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Development & Engagement: Cause & Effect

By Dr. Beverly Kaye

Managers and supervisors need to learn the difference between managing for career development and managing for performance improvement. It’s an important key to building an engaged workforce.

Engagement is not a program. It’s a result. It’s what you get when you do a number of things right. And it begins with development.

There are two things required for employee engagement: a) You have to like what you do, and b) You have to like what you do. Of course, there are other things, too. Like feeling valued, appreciated, appropriately rewarded and recognized. And maybe a little forward career motion, too. Feeling proud of your organization; having accomplishments; learning and growing.

But it has to start with development. If we don’t like what we do, if we don’t feel a teeny bit excited every day about something we’re doing, then we can’t feel engaged in our work. People who like what they do usually do it very well. They’re creative, put in more effort, meet or exceed goals and solve problems. And they donate valuable discretionary effort.

What Money Can’t Buy

Discretionary effort is what money can’t buy. It’s the difference between giving it your all (and then some) or maybe just squeaking by. It’s about giving 110% vs. 80%… all for the same compensation. Everything we want from excellent employees lives inside of discretionary effort:

  • Creativity
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving
  • High productivity
  • Loyalty
  • …etc.

When we’re doing the right work and getting the right input, we’re engaged. When we’re engaged, we work harder and feel a sense of satisfaction.

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Cultural Temperature

Every year thousands of organizations make a huge investment in employee satisfaction and engagement surveys. Millions of dollars are spent to take the “cultural temperature” of employees. The results are gathered, tabulated, cut into a hundred slices and reported. Management takes it very seriously. So do the folks who administer the survey. Money rides on it. It’s really about increasing productivity through happiness, but we never actually use the “h” word in business circles.

We have come to understand that happiness is what is required for increased productivity, and it can be directly translated into engagement and satisfaction. If we’re engaged, we’re happier. If we’re satisfied, we’re happier. It’s going to be difficult to increase productivity in a dissatisfied, disengaged, disgruntled workforce. Both productivity and engagement are inextricably linked. It’s doubtful that either can be achieved unless we’re in the right job, doing the right work and – at least to some degree – enjoying it.

And every year, thousands of organizations ponder how to increase satisfaction scores. There is much agreement on the need for development as part of a plan to increase productivity, satisfaction and engagement. The key is to encourage employees to create a development plan, provide the tools and training required and then actually implement the plan to increase an organization’s engagement and satisfaction scores.

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Building A Platform

Career development plans are the platform upon which engagement is built. They are used effectively for creating staffing strategies, decreasing voluntary turnover and especially to increase employee satisfaction and engagement.

There is a specific process for increasing engagement. Start with career development. Teach employees how to assess their skills, interests and values. Help them understand how they’re viewed in the organization. Inform them of what’s happening in the company that may change how they work. Open them up to new possibilities and multiple options and give them a tool to construct an action plan to help them get what they want.

That’s career development, and it will result in employee satisfaction and engagement.

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Manage For Development

The manager’s role in the career development process is to support it. Managers and supervisors need to learn the difference between managing for career development and managing for performance improvement. It’s an important key to building an engaged workforce.

We don’t believe it’s the managers’ job to engage employees. It is their job to have a “Stay Interview” with their direct reports to learn how to specifically help them grow. In many organizations, managers receive training in performance management. They learn, specifically, how to fill out an employee performance review form, how to have a performance review conversation and the mechanics and deadlines of submitting the data.

Sometimes, managers believe that performance and development are the same animal. That’s generally because there may be a small section of the performance appraisal form that deals with “areas for development,” and they begin to associate performance improvement and remediation with growth and development. However, these are very, very different management skills.

Career development is future-focused professional growth. Performance management is about getting the job done better now. Management training that provides training in performance management without training on managing for growth and development will only help the organization stay where it is today. Building talent for tomorrow requires a commitment to career development at every level of the organization with the supporting tools and processes to sustain it and hold managers accountable for how well they develop their staff.

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Moving the Needle

To get the talent you need for tomorrow, make sure you train employees how to view their own skills, talent and future with the organization. Give them the tools they need to continually assess their career and provide managers with the training they need to support the development of their talented employees. The results will absolutely move the needle on employee satisfaction scores and build a foundation of talent management.

Dr. Beverly Kaye is CEO and Founder of Career Systems International and best-selling author of ‘Love ’Em or Lose ’Em: Getting Good People to Stay and Love It’ and ‘ Don’t Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work.’ She also wrote the classic book, ‘Up is Not the Only Way,’ which established the foundation for her successful work in career development. A member of CLO Magazine’s Business Intelligence Board, Dr. Kaye has been recognized for her continual contributions to workplace learning as a recipient of ASTD’s Distinguished Contribution Award, was honored as a legend and pioneer in the area of career development, and with her clients was the recipient of several Best Practice Awards.

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June/July 2011

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