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Employee Development on a Shoestring

Boosting skills needn't take much extra time or money, but it does require thought and effort.

By David Putrich
July 4, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Your organization is only as effective as the people who work there. And the best way to develop an effective and motivated workforce is to keep people challenged. So why is employee development often overlooked at U.S. companies?
A study by Lominger Limited Inc., a leadership development consultancy in Minneapolis, looked at how well managers at many levels and across multiple industries performed in 67 defined competencies. At the bottom of the list was "developing direct reports."
Another workforce development firm, Development Dimensions International Inc. in Pittsburgh, reports that "developing others" is rated the lowest of 22 leadership competencies.
Experts estimate that about one in three workers has a written skills-development plan and is executing it. But are these employees getting better? At which skills? How good do they have to be? And at what? And what about the other two-thirds of workers? Are they getting better at anything that matters?
Consider your own organization. How much more successful could your IT department and company be if your development efforts were truly focused? Are managers rated on how well they help direct reports develop skills?
Even when employees are given training opportunities, it's not always clear that the training results in the expected outcome. According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, who wrote Working With Emotional Intelligence (Bantam, 1998), "Estimates of the extent to which skills taught in company training programs carry over into day-to-day practice on the job are as low -- and gloomy -- as a mere 10%."
To managers, that news is disheartening. But there is hope. Many organizations give high priority to developing employees, and -- training budget or no training budget -- anyone can do it. So before you say, "I can't do any skills development because the training budget was reduced to zero," consider this statistic from Lominger: 70% of what we learn as adults comes from our work experiences, 20% from a coach, and 10% from classes, workshops, books and articles.
Given that finding, the bulk of any individual's development plan should consist of work activities. And there are some specific and tangible things a manager can do to help employees develop their skills:

David Putrich
David Putrich
Image Credit: Sal Skog

• First, let your boss know what you're doing; you might want to establish a performance goal for yourself of developing your people. If the management team hasn't done much in terms of workforce planning, you may need to discuss future directions.
• Set aside time with each employee to discuss his career goals, particularly his understanding of potential roles in the organization. Suggest tha

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