Last week I was at a dinner and a friend asked me about what I’ve been working on.
I told her I’ve been doing some work focused on developing people.
She immediately said she and her employees had no problems with development.
I asked what they did and she said with great satisfaction that they always identified the development goal when they did their performance appraisals.
“That sounds good,” I said.
Then I asked, “What do you do after that?”
She looked confused. “That’s what we do,” she said.
“You have a goal,” I said. “What do you do to figure out how you’re going to accomplish it?”
She looked a bit less confused.
“I guess I’m going to have to think about that,” she said. And, because this was not a work-related occasion, we changed the subject.
My friend isn’t alone. I’ve heard other managers say that development was a success because they and their employee had identified a development goal. Here’s a question: In what other part of a business would it be acceptable to declare victory just because you identified a goal?
Because it comes at the end of the performance review process, chances are it wasn’t a very clear goal. Chances are it probably should have been revised a few times. But, as my friend said, they identified a development goal.
When it comes to development, it appears that accomplishing the goal is usually a given – just a matter of finding the right workshop or on-line resource. In other words, when you complete the workshop you accomplish the goal.
But reality is different. Completing a workshop usually just means you’ve completed a workshop.
People often sign up for a workshop hoping or believing some sort of transformation will take place. It’s one of the reasons managers often are disappointed that their employees don’t return to the job with significantly more expertise or skill. Almost no-one returns with significantly more expertise. And every manager who has ever attended a workshop knows that from personal experience. There is no magic. Learning is incremental. It takes time. And practice.
Next time you’re tempted to do only what my friend did, keep these three points in mind.
Know when to use a workshop
Workshops are useful for introducing someone to a topic or providing an orientation. There might be some skill practice, if that’s appropriate to the topic. Similarly, the participant could start developing expertise. But there’s a real limit to how much someone can learn in a workshop and then remember later.
Sending someone to a workshop is not a development plan
A workshop is often a useful element in a development plan. But it shouldn’t be the whole thing. Before the workshop, the employee and manager should discuss what the employee is supposed to learn. If you don’t do that, the employee is likely to focus on what he or she finds interesting. And that might not have much to do with the learning goal.
After the workshop, the manager and employee should discuss possible assignments and other activities the employee can use to apply what was learned in the workshop. Then the employee should take on the assignment and the manager should follow-up periodically.
Without application, it’s likely the employee soon will forget what he or she learned.
You can’t delegate responsibility for the development plan to the trainer/instructor
If you assume that completing the workshop also means accomplishing the development goal, you might also assume that the trainer/instructor is responsible for the entire development process.
This isn’t high school. The trainer/instructor is responsible only for the workshop. What happens before or after is the responsibility of the manager and employee.
If you’re a manager, developing the people who report to you is one of your responsibilities. (The employee is also responsible.) Don’t fool yourself by thinking it’s the trainer’s responsibility.
Sending an employee to a workshop is an easy way to address development. But it is an incomplete solution.
Include workshops in the development plan, if that’s appropriate. But also plan for ways to prepare the employee before the workshop and ways to apply what was learned after the workshop is complete.