The dynamics of effective development
The most effective learning often comes from experiential learning during on-thejob training, coaching and mentoring
The growth of any organisation is underpinned by the individual development of their employees. It may seem that both the organisation and its employees are equally committed to such development, but often, this is not the case. For most organisations, the true challenge lies in shifting the ownership of development from an organisational push to an employee pull, because only once you’ve affected this shift can you start to create effective development dynamics.
This is the opinion of Monika Ferdin, CHEP HR director for Africa, India and the Middle East. She highlights four steps to be taken by organisations that wish to see their employees take true ownership of their own development.
The building blocks of awareness
Communicating the company’s learning and development strategy is crucial to set the scene for this ownership shift. Development is still frequently associated with traditional classroom-based learning, while other methodologies are considered inferior.
“However, we know that the most effective learning often comes from experiential learning that takes place during on-the-job training, coaching and mentoring,” says Ferdin. “Unless the HR team can clearly communicate the value of these types of experiential learning methods, the ownership shift that is so crucial to development will never take place. They need to effectively outline the learning and development strategy and approach to the entire organisation to ensure that everyone is aligned and empowered.”
Aspire to greatness
To boost the staff’s appetite for development a clear, aspirational vision must be crafted for each employee. This is where the role of the line manager is crucial. During each annual individual development planning session, the line manager should help the employee to explore her career progression ambitions and use it as an anchor for her development plan. But, as Ferdin cautions, it is vital that the manager manages employee expectations and help them to set realistic goals. Accept that not everyone wants or needs vertical career progression, and allow the employee to define their required development for their current role, with subtle guidance from the line manager. If this is done correctly, employees will actively start taking ownership of their development.
Identify the gap
The next step is for the line manager to assist the employee in defining the shortfalls in their skill set, capabilities and/or behaviours and to help bridge them with the individual development plan. By identifying the concrete steps needed to move the employee closer to their own goals, the manager creates a solid foundation for the desired ownership shift. “You start creating a desire within the individual for the needed development, because now they have defined the end goal themselves and they understand what tangible steps are required to get there. It is an important psychological shift,” states Ferdin. “But don’t rush this step, or simply assume that you as the line manager know where the employee wants to progress to. Use it to build the employee’s self-awareness.”
Tools of the trade
Once a relevant, clear proposal of the development interventions is crafted, it (and the actual learning processes) should be readily available to the employee. This would typically include e-learning courses, standard skills development classroom training, and leadership development programmes, all of which are provided and managed by HR.
The power of the people manager
Ferdin calls effective development a subtle dance between an empowered and inspired employee and a committed and responsible line manager. “Remember that classroom-based learning only makes up roughly 30% of the entire development toolbox. The other 70% is derived from onthe-job experience, which remains the responsibility of the line manager,” says Ferdin. “Because the 30% is so tangible, the 70% is often neglected, and then we run the risk of a development plan becoming a box-ticking exercise, which ultimately won’t address the identified gaps in an employee’s development. And if these gaps remain, it results in a frustrated employee who fails to achieve her own aspirations, and an organisation that is not functioning optimally.”
If an organisation doesn’t pay attention to the coaching skills of its people leaders, then the enthusiasm of the employees towards their individual development will quickly dissipate and become counterproductive.
“CHEP has been on the journey of building its line managers’ capabilities for some time now. Though we’ve seen a definite increase in awareness and overall coaching capability within our organisation, the ownership of development is not yet clearly established,” admits Ferdin. “It is a journey, and we will continue to build on our successes to ensure that we remain a highperforming organisation that truly values learning.”
Left: Line managers assist employees to find and address the shortfalls in their skill set and behaviour.
Right: Monika Ferdin, CHEP HR director for Africa, India and the Middle East, believes employees must be allowed to define their required development for their current role, with subtle guidance from the line manager. Photos: Carl Smorenburg &