Employee Development

Let’s talk employee development.

Without strong individual employee development, you’ll end up with either Maintainers—people who do their job and not much more—or Sleepers—people who hold back those who truly can perform at high levels.

ITE Development Grid © Civicus Consulting Group

Employee development can help overcome a most startling fact: according to a recent report, employee engagement levels have dropped at least 25 percent in the past year for companies’ top performers, and 9 percent for all employees (Kaufman, 2011).  When employees sense that investments in time, capital, and energy are being expended to develop their own capacities, they will feel more appreciated and recognized, and therefore will maintain high levels of engagement.

For example, in The Three Signs of a Miserable Job (Lencioni, 2007), anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement are cited as critical negatives in any employee’s job. Anonymity is a strong negative because humans have a need to be understood, appreciated, and recognized for their contributions to a greater good. Irrelevance is a significant negative because fulfillment is best found when one’s task is related to a larger purpose. And immeasurement is defined as an inability to tangibly track or gauge individual contributions to the greater good—as opposed to relying on the willy-nilly opinions or whims of a supervisor.  Adequate individual employee development requires sound systemic processes to address these three areas of significant concern to employees; without appropriate systems in place, no amount of employee development can overcome these negatives. For instance, a company may invest heavily in employee training; it may bring in nationally recognized speakers to address employee groups; it may send employees to first-rate conferences and other learning opportunities; it may even provide tuition for employees seeking advanced degrees. Yet if the corporate systems result in anonymity for the employee, the employee will be dissatisfied and unappreciated, and will therefore be a poor performer or soon leave the company.

A 2011 study found a correlation between organizational success and employee satisfaction and intrapreneurship—that is, entrepreneurship within the organization itself (Antoncic & Antoncic, 2011). In this study, employee satisfaction included four elements: general satisfaction with work; employee relationships; remuneration, benefits, and organizational culture; and employee loyalty. Overall employee development would play a role in these four elements; without development, employees would likely be less satisfied, have fewer relationships, experience poorer benefits, and exhibit less loyalty to the organization.

A sometimes overlooked method of employee development is internal mentoring programs.  In-house mentoring programs can improve interpersonal skills, provide positive reinforcement, and motivate (Street, Weer, & Shipper, 2011). They also build employees’ abilities to manage priorities, stress, and conflicts.

Employee development also helps build the flexibility, adaptability, and productivity among workers in a competitive world of ever-changing circumstances (Gumus, Borkowski, Deckard, & Martel, 2011). Individual-level development also impacts the organization’s competitive advantage by producing employees with more effective communication skills, increased capacity for teamwork, higher standards of ethical conduct, and increased tendencies toward entrepreneurship (Ricardo, 2010).

Ricardo (2010) also pointed out that even highly skilled employees benefit from development programs. For instance, a technically advanced employee may be only marginally effective if he or she does not have the skill to successfully navigate internal political landmines or social idiosyncrasies of the organization.

Employee development in nonprofit organizations is equally beneficial. While most nonprofits have historically been modeled after public administration entities such as government or higher education, there is now a tendency to build upon the for-profit model of employee development in order for nonprofits to gain a competitive advantage (Kong & Ramia, 2010).


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