard, etc.).

Individual Development Planning

The purpose of development planning is to build employees' skills so that they can become more effective in their current jobs, get ready to take on greater responsibilities or prepare to move into other positions. Development plans focus on a specific competency or skill to be enhanced, or an area of knowledge to be acquired.

Individual career development plans are long-term plans that use developmental training and assignments as stepping stones to achieving career goals. Over the course of several years, an employee may work on a series of development plans as part of a strategy to ultimately achieve a certain career goal.

By contrast, corrective action plans are short-term plans for bringing performance up to standard or for eliminating future episodes of improper conduct. They deal with the "dark" side of performance, whereas development plans deal with the "bright" side.

There are a few basic developmental concepts that are useful to know.

            • Development is all about behavior change. If you send employees to training classes, give them books to read, and fill out a form entitled "development plan" for each of them, they will not have developed unless their behaviors on the job have changed in ways that are useful to the agency. If behavior has not changed, development has not happened.
            • Employees are responsible for their own development, of course. But that does not mean that the best way to develop people is to just leave them on their own to figure it out. Very few people thrive under such conditions. You get much better results when you, as supervisor, support your employees' efforts and when there are resources that employees can use to guide their efforts.
            • Development plans can be initiated at any time. They can be initiated by the employee or suggested by the supervisor. They can be based on feedback the employee receives from the supervisor, the employee's customers or from any other source. It helps to impose some structure on the process. For example, development is more likely to happen if you commit the development plan to writing, identify the skill or knowledge that will be the focus of the plan, and describe how developmental success will be measured.
            • When employees receive candid feedback, they usually learn that there are several areas in which they could become more effective. If you are an overachiever, you would be inclined to set up three or four development plans for an employee to work on simultaneously. Restrain yourself! Working on multiple development plans tends to diffuse your efforts. It does not work. Pick one area to work on, just one, and concentrate on it.
            • The typical, but ineffective, development plan will list some activities the employee should complete: attend a class, check out these websites, read those articles. Keeping in mind the first bullet point above, ticking off activities on a checklist is fine, but if behavior has not changed as a result, development has not occurred. There are certain kinds of developmental experiences that are especially powerful in producing behavior change. You will want to pack your development plan with these high-impact types of experiences.
            • Supervisors, it turns out, wield a tremendous amount of influence over their employees. The type of developmental support supervisors provide can spell the difference between growth or stagnation, success or frustration, for their employees.

A development plan is like an investment. Supervisors can do things to properly support their employees and, therefore, protect their investments. Employees, too, can take out an "insurance policy" on their development efforts. There are several things they can do to make sure that, once the development plan is written down and agreed to, they will be able to actually reap the benefits of their development work.


Basics of Individual Development Planning
Format for Individual Development Planning 
Directory of Dimensions

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