Tips for personnel development

March 22, 2017

Career tip from Maria Nazarova, MBA

There are different opinions about personnel development. Some say, that it is not the company responsibility, but each individual should be held responsible for maintaining his / her skills and knowledge up-to-date. Others – find it extremely important to invest into the constant professional growth of the staff. The research clearly says that investing into employee development strongly correlates with increased engagement and improved performance.*

A woman talking to a man

If the facts indicate the need for staff development, why are so many managers hesitant and invest so little time? Perhaps, there is a couple of challenges associated with such “investment”: one needs to understand the needs and desires of the staff-members, have sufficient resources (personal time, training budgets, development tools and processes, etc.) and be ready to hold conversations when your team members ask for something, which you not always can or want to offer (e.g. expensive long-term courses, promotion (or) salary increase as a result of training-driven know-how extension, etc.). So you need to make experience with this topic to do it well.

Unlike many other sources offering tips and hints, I would recommend you to start with acknowledging where you currently are. You can do it through asking yourself the following simple questions:

  • What is my attitude to team development now? What have I done so far and which results did I notice?

  • If I have not done much, which opportunities do I miss as a manager and a leader?

  • If I took real care about my team’s professional skills, individual needs and wishes, what would I have done?

  • Which fears which stop me from acting (and keep me in the comfort zone) do I face? How can I find ways to deal with them?

Write down your answers – it’s more efficient than just thinking. Going honestly through these questions and the conversation you have in mind might open up new opportunities for you: you can always keep the status quo or you can decide to create something tangible and meaningful with and for your team. Such decision might have a certain price to pay – you will have to give up your comfort, might face some resistance or feel insecure, but it also might help you to achieve a different quality of results, feeling joy, fulfillment and being holistic.

If you are ready to try new things out, consider these points:

  1. Focus on relationships you create with your team. Try to remember the leaders, who invested more time into being with the team, who were careful observers and could not only spot the strengths and needs for development, but what’s more important – address those so that the team member could take their feedback and work on them. Maybe they were good listeners, who really demonstrated and acted with care. Find one or two points you would like to change and start working on them.

  2. Make personnel development a priority. A lot of companies have yearly processes of managing performance, which include conversations on development.  However holding such conversations once a year is insufficient. My strong recommendation to the managers I work with is to set up development plans for their team members and discuss the progress and findings on the regular basis. You can also introduce some experience sharing into your regular meetings, share your observations and personal lessons learned, creating the atmosphere of openness, where people can also talk about their failures and how they shaped their mind-set or behavior.

  3. Share the responsibility for development. I hear sometimes managers saying that they are afraid of the need to take complete responsibility for staff development on their shoulders. And they should not: it’s evident that the third party cannot be held responsible for the career of another person. I recommend the managers to outline that learning is a priority and that each team member can make a choice to pro-actively define their development paths. The employees should also be prepared to explain and argue their training ideas. The role of the managers here is to guide and sometimes even challenge their team members, but not just to construct some activates for their team and be accountable for the outcome. 

  4. Look for support. If holding development conversations is new for you and you didn’t have good examples in the past, find some supporters among HR practitioners, coaches or look for a sparring partner or a mentor. Nowadays there are a lot of sources where you can find the answers to your staff-related questions. Companies continuously work on processes and tools to support learning and development. Check what is already available on the company level, find a seminar for yourself to strengthen the required skills.

And finally, there is no guarantee that if you start investing into staff development, you will see immediate change in business results or employee attitude. But even making small steps will gradually contribute to creating new quality of working atmosphere and start shaping the working culture. Any realized strategy is definitely better than the intended one! So give it a try!

* Harvard business review analytic services (2013) “The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance”. Available at:  [Accessed: 05 Mar 2017].

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