22 Jul. 2013 | Comments (0) Share Follow @Conferenceboard
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During a recent radio interview, a caller asked a question that talent management professionals are hearing more and more these days: What about employees who aren’t interested in career development? (The actual question was: What do I do about the pervasive ‘heck no, I won’t grow’ mindset in my organization?)
Increasingly, leaders are struggling less to meet the expectations of workers who want to develop and more to meet the resistance of those who don’t. Are employees really abandoning a commitment to career development, or are they, perhaps, on to us? Have they recognized growth for what it really is in some organizations: longer hours and more responsibilities? Have they learned our secret language and discovered that often when we call something a ‘growth opportunity’ that is truly code for what is commonly known as ‘more work’?
Earlier this month, Jordan Weissmann reported in The Atlantic that, “[A]ccording to the Families and Work Institute, just 37 percent of working women and 44 percent of working men said they wanted more responsibility at the office….” The remaining 63% of women and 56% of men just might be the ones who are saying ‘no’ to the gift of growth that comes in the package of a lot more work.
Yet, development doesn’t have to just mean ‘more.’ In fact, ‘more’ is a lazy default for managers who haven’t made the commitment to understand both their employees and the evolving needs of their business – and to finding where these two realms converge.
Savvy leaders get to know their employees: who they are, what they’re good at, what talents they yearn to use more, what skills they want to develop, and where they want to go (or stay). This can happen naturally – right in the workflow – which provides insight to both the leader and the employee who may not take the time for this sort of self-reflection. Whether or not it goes any farther toward development, these conversations have the power to enhance relationships, trust, engagement, and performance.
Having gotten to know their employees, development-oriented leaders then help those employees to consider themselves, their current capabilities, and future aspirations through the lens of foresight: where the industry is headed, how customers and markets are shifting, and what the evolving needs of the business are anticipated to be. This is powerful context for determining how to simultaneously grow people and the business.
Sometimes the outcome of these conversations does turn out to be ‘more.’ The employee who wants to increase her scope of responsibility may need to assume additional tasks. The supervisor who wants to rise to higher management levels may need to take on another team.
However, more frequently, the outcome of these conversations is ‘different,’ ‘mastery-oriented,’ or ‘expansive’ in nature. Working with an employee to apply current skills to a new context or with a different customer satisfies that ‘different’ development need. Providing the opportunity to really hone a skill or practice is exactly what the ‘mastery-oriented’ person craves. And, the imaginations of those looking for ‘expansive’ development will be captured with opportunities to explore other departments, divisions, or functions.
When development opportunities are personal and reflect individual aspirations, interest in development naturally grows – and so might employees’ willingness to take on more. That’s because development will be on their terms, and they appreciate that it will benefit themselves as well as the organization.
So, if you’re one of those leaders who thought you could just slip in some extra work and call it development, the jig is up. If, on the other hand, you’re a leader who’s genuinely committed to the growth of others, your job has just begun.
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