Having conversations about learning and career expectations can help keep an employee on the road to professional growth.
We used to live in a world where we had to wait for things to happen. We had to wait for tomorrow’s paper to hear the news of today and we had to wait for a letter in the mail to hear from a friend. When you’re required to wait for so many things, you develop patience.
However, the way our world is now, we aren’t used to waiting. We can find ourselves getting impatient if a webpage takes more than two seconds to load or our oven takes a few minutes to preheat.
It makes sense that things move more quickly now than they did five or 10 years ago. The advancement of technology has created new efficiencies and changed the speed at which we operate. When we look back and see how quickly the world has evolved and technology has changed, can we really blame individuals who believe their growth and development should happen just as fast?
We all have goals for our own career and development. We may want to expand our knowledge and skills to strengthen our current capabilities, understand other functions of the organization or move into a more senior position. Leaders may discuss development and career goals with staff, but maybe not the expectations of when those goals could be achieved. Setting expectations for development is becoming more and more important for organizations and individual leaders.
It is not uncommon to have an employee who wants to participate in an opportunity that falls outside a department’s professional development budget or wants to move up in an organization where few leadership opportunities are available. When staff encounter what they feel is a roadblock in their development, they can begin to look outside the organization for opportunities that meet their current needs.
To combat these perceived roadblocks, we need to engage in discussions about expectations for development. These discussions can include timelines, available budgets, and identifying opportunities to supplement and support overall goals.
I offer you the following recommendations:
- Address restrictions. This could include budgets or frequency of available positions. Remember that restrictions do not have to shut down opportunities. Once restrictions are identified, ways to overcome can be discussed.
- Identify timelines. Engage in discussion to create an understanding of what it takes to grow skills. If you have an individual who wants to move up, be truthful about how long it could take and help that person see how full development of skills occurs with experience over time.
- Assess potential. Restrictions and timelines are separate from an individual’s potential. Understanding the potential an individual has and identifying strengths and gaps are important to not only creating a development path, but in identifying current and future opportunities.
- Establish ownership. Development is still reliant on the person. We have found more ways to be efficient in our ability to read, learn and access information, but absorbing and applying new information still requires an investment. The individual needs to put energy, effort and time into development and understand they cannot wait for someone else to make it happen.
These conversations may not always be easy, especially when you have someone who is looking to move up and opportunities may seem limited. They should also not stifle someone’s desire or ability to grow. But if you open the lines of communication and are honest about the possibilities, you can begin to discuss alternatives, address concerns, and identify opportunities.
Jennifer Stangl is director of professional development at CUES. CUES Consulting offers support in the creation of individual development plans for employees as well as resources for leaders to hone their skills in supporting employee development.