happy man looking at phone while sitting in lobby waiting areaThe issue at hand is essentially this…”we aren’t getting it done.” Who makes up this proverbial “we” and what aren’t we getting done? Well, “we” refers to HR and management / leadership, and we are not getting it done when it comes to employees’ needs relevant to development and performance management. Let me restate that. Maybe we are listening, but we are failing to act. I have seen so many credible sources post so much significant data on this topic. Notably, here are just a few statistics that underscore the issue:

  • A recent Gallup study indicates that only 21% of employees strongly agree their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.
  • Gallup also indicates that only 15% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization makes them enthusiastic about the future.
  • A recent Mercer study indicates that 78% of employees would remain longer with their employer if they saw a career path with their current organization. (Ummm, If? Meaning they don’t see it? Yikes!)
  • In a Deltek study, we note problematically that 95% of terminations are voluntary. While we know some voluntary turnover can be positive, by and large, we aren’t getting it done. We are hemorrhaging good talent daily.
  • A joint HR.com/Deltek study informs us that succession & career development planning, employee engagement, retention, performance management and learning are five of the top six issues keeping HR up at night.

…So now that you are tired of the data, what are we going to do about this issue?

Many of the issues we face at work are no different than those in our personal lives. If we aren’t being attentive enough at home, we need to step up and do something about it. In fact, when we know about issues and fail to act, it is viewed even more unfavorably because it becomes an “I/we don’t care” issue rather than just something of which we may not be aware. How does that make people in our personal lives or in our workplaces feel?

One of the most overlooked aspects of employee development (and showing that we are attentive, we care and are paying attention to employees’ needs) starts right in the interview process. Too often, we are either rushing the process just to fill a seat, or are only asking questions that help us determine if someone is a good fit “now”. Many of us are taking time to ask thoughtful interviewing questions regarding things that could really enhance our ability to engage or retain employees. Unfortunately, although we are noting them in interview logs and notes, they are immediately forgotten and not put to use. If we are asking the right questions in the interview, candidates are giving us the answers to the test. What’s the test, you ask? It’s whether or not we can rise to the challenge of putting a great program/strategy in place that is tailored towards meeting the varying needs of our employees, and facilitating their continued growth and development.

If someone is communicating their needs to us in our personal lives, with thought and attention, we can discern what needs to be addressed. We can use communication and interpersonal connection principles that allow us to specifically address the needs. Now, with that said, we need to be honest. We do our best to meet needs; however, we cannot be who we are not, or we will burn significant energy, create resentment, and harm relationships. Let’s apply this to interviews and employment. These needs/desires given in answer format in interviews are hopefully what we can support from a cultural or management perspective in our organizations. We cannot feign these items in order to “fill a seat” or we will end up with turnover, resentment, and a poor reputation in the market. This poor reputation will cause less attraction to our workplace, and drive down engagement and retention.

Career aspirations, short and long-term career development, motivational factors, skill and competency gaps, preferred learning styles and management, as well as cultural desires are key needs that can be uncovered in interviews. Powerful, thoughtful questions on these topics can guide us in our decision making on whether a candidate is both a fit “now” and potentially long-term. As we push through these powerful questions, as noted earlier…we now have the answers to the test. We know who our candidates and new hires are, and what we need to do to successfully foster effective performance management and development processes.

As we onboard these new hires, we have critical pieces of information to assist us in driving effective onboarding development plans. You have valuable information regarding:

  • Skill and competency gaps for the initial role, and how the employee envisions bridging the gap quickly
  • Preferred learning style and how they best implement learning and knowledge gains
  • Preferred frequency, style and methods for receiving feedback
  • Understanding of what motivates them to succeed and what you can do to incentivize them
  • Cultural and environmental needs

Much of this same information can be used for long-term development plans for advancement, gap and growth development and ultimate role career-pathing. You know how your employees work best, in what culture, what you can do as a manager to facilitate their development, how they consume and best implement learning, how you can best coach/motivate them, etc. Employees today, by and large, are looking for their roles to be developmental. Gain, grow, move forward (not necessarily up, but onto new challenges). The ability for HR leadership to acknowledge this and have a strategy is critical, and you will find that powerful interviewing will be the key to initiating and igniting the entire process.

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