Friday Reflections – Personal Development


I am not a big fan of annual appraisals, I’m much more of an advocate of regular 1-2-1’s. I often find appraisals can prove to be a negative experience were people only take away the ‘constructive’ feedback, however, much positivity is given. Clearly feedback should never be saved up for once a year and appraisals can too easily become about the system or the process losing site of the value to the person.

Manager: “This is your revised salary, keep it confidential.”

Employee: “Don’t worry, I am equally ashamed of it!”

We all know that employee engagement drives the success of any organisation, highly engaged employees are far less likely to leave their roles and the Companies with higher engagement report significantly higher profitability – the correlation between engagement and business success has been demonstrated repeatedly.

A Gallup study revealed that 70% of the variance in employee engagement can be attributed to the line manager – 70% – a bad manager will trump your culture every time. I read that employees who have received meaningful back from their manager in the past week were four times more likely to be engaged to work. Frequent and constructive feedback given in the right way will nurture trusted relationships that should empower the employee.

This is way I have implemented a regular 1-2-1 process everywhere I have worked. However, in focusing on 1-2-1’s there is danger that we only discuss the current state of play and miss the longer-term planning and aspirations. Whilst I believe the regular feedback is hugely important, employees also need to be able to relate to the opportunities they perceive they have in terms of personal and career development. They need to feel they are growing professionally, see a path to advance, recognise that their job enables them to learn and develop new skills and feel they have a manager who is encouraging and supportive of their development.

This way we have focused development conversations that sits alongside the 1-2-1’s. The aim is to produce a personal development plan for individual that supports them to breakdown and achieve their longer term aims. The way we do it is to ask the them to complete a personal SWOT analysis prior to the conversation so they have already considered what they perceive to be their strengths and their opportunities to develop. We then use this as the foundation of the conversation to uncover their career aspirations and design their personal development plan.

In the conversation we take their goal and break it down into individual objectives – these maybe aimed at developing new skills, experiences, knowledge, confidence or breaking down barriers and blockers they may have. Even as a Training Company we recognise the 70/20/10 ratio of learning so often this isn’t about sending people on a course but providing access to different experiences: observing others, evaluating good and bad examples, researching and presenting back a topic, working in different areas, taking on added responsibility, working with a mentor, leading meetings, training others, modelling behaviours, working with others both internally and if possible in other organisations etc etc.

From a Company perspective the process also allows us to highlight those that have high potential, that are ambassadors for our culture or that are critical job experts – so we can ensure their plans are appropriate for them – ensuring the talent is challenged and developed so they stay, that the behaviours and approach of our cultural ambassadors are celebrated and recognised and that the information contained with the critical job experts is disseminated.

We then work with the individuals over to the course of the year to review how they are getting on in delivering the plan. We will help shape it, provide opportunity and help remove any blockers but they have to own it and drive it – Afterall it is their development. I would be really interested in how other organisation approach career development also happy to pass on the templates and process we use if that is of help to anyone.