As a manager, your key responsibility is to help your team members grow and develop professionally. The cost of hiring, onboarding and training a new employee far outweighs the cost of taking time to coach and develop your existing team members.
Great coaching always begins with a strong performance development plan. When you’re working with someone who’s really struggling, it can be difficult to know where to start. It’s important not to overwhelm them with too many improvements at once, this can lead to confusion or further discourage them. The best strategy is to pick a few areas to focus on first. Should you begin with the area where they’re struggling the most, or the skills that are most relevant to their job description? The answer may surprise you.
While it may seem counterintuitive, you should focus on the areas where they show the most potential. Strengths based development is an HR movement that has been growing in popularity. According to a 2015 survey by researcher and applied psychology expert Michelle McQuaid, 64% of employees believe they are more successful when building up their strengths as opposed to weaknesses. This can have a major impact on motivation, as those who have strengths discussions with their managers are 78% more likely to feel their work is appreciated and is making a difference within the team.
Similarly, the survey found that managers who know their team members’ strengths are 71% more likely to have people who are engaged and energized. They are also in a better position to assign tasks that will motivate and incentivize them, which can have a major impact on employee turnover. According to a 2015 Gallup Survey, 93% of US adults who left their employer left to pursue a career change. But if managers are able to create more opportunities for career mobility within an organization, they will be more likely to retain and grow a more talented workforce.
Try these 4 steps to help your team members personalize their strengths-based development plan.
1. Encourage them to do a self-assessment
Everyone has their own skills, they just need to learn how to identify and develop them. As part of their 360 or performance review, ask them to sit and come up with a list of their biggest accomplishments, as well as areas they want to focus on developing further.
The results of their review can be a great resource to get better insights into what others perceive as their strengths in the workplace, as well as opportunities for development. Comparing the list of their interests and strengths will help them to come up with the workplace skills they are most interested in developing.
2. Set up a post-review 1-on-1
If your managers aren't running regular 1-to-1s already, they should be setting them up post-review to help provide a time to review feedback provided. As a manager your job is to ideally help connect their skills and interests to your company’s objectives.
If they don’t already have some short and long term goals in mind, help them come up with some that also align with your company and team’s objectives. The goals should be challenging yet attainable, providing the right amount of motivation without the risk of getting lost along the way.
With their strengths, interests and goals in mind, offer suggestions for ways they can train, develop and improve their skills. This can include stretch assignments, courses they could attend or help them seek out a mentor who can provide them with further guidance. Some feedback platforms now allow people to ask peers for feedback on goals or particular skills they would like to develop further, so they can request coaching from others outside of structured review processes.
They should help them come up with time frames and measurements for achieving these goals. Remember being too ambitious could lead to disillusionment, while leaving things too open may lead them to get side tracked. As long as the assignments play to your team member’s strengths and are within reach, you should see a significant change in motivation and engagement levels.
A useful method to make sure these goals incentivize rather than discourage, is the S.M.A.R.T model, which you can use as a check list. By helping them to link their strengths and interests to attainable goals, they will be able to take ownership of their professional development plan.
3. Provide real-time feedback
After the first two meetings, you want to keep encouraging your team member to continue on the development plan. The best way to encourage them is through real-time or continuous feedback, so they understand how they might continue to improve in the moment, rather than waiting months until the next review period. When you see they’ve reached a milestone, be sure to acknowledge their success. When you see them struggling, acknowledge their efforts and offer some actionable advice. It’s important that they know you’re taking a vested interest in their development.
4. Set milestones to track and review progress
Continue to schedule 1-to-1s to review their progress, and remember to select a cadence that works for you both so you can review milestones as they progress towards reaching their overall goal. Hopefully at this point they’ve made some strides in the right direction, now it’s time to check in and make sure they keep it up. Start by discussing the progress they’ve made against the overall goal, as understanding what they’ve been doing right will help them continue on the same path.
After working on their strengths, they will have the confidence and experience to begin developing other areas they may need more improvement on.
As a manager you have a large amount of responsibility, keeping your team motivated and engaged is one. Download our guide to learn how to better support your employees to reach their fullest potential.