Some people view employee development as something formal, a program in place that workers can sign up for or complain about. But so much of employee development occurs in the creases where the teaching and the learning are subtle but incredibly powerful.
One of the areas of employee development that requires attention but may not be looked at with a critical eye is the opportunity factor floating through a company’s halls. That is, can employees find opportunities, the ones that will keep talented people from bolting? That’s part one. Part two deals with the people themselves. Are they the type of people who are likely to know an opportunity when they see it? In other words, are they looking or are they waiting? People who are looking for opportunities tend to go elsewhere if they can’t find something. And that’s what you don’t want. You don’t want your good people, the ones who make the company money and motivate others to do great week, to LEAVE. So instead of crossing your fingers and simply hoping they’ll find something, you need to position those opportunities where they can be found.
And don’t think for a minutes that just because someone is smart and skillful he or she will necessarily know that the opportunity is there. Often you need to make it really, really clear. You may think that because no one has asked, then it’s not necessary to highlight what’s available. One of the worst things that can happen for a manager is to lose someone to another company because of an attractive opportunity when something similar was right there.
Before you assess how open to and observant of opportunities your employees are look at your own tendency to seek out new challenges. Ask yourself, for example, how open you are to taking risks and giving old projects to colleagues so that you can move on. Think hard about how flexible you are and when you’re not, why you become rigid and unwilling to throw yourself into an unfamiliar situation. Also, don’t be afraid to find out just how much detail you need about a project before you take on the challenge. Does it make you nervous to the point you back out before anyone discovers you were interested in the first place? The more you know about your own behavior the better you will be at understanding the actions of your colleagues.
Special Note: A shout out of congratulations to Bob Prosen whose new book Kiss Theory Good Bye was recently awarded Silver Medalist by the Independent Publishing Industry.