In previous posts in the Creating a Development Culture series, I’ve discussed the importance of creating a vision, establishing values and clarifying expectations to help form a development culture. With those elements in place, we can now consider the systems or processes that help the vision, values and expectations become a reality.
By “systems”, I of course don’t necessarily mean those that are technology-enabled, but rather the processes and structure provided to enable and ensure the expectations are met.
For reference, we’re focusing on the 4th column in Figure 1.
Below are four keys to help ensure the development systems support the desired culture.
Key 1: Map Your Organization’s Expectations with the Existing Systems
We need to ask ourselves what current systems or processes support the execution of our expectations around development (we’re aligning the 4th column with the 3rd column in Figure 1 above).
For example, if one of our expectations is that employees “own” their development, then what does this require in terms of support? Is it totally up to the employee to decide how she/he goes about discussing development with his/her manager, or do we provide some guidelines as to how often these conversations should happen, and what the format should be? Do we provide any training for employees to help them determine and evaluate their career goals? What tools do we have in place?
If another expectation is that managers coach employees on their development, do we provide skill development around coaching?
By actually listing our primary expectations, we can then assess if we have the basics in place to support those expectations – see Figure 2 below.
Figure 2 – Mapping Example
As can be seen from the example above, some system pieces are in place, but there is a clear need to strengthen the systems to better align with the expectations. From this exercise, you can then determine which of the system improvements will provide the most benefit.
Key 2: Ensure the systems are mutually supportive or at least don’t contradict each other.
The next key is to ensure that our current systems don’t reinforce or encourage behaviors that are not in alignment with our stated values. For example, do we say we want people leaders who take their people development responsibilities seriously, but then we select (or promote) leaders who show little to no interest or ability in developing their teams? Or do we say that we value senior technical individual contribution but then have no way to recognize or reward our technical talent unless they move into people leadership roles?
I suggest focusing on the primary disconnects to improve the alignment of the systems with the expectations and values. Start with a hard look at the answers to the question of “whom do we promote and why”? The answers to this question will tell you a lot about what is truly valued in your organization.
Key 3: Use multiple development approaches.
Encourage your teams and leaders to consider multiple methods of development – specifically going beyond the training classroom. Many of the best development actions can be on-the-job assignments that provide experience that builds skills and competence while getting work done. For example, taking responsibility for building my presentation skills can be accomplished through creating and delivering a key presentation at work, in conjunction with taking a course in effective presentations.
Systems enhancements here might include sample development plans illustrating multiple development methods with a guide of on-the-job actions that could support development of key skills or competencies.
Key 4: Don’t overcomplicate the development process.
Creating a good culture of development does not require a lot of fancy systems, processes or money, but rather a commitment by all parties to focus on it regularly. Sure, having specific forms, tools, and training help, but the most important thing is to ensure that there is ongoing dialogue focused on development and regular progress on agreed-upon actions. The infrastructure can come over time as the business needs warrant.
We want to make it as easy as possible for our employees and leaders to live our development values. Taking a moment to analyze our current systems will allow us to critically assess whether we have the basic processes in place to reinforce our development expectations and values.