Recently, I was part of an HR roadshow in my organization which touched close to 700 employees. In that exhibition, I interacted with many employees who spoke of their understanding of the word 'development.' I realized that everyone talked primarily about the same areas – those of increasing skills, capability, movements, promotions, etc. in the context of development. One thing stood out – people spoke of development and training in the same breath.Therefore, in their opinion training equaled development.
Today, we have moved on to various channels of education and learning – we have e-modules, gamified content, simulations, academic projects and mobile learning, to name a few. The question is: do these unique channels have a direct impact on development and can this be measured? Although we have moved leaps and bounds in technology and the digital age, we still deprioritize development and push it to the back burner. Often, people want specific time set aside for developing oneself. I could think of the following reasons why:
- Our conditioning all through K-12 which 'tells rather than asks,' confirms rather than confronts and is probably one of the reasons why we want to delegate our development to a third party
- Our hesitance to saying yes to new experiences which are not yet 'Accepted' by our larger society. For e.g. taking a gap year after college or after a few years of work to explore the world is a great way of developing oneself and gaining perspective. Does corporate India consider it thus or are we looking for valid reasons why the person had a break from employment while hiring or while giving them opportunities?
In my opinion, a person truly develops when they experience things that have a direct impact on their job. Anything else gets classified as input!
Often, in the hope of giving our employees a uniquely engaging experience, the relevance and linkage to immediate work are lost. This is a crucial piece in any development journey.
Talent does not 'develop' unless it is directly linked to one’s work. Let us take the example of Facebook, Twitter, and usage of social media channels. ‘Developing’ proficiency in social media didn’t require any specific training or skill building course. Mostly, people learned by themselves or at best from others. Thus, furthering the development agenda in my mind requires few things only. The few ways are:
- Linking it to the immediate job: While action learning projects are our best bet while developing people, sometimes these might get cumbersome owing to lack of time, or a well-defined project. My view, while managing one of the other development programs was this: focus on the small wins; keep it simple! For e.g. if an operations manager needs to understand pricing as part of his development goal, my advice is to meet the finance person of the BU or the financial controller. If the individuals can build rapport, identify what they want to learn and set small achievable targets for themselves, then they will develop.
- Having a meaningful conversation: It is a proven fact that people learn from each other and are more likely to remember a one to one conversation and refer to it. But this does require will as well as genuine interest from the individual and her team to have a meaningful, evocative dialogue. My example to share is that when I met with a senior leadership team member once, he shared with me his challenges, fears, and interests and encouraged me to do the same. By articulating my thoughts, I received clarity for next steps in my own career. Without the tag of a formal “coaching” session, I realized that people are willing to help – all one needs to do is ASK! The worst you will receive is a no, but have found that also rare in my experience.
- Saying 'yes' to the experience: Often, we hear the words 'it is not part of my job description.' We forget that a JD is an overall guideline and not a document which is cast in stone. A person never developed by focusing on the words (and not the spirit) written in a JD. By saying yes to a new task, by jumping headlong into a project that one has no prior experience in, by willing to risk failure to succeed in future, a person shows they are actually interested in their own development. Case in point: One of my previous team members was in a finance team, and wanted a stint in HR since she had a real passion for learning and development with NO prior experience in HR. With a short stint of three months within HR, she realized her true passion and that her own development lay in another field. Today, three years after making the shift, she is the spokesperson for the success of highly relevant self - development plan!
Furthering the development agenda, therefore, is about self-awareness and finding those experiences that are right for a person. It could be learning from a senior, reading or putting oneself through a different area altogether, but ultimately the individual would need to make that choice – to develop or to deteriorate!