“Employee development doesn’t happen inside one’s mind”
Learning is not the same as growing. Learning becomes growth only when it is applied, practiced and sustained over time and in new situations. Understanding the purpose of learning is just as important as understanding that learning must occur. A KEY fundamental of learning is cultivating and growing new skills to ensure you are meeting the workplace challenges of today AND tomorrow. Without a focus on developing defined knowledge, skills and abilities (aligned to business drivers and a competency model) a path to greater achievement becomes unclear. Skill building is a behavior, and behaviors change by learning new skills or adjusting old ones to conquer new challenges. Competencies are the language of leadership/employee development, and are a key tool to help employees better understand where to focus their training activities.
It is important to remember that formal training alone isn't going to drive development if you aren't actively engaged in practicing and implementing skills learned in the classroom back in the workplace. Formal classroom training does not create more skilled employees. It simply focuses, and brings to light, what you need to learn and develop in order to be a better and more effective employee.
The goal in leadership/employee development is NOT to achieve complete mastery over a skill, but to build enough capacity and understanding to apply that skill back in the workplace. This practice will ultimately lead to the mastery of certain skills and behaviors that have a positive impact inside the workplace.
A common challenge we see in our formal training programs is that when employees move into new roles, they rely on old skills and behaviors to do a new job. With the new position, they are unclear of what they need to focus on. Their development goals become nonspecific with no ties to learning outcomes which can lead to a stall in development, and frustration in the new role.
A clear understanding of what knowledge, skills, behaviors and abilities are needed to perform effectively in one's current position is an imperative part of training. Becoming clear about what training you need, when you need it and how to apply it back in the workplace will ultimately lead to greater satisfaction and personal growth as an employee. As the great book titled, "What Got You Here, Won't Get You There (Goldsmith)" states, having a clear understanding of your development needs will ultimately help you achieve success.
Understanding Your Development Needs – Where to Start
How do you ensure you're building the right skill set for your current position and for future opportunities? The key to answering this question is to identify what skills and abilities you need to develop, obtain an understanding of how to improve them, and then implement. It is as easy as 1-2-3.
Step 1: What skills do I really need to understand or develop to be more effective in my job? Taking the time to asses where you are in terms of skill development is important. Be honest with yourself about where you need help and what you need to do to improve. Your manager should be involved in the conversation to help coach and guide you in terms of where they see potential deficiencies, competencies and skills you need to focus on. Once you understand what you need to improve, you can move to step 2.
Step 2: Based on your understanding of what you need to improve to drive your growth, determine what competencies you want to focus on and create a plan of action on HOW you are going to learn these new skills. Creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP) can be a powerful tool to help you formalize this process. You may need to take a formal training class to obtain a better understanding of how a particular skill should be used in the workplace. If that is the case, then by all means attend a training class! Remember, training is often a very small piece of your development. Consider what else you might do at work to help grow your skills. Experiential learning is a concept that has proven very valuable in helping employees grow on the job, gain invaluable experience and learn from mistakes. What is experiential learning? It is a method of educating through first-hand experience. Skills, knowledge and experience are acquired outside of the traditional training setting, and may include the following:
Once you have created an IDP and begun to implement experiential learning in the workplace you are ready for step 3!
Step 3: How are you doing? Work with your manager to ensure that you are applying what you have learned, and understand the mistakes that you are making and why you are making them. Confirm that you are continuing to focus on the skills you want to improve. Reviewing your IDP regularly with your manager is a great way to ensure that learning transfer is taking place. By understanding what you need to do to improve as an employee, you can be assured that your growth will continue.
By: Andy Schuster