Staff development supplements a firm’s efforts to enhance performance, remain competitive and meet organizational goals. It entails an ongoing professional and personal development process through on-the-job-training, formal education, job rotation, mentorship, etc. to build competencies anchored in a firm’s mission and goals. Utilizing appraisal/performance data and supervisor observations in a joint process can help identify developmental activities that will enable the employee to achieve career and organizational goals (Hargrove, 2012). A greater managerial focus on information, joint decisions, and readiness to learn would ensure the success of a performance-based leader development plan.
Approach to Key Leader Development
The right approach to employee development depends on the individual’s KSAOs, career goals set out in the individual development plan (IDP), performance, and present role. A multi-faceted approach that includes formal training, experiential learning, assessment (360-degree system), and job experiences is recommended for the organization. The formal training component may involve initiatives that bolster leader performance through training (Aguinis, 2013). Facilitating in-house and off-site programs, executive MBAs, and short management courses can help employees achieve their IDP goals. In this case, training and certification levels would be developmental indicators.
Experiential learning is another method of developing employees with managerial potential. As Hargrove (2012) writes, in experiential learning, “high potential employees” engage in various institutional challenges that require dynamism (p. 41). The leaders must draw on their skills in conflict management, collaboration, and critical thinking to resolve the problems. This type of on-the-job training improves the employee’s conceptualization of diverse scenarios or tasks, and in the process, he/she acquires the knowledge to handle problems efficiently.
Employees with a managerial potential could also be developed through assessment. It entails collecting key performance data and giving feedback on “skills, communication style, and behavior” using a feed-forward interview (Hannah & Avolio, 2010, p. 186). In this regard, a motivated supervisor works jointly with the employee to identify his/her success factors and resource requirements to achieve the IDP developmental goals. Conversely, supervisor performance assessment could be done through the 360-degree feedback system or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Anonymous, job-related, and clear 360-degree systems for feedback from “superiors, peers, customers, and subordinates” would uncover the supervisor’s strengths/weaknesses and rate KSAOs for consideration for an executive management position (Davis, 2015, p. 14).
Development plans based on the 360-degree feedback system involve four main activities. The first activity is the evaluation of strengths and weaknesses through ratings. The self-rated skills/behaviors that match others’ ratings are identified. The second activity entails setting out a clear, specific development goal for the skill/behavior that needs to be developed. The third step is determining the process of achieving the goal. The last step is identifying the strategies for realizing the development goal, i.e., training, job experiences, etc.
Other development options relate to job experiences that stretch employee skills. This approach forces staff to learn new skills and experiences to reinforce their management competencies. Job experiences cover the problems, relationships, and task demands inherent in a position (Aguinis, 2013). The employees could be developed through job rotation, i.e., assigning employee tasks/roles in different functional departments. Job enlargement also falls under this category. It entails expanding an employee’s current roles and responsibilities. Development goals could also be realized through transfers, promotions, and mentorship/coaching.
Types of Development Plans
There three main types of an employee development plan to choose from, namely, performance-based, management by objectives, and succession planning. The right development plan relies on the individual’s position, skills, and IDP goals. The performance-based development plan utilizes an appraisal to evaluate performance and skills and set long-term goals (Davis, 2015). Ideally, the goals should seek to improve the skills and competencies of the appraised employee. Management by objectives (MBOs) sets forth goals and strategies to realize them and evaluate progress (Davis, 2015). MBOs can help measure individual or team performance. In contrast, succession planning is grounded in the upward mobility of employees within the organization. It involves job shadowing and continuous performance metrics to determine employee’s readiness for a greater role.
Since the employee development plan (EDP) is a component of the performance management system, the performance-based type of plan is recommended. The development process could be viewed in the context of the expert performance model, wherein employees develop into experts through practice/experience (Davis, 2015). For instance, conflict management, collaboration, and communication/listening skills are learned through role assignments and experiences that sharpen one’s KSAOs. Collaboration between supervisors and employees is necessary to define personal career goals and organizational goals and mobilize resources.
The key consideration in developing a successful performance-based EDP is information. The employee should comprehend individual strengths/weaknesses, career goals, and available development opportunities. Career maps can help show the possible growth options for the employee within the firm. Also, information about the staffing needs of the organization as well as the KSAOs required for the present and future roles are important (McCall, 2010).
A second key consideration is a communication. The employee should inform the supervisors of his/her career/development goals through IDPs. Conversely, the supervisor/leader should communicate the project changes in KSAOs due to industry trends to inform future development decisions. Further, EDPs should involve both the supervisor and the employee in joint decision-making. Important considerations in EDPs include sources of funding, work volumes, and individual needs. Moreover, the supervisor must consider individual development goals and provide the requisite support and resources at the department level (Davis, 2015).
Components of Development Plans
The checklist for creating an IDP includes identifying personal goals, organizational goals, objectives, and developmental activities. A sample performance-based developmental plan form is shown in the Appendix. Employee development planning is a joint process/model that involves the following steps:
Create the IDP as a follow-up to an employee performance appraisal.
Jointly design the IDP – identify development needs/goals and allow the employee to suggest methods of achieving them. Alternatively, allow the employee to create his/her IDP and then review it jointly to align it with organizational goals.
Determine the performance areas that need to be developed. These may be employee strengths that need to be enhanced, new skills required, or performance/skills that should be developed. Other considerations may be changes in technology, future staffing need, and new roles, among others (McCall, 2010).
Identify the learning/development methods and resources required – formal training, assessment, job experiences, etc.
Upon determining the development methods, evaluation criteria are formulated to measure progress.
The agreement between the supervisor and employee is signed before implementing the IDP according to a development timetable.
A reporting system is put in place to monitor progress and adapt the IDP to any changes.
Every EDP is unique in the sense that development needs and career goals vary between employees. The following are some of the developmental activities that the organization could use to achieve the stated objectives (performance-based).
On-the-job training – involves formal mini-training programs aimed at improving competencies for a particular position (Kraiger, 2012).
In-house courses – the courses could be offered in partnership with partner universities and provide for tuition reimbursement.
Mentoring – involves mentorship programs to socialize the mentee and allow him/her to acquire certain skills.
Conferences, workshops, or seminars – attendees acquire new skills that they can apply in their roles.
Formal education – includes degrees (executive MBA) and other certifications.
Job rotation – involves temporary assignments/roles to acquire new skills and experiences.
Membership/leadership in a professional body – the members learn best practices and acquire communication/presentation skills.
The implementation of a leadership development plan should start with formulating a leadership competency framework defining the KSAOs relevant to the firm (Summers, Williamson, & Read, 2014). Given the multi-faceted nature of leadership/management, a performance-based approach is important to identify effective development needs and activities and align IDP goals with organizational needs. Therefore, the development pipeline should entail identifying employees with leadership potential and developing them through training and job experiences (Carter, Ulrich, & Goldsmith, 2015). The formal training aims at skill development in line with the current or future organizational needs. The assessment of the individual’s skills, values, and behaviors through the 360-degree system informs an effective development plan (McCall, 2010). The evaluation helps reveal the individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Subsequently, a development plan is designed to reinforce the leader’s strengths in line with the IDP goals.
Employee development plans contain formal training and experiential learning methods to build the required KSAOs in line with individual and organizational goals. The choice of the method should be informed by the employee appraisal system, e.g., the 360-degree assessment. Further, adequate resources and support are required to enable high potential employees to engage in developmental activities included in the EDPs.
Aguinis, H. (2013). Performance management. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education Inc.
Carter, L., Ulrich, D., & Goldsmith, M. (2015). Best practices in leadership development and organization change. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.
Davis, R. (2015). Choosing performance management: A holistic approach. CUPA Journal, 46(2), 13-18.
Hannah, T., & Avolio, J. (2010). Ready or not: How do we accelerate the developmental readiness of leaders? Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31, 181-187.
Hargrove, R. (2012). Masterful coaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kraiger, K. (2012). Creating, implementing, and managing effective training and development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
McCall, M. (2010). Recasting leadership development. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 3, 3-19.
Summers, B., Williamson, T., & Read, D. (2014). Does method of acquisition affect the quality of expert judgment? A comparison of education with on-the-job learning. Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology, 7(3), 237-258.
Developmental Plan Form
List of Developmental Activities
Membership in a professional body