Article: Development The Prescription For Growth

Learning & Development

Development The Prescription For Growth

As market conditions get harder and the war to retain talent intensifies, there is a need for organizations to have laser-focused employee effectiveness strategies, possible only through adequate focus on the 'development' side of the L&D spectrum

In an employee's performance ecosystem, development is the fourth critical dimension.


The word ‘development' has a positive ring to it.Everyone wants to develop and grow,so development planning has the ability to touch the heart of every individual


As market conditions get harder and the war to retain talent intensifies, there is a need for organizations to have laser-focused employee effectiveness strategies, possible only through adequate focus on the ‘development’ side of the L&D spectrum

As I ponder over the “D” in L&D, I wonder which should come first - the L or the D. In almost all the concepts it participates in, the “D” ends up playing second fiddle to all the initials that precede it! Whether it is learning, leadership or coaching, they all play the dominant role with ‘development’ ending up as an assumption or a ‘logical outcome’.
In reality, development can actually be a powerful tool - the catalyst that drives all of the above and chalking out a reliable roadmap for the foreseeable future and enhancing employee effectiveness, satisfaction and retention.

Development Planning: The Fourth Dimension
In an employee’s performance ecosystem, development is the fourth critical dimension. As the name suggests, it is a planning process that drives outcomes, but is not an outcome in itself.
Most organizations have reasonably well-defined processes in place for the first three dimensions in the performance ecosystem (job description, KRAs and the appraisal system) – the pride of a place being given to appraisal. Yet, organizations struggle to run a formal, documented and religiously followed development planning process. But it does exist. In many cases, it gets merged with the appraisal process, gets treated as a gap analysis, or has other variants.
As market conditions get harder and the war to retain talent intensifies, the need to laser-focus employee effectiveness strategies will be greater. Hence, it is time to look at the fourth dimension closely.

Planning for development
Development planning is a live, ongoing process. It is what helps employees evolve from their current level of performance to a higher level. A follow-through of the appraisal process, the development plan identifies performance gaps, encourages successes, identifies clear action steps and brings focus to the employee’s goals and career progression. While the appraisal process is a dashboard for today’s performance, the development process is a roadmap for tomorrow’s advancement.

Implementing a development planning process
In order for organizations to successfully run a development planning process, the following fundamental principles are vital:
1. Leadership and stakeholder buy-in: It needs to begin at the top, from the CEO and the leadership team.
2. Communication: It should be baked into the company’s internal communications and employee engagement programs like town halls, newsletters, etc. For ease of understanding and the retrieval of actionable items, a development planning template always works. The HR team should facilitate the process partnering with the line managers – their best allies.
3. Ease of execution: It should be easy. Today’s technology allows for an online process providing a combination of drop down-menus for standardized items and free-form text for details. Online administration can provide MIS to HR managers and leaders at a central and local level thereby reducing execution time.
4. Maintenance: Monitored periodically. Not only does the market environment change, employees too change their minds about their career progression. Consequently, the development process requires constant monitoring and updating, right down to the first level of leadership.
5. Follow through: A theoretical process benefits no one. On the contrary, it wastes time and reduces employee confidence. Hence, it is vital for the agreed commitments to be followed through by the employee as well as the supervisor.

Key elements of a development plan
The development planning tool or template should consider the following aspects:

a. Alignment:
i. The development plan should be aligned with the employee’s KRAs.
ii. It should be aligned with the employee’s career graph. The development plan should capture with reasonable clarity what the employee’s current aspiration within the organization is (for example, next role, next lateral/promotion move).
iii. It must capture the current picture of what the employee’s future plans look like.
b. Traffic light: What the employee should accelerate (green), continue doing (amber), or stop doing (red). While the traffic light model is usually restricted to tasks the employee is performing, there is scope to include behavior and attitudes as well with the caveat that the inclusion is supported by fact (for example, peer/upward feedback).
c. Gap analysis: What has been missed out? What more needs to be done? Where should the employee focus more? This analysis could include both actions and behaviors.
d. Action planning: What are the specific actions that need to be taken in the immediate, medium and long term. We all understand that all gaps cannot be closed immediately. So the emphasis should be on prioritizing what needs to be done first. Consequently, the biggest gaps may get covered (not necessarily closed!) but some areas may still remain open.
e. Agreement on responsibilities: It is important to define the roles and responsibilities of the employee, supervisor, LOB head and the employee’s mentor. This would make success an inclusive effort, and give the employee the comfort that the manager is interested in his/her development.
f. Define readiness level: The development plan also helps define where the employee stands in the evolution towards competence; within the existing role or with regard to the next logical step towards the desired state. Development planning also helps in succession planning.
g. Follow-through: The development planning should be a seamless continuation of the appraisal process. Employees and supervisors should be equally accountable for the timely follow-through of the agreements arrived at.

Development plan: A feeder for employee effectiveness initiatives
An effective development planning process provides HR managers the vital data that helps determine employee effectiveness interventions – to refine existing programs and introduce new, more relevant, focused ones.
Development and learning: Development plans can provide factual feedback towards a training needs analysis, to determine specifically what kind of training would benefit the largest population.
Development and mentoring: Data from the development planning process can uncover the need to either expand an existing mentoring program or create a new one altogether. Mentoring programs for high performers/ potentials help these critical employee groups to do even better. Mentoring programs cost virtually nothing, but significantly enhance employee engagement and motivation!
Development and coaching: Development planning could also throw up the need for coaching programs for employees who need more than just guidance; those needing direction as well - the solid average performers. It motivates them to perform better and look forward to a better career and greater reward.
Development and the PIP: On the flip-side, the development plan can help managers give poor performers (a) an opportunity to improve or (b) a strong message to move on. Development planning can dovetail into a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).
The word ‘development’ has a positive ring to it. Everyone wants to develop and grow, so development planning has the ability to touch the heart of every individual.
In the ecosystem that governs an employee’s life, the job description is the DNA. The KRAs form the ideal employee deliverables. The appraisal process becomes the diagnosis to determine the gap between current and ideal state. Consequently, the development plan prescribes the course to attain the ideal state in a transparent, structured and inclusive manner.

Oscar DeMello is a Director at Just Hull, an advisory firm that focuses on employee and organization effectiveness

Read full story

Topics: Learning & Development, Strategic HR

Did you find this story helpful?



How do you envision AI transforming your work?

People Matters Big Questions on Appraisals 2024: Serving or Sinking Employee Morale?

LinkedIn Live: 25th April, 4pm