Designing a High Impact Development Plan

When companies take the time to develop their employees it’s a win for everyone. Employees obtain more skills, the company gets better results and shareholders bask in the success. I am a strong believer in employee development so it was no surprise when I asked my leadership team to make sure that everyone on our team had an employee development plan. In doing this, what I didn’t realize is how they would struggle with the task. The company I was working for at the time had a template and instructions for creating an employee development plan but after reviewing the plans that my leadership team put together it was apparent that leaders were struggling with what to do. That sparked the development of the “Now, Next and Never-ending” (3N) model for employee development that over the years, has proven to yield effective results.

Implementing the 3N development model starts with a personal discussion between the leader and the employee and ends with three distinct actions, focused on  “Now”, the “Next” and the “Never-ending” phases of employee development.

  • The Now discussion is focused on what the employee needs to do to add more value in their current job. This could range from learning the next step in the process, to broadening their knowledge, to improving their attention to detail or expanding their industry knowledge. It’s all about doing their current job better and being the best at what they do today.
  • The Next discussion asks employees what position they aspire to in the next 5 years with a follow-on discussion of what skills will help the employee be competitive when applying for this position. This is the perfect time to discuss overall career aspirations and what types of jobs can serve as a stepping stone for them to achieve their career goals. You will find that employees really engage in this discussion. It puts more ownership on them to identify their career goals and path. It also puts accountability on the leader to help them get there. When working through this step, I have asked employees to identify three specific job titles that they would be interested in. We then review the knowledge, skills and abilities for those jobs to identify key skills that they may need to build or hone to be a viable candidate for the position in the future.
  • The Never-ending discussion is focused on honing or developing a personal skill. This might include time management, communication, teamwork, public speaking, etc. It is a skill that will benefit the employee in any position and therefore has never-ending benefits.

Applying the 3N model to employee development yields effective outcomes because it is simple, has 3 distinct parts that leaders and employees can focus on and creates a forum for an effective discussion about where the employee is headed and how to get there – which is a discussion that most employees crave.   Identifying meaningful actions and follow-up is essential.  As each item is completed, another takes its place so there are always three development goals in place.

Applying the 3N model can be launched for little or no cost using your company’s  existing development infrastructure or it can be established with a simple 1-page template.  A critical element in making the 3N process work is having leaders who are genuinely interested in developing their employees. For some, a first step in instituting the 3N employee development process is to engage leaders in a discussion on how employee development fosters employee engagement, how it contributes to the company’s well-being and what is a leader’s role and responsibility in developing employees. If needed, workshops on how to conduct an effective career discussion and how to identify actions to close gaps in employee knowledge, skills and abilities with low-cost development activities can be held to help leaders be successful.

Employee development is a key enabler for employee satisfaction and achieving an engaged workforce.  It is not an option but a mainstay in assuring long-term success in any company.

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