Investing in employee development skills is critical in today's changing work environment.

Want to improve your employee development skills? First, start an open discussion with staff. (Photo via US Army Corps of Engineers, Flickr)

New research analysis by Gallup shows only two in 10 employees “strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.” Are you sure your management team’s employee development skills are working effectively?
Even if your company is above average at employee development, there’s an “immediate disruption” happening in the workplace that is a game changer for everyone.
That’s according to Gallup’s new research paper Re-Engineering Performance Management. The old ways of handling employee development and recognition simply aren’t working, the paper explains, and it’s time for HR to reevaluate and overhaul.
It starts with management developing a new outlook and new skills.
In other words, if you want employee development that drives results, your team needs to be willing to develop, too!
Ultimately what we all want is the same: a happy, creative, productive and dedicated workforce in which employees feel recognized and appreciated for their work and have a sense of belonging to the company culture.

What Happened, and Why Is Change Necessary?

Time for a reality check.
Just 20 percent of employees “strongly agree” that their company’s performance management system motivates them.
Meanwhile, organizations are making overly confident assumptions about the effectiveness of their employee development and management systems — and wasting “tens of thousands of hours and tens of millions of dollars on activities that not only don’t work but also drive out top talent,” Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist, writes in the latest Gallup paper.
Moreover, Harter writes, “the future of work is being shaped by extraordinary changes in technology, globalization and overwhelming information flow.”
In this climate, employee development is more effective than employee management, Carter explains:

“Workers are asking for something different. They want a coach, not a boss. They want clear expectations, accountability, a rich purpose, and especially ongoing feedback and coaching.”

The price tag for not pursuing what workers want is steep. Gallup estimates that poor management and lost productivity among disengaged employees costs between $960 billion and $1.2 trillion per year.
So what’s the solution? Gallup has some answers. Their valuable Re-Engineering Performance Management report “presents our best analytics and advice for our clients or anyone considering transforming their performance management system.”
Let’s take a look.

The First Step to Better Employee Development

Broaden your idea of employee development skills - listening and mentoring are especially valuable.

Employees do better work when managers engage them in an “ongoing conversation.” (Image via Valery Kenski, Flickr)

The annual review may not be obsolete, but in its current form at most companies, it is almost completely ineffective at communicating accurate and motivational feedback to employees.
Most performance review systems are set up for failure, Gallup finds.
They’re riddled with bias, happen too infrequently, lack clarity and put too much emphasis on pay and financial incentives. As a result, employees are often left feeling confused, misunderstood and unmotivated.
Better communication is a reoccurring theme in the solutions Gallup puts forward.
Employees now expect an “ongoing conversation” in place of or in addition to an annual review.
Gallup calls for a cultural shift in thinking.
“To change how performance is achieved, organizations must begin to philosophically and functionally shift from performance management to performance development,” according to the paper.
This requires managers to “think of themselves in a new way: as a coach, not a boss.”
In practical terms, it means opening up two-way communication — ie., conversation.
It means more asking, less telling — for instance, making sure employees understand their goals and discussing any questions they have on the spot.
“People tend to find goals to be more fair and motivating when they have a voice in setting them,” according to Gallup. “Collaborative goal-setting also ensures that performance expectations are fair, relevant and challenging.”
Moreover, “Gallup research finds that employees are more likely to be engaged when they strongly agree that they can approach their manager with any type of question and talk to him or her about non-work-related issues.”
Managers still need to be the boss — in fact, employees who strongly agree that their manager holds them accountable for their performance are 2.5 times more likely to be engaged — but this accountability and engagement is strongest when managers have a “coaching,” conversation-driven mentality.
Lastly, the “ongoing conversation” method of employee development allows more opportunities for recognition, a vital component in any development program.
Instead of highlighting a handful of major accomplishments once a year, frequent recognition allows for celebration of “winning moments” big and small. Gallup explains how this improves performance:

“By celebrating an array of achievements, managers and employees can create a dialogue about how to experience these ‘winning moments’ more often by enabling people to do what they do best more frequently.”

Download Gallup’s in-depth report for more inspiration on revamping and sustaining an employee development program that meets the challenges of today’s changing workplace.

Free Resource: Your Day-to-Day Employee Engagement Calendar

We all need inspiration to make employee appreciation a daily habit. gThankYou’s 2017 Day-to-Day Employee Celebration Calendar gives you the tools and inspiration to build a culture of appreciation every day of the year. Be inspired; download yours today, absolutely free.

“In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day — or to celebrate each special day.” – Rasheed Ogunlaru, coach and author

Here’s to a happier workplace in 2017!
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