It is NOT rocket science, but it IS an area which is a source of chronic pain in organizations…DEVELOPMENT!  In this case I am talking about employee development…skill development…career development.   Development is a new category on my blog and periodically I will be writing posts on this subject.

Development is an area in which I have found organizations to be chronically weak, and it is one which I have found to be among the most powerful in motivating employees.  Getting it right has huge payoffs. 

First, let’s get clear on the concept.  What do people want in their careers?  Simple…they want a career, not just a job and not just a paycheck.  It has been my experience that a pay raise is not motivating.  At best it is satisfying for the short term.  Unfortunately, pay raises are often not done well and become more of a DE-motivator.

Being good at employee development means that your organization will be more productive and effective.  It means that your employees will be more motivated and committed.  It means that you will have better reputation in the market and with your customers.


The possibility for individuals to grow and create future opportunity IS motivating.  I have found it to be the MOST powerful of motivational tools a leader has at his/her disposal.  People are trying to develop a future for themselves and they want to know that they can grow and develop in their chosen field of interest.  Most do not expect a hand-out and are not afraid to work for it.  In fact, working for it makes the reward that much more meaningful.  However, they know that they cannot achieve this kind of development without management support.

So, why is it so difficult to make it happen?  The conflict arises with leaders/managers.  It is not a priority because it is not seen as clearly having a payoff for the company.

  • First, it takes time to think of ways in which to develop employees.  It takes time to think through what their development needs are and what their career interests are. 
  • Second, it takes time and resources to actually carry out that development. 
  • Finally, once you do carry it out, the perception is that the employees move on to the next higher level job or, worse, out of the company.  This means change and requires the leader/manager to take the time to recruit and fill the position…it makes their job that much harder. 

While it may be true that they move on to better jobs, my experience has been that investment in development actually earns the organization HIGHER rates of employee retention and that this movement is internal.  In addition, there are other upsides/payoffs to developing employees.  

  • First, while they are with you they are more motivated because you are investing in them, which they know will mean greater career potential in the long term.  In my experience this translates to improvements to the bottom line.
  • Second, as you are developing them they are performing better in their current role so you are getting greater quality and productivity. 
  • Third, providing developmental and career opportunity builds a level of loyalty and commitment among your employees that earns you dividends even if they do leave the company, particularly when they are hired by your customers and your former loyal employee now becomes a committed customer because of how well you treated him/her. 

Still, employee development seems to be an enigma.  Despite great research on the subject, and the efforts of HR departments, who often have good ideas about how to make it happen, it doesn’t.  As a starting point, leaders need to recognize the importance of developing people and make it a priority.  Second, we all need to de-mystify the subject.  It is not that tough.  It just takes a conscious effort.

I will be writing more on this subject, but to get you started, most of the best development opportunities happen every day in business.  Focus on development “in-job” which means such things as job swaps, temporary special project assignments, and filling in for another employee who is out of work  for some reason.  It helps you as a leader/manager fill short-term gaps.  It can be done without cost.  It provides people opportunities to learn new skills.  Everybody wins! 

Being good at developing people means that as a leader/manager you will likely spend more time recruiting and filling open positions.  It means that you will likely have to deal with more change in your organization.  It means that you will have to spend time thinking about it and how to make it happen.  However, it means that your organization will be more productive and effective.  It means that your employees will be more motivated and committed.  It means that you will have better reputation in the market and with your customers. 

It will mean that you are doing YOUR job as a leader.