Are You Delivering the Development Your Team Wants?

In “Millennials Want Jobs to Be Development Opportunities,” the Gallup Organization reports the following:

The research also revealed that millennials place a higher priority on professional development opportunities when job hunting:

“59% of millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when applying for a job. Comparatively, 44% of Gen Xers and 41% of baby boomers say the same about these types of opportunities.”

Millennials also recognize the critical role developing leadership skills plays in career advancement.

Yet, most millennials say their employer does not provide them opportunities to grow their leadership skills. A Brandon Hall survey revealed that only 20% of employers viewed millennial leadership development as a focus in the next 24 months.

While the above alone makes it worth putting more attention and energy into identifying growth opportunities for employees, consider also the exodus of Baby Boomers and the importance of filling your leadership pipeline.

Provide Development Opportunities

One of the simplest, and most effective ways of providing professional development opportunities for employees – and showing that you care about them having professional development opportunities – is for managers at all levels to involve employees in professional development conversations.

When I first came on board as a supervisor for a team of learning and development professionals at an insurance company, I asked each team member about their career goals, what skills they wanted to develop, and what opportunities to grow and stretch they would like to have.

I kept these top of mind whenever I received requests from management.

When a manager asked for something that someone in my position or level of expertise might ordinarily do, but matched a development desire of one of my team members, I would delegate it to them, along with whatever assistance they needed or wanted (or simply let them run with it).

Solicit Their Feedback

After being in this position a while, I asked my team for feedback on what I was doing as their supervisor that they found helpful, and what I was doing that wasn’t so helpful (this is a whole other important topic that I’ve addressed in the past).

Interestingly, the feedback they gave me — feedback that I still remember after all these years — was that the thing they appreciated most about me, compared to previous supervisors, was that I wasn’t solely focused on how much work I could get out of them.

I wasn’t only concerned about what I wanted from them. I cared about what they wanted from their job.

They said they appreciated the fact that I cared about their professional growth interests and looked for opportunities for them to develop the skills and have the experiences they were hoping to have to move forward in their careers.

Caring Has Positive Consequences

One of my favorite stories from my interviews with high performers comes from Holly Giles, a team leader at Tri-County Mental Health Services in Maine. When I asked her to give me examples of what makes Tri-County a great place to work and their executive director, Catherine Ryder, a great leader, she shared with me the following story:

She had just completed her Certified Clinical Supervisor certificate training and was asked by one of the facilitators what impact she wanted to have on the world.

She instantly knew the answer: “Advocacy.”

When the facilitator asked her what her next step to make this a reality would be, she instantly knew that answer: “Talk to Catherine and ask her for advice.”

Because Catherine has a track record of demonstrating that she cares deeply about her employees and is also accessible and relate-able (no chilly aloofness or hiding behind job titles), Holly felt comfortable going to Catherine for advice.

Laughing while recounting Catherine’s response, Holly tells of her surprise over the answer she received:

“I was just expecting some advice. Instead she says,  ‘Since you asked, you are coming up to Augusta with me to watch me and others testify before the legislature, and after you get some experience under your belt, we’ll get you up to speed on the various issues, and eventually you can give testimony. I will also connect with you people in…'”

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 “That just lit a fire under me! The next day, I went out shopping for power suits to wear up to Augusta.”

Can’t you just feel the excitement in Holly’s recounting of that experience? Can’t you just imagine how that level of interest shown by the senior most leader in her organization, combined with that opportunity to grow professionally amped up her passion to come to work, give 110%, and remain with the organization?

Know vs. Do

As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s what you do with what you know that makes a difference in your life.”

Will you simply say “Yeah, we gotta do this someday” or will you start to have these conversations?

If you’re in HR, will you keep this to yourself or will you share it with your management team?

If you’re in leadership, will you say, “Someday we will put aside money for training and development” or will you start the conversation with your managers about what training and development is needed and find the funds to make it happen?