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Top 10 Tips to Encourage Employee Development

Employee Development

1. Tell them.  Employees need to hear that it is their own responsibility to develop their skills and competencies. Too many organizations don’t correct the mistaken perception that it is the organization and/or the manager’s responsibility. Put this in writing and as part of the annual review process.

2. Structure the annual review so that the second half is focused on personal development for the future (not just past performance).

3. Target 1-2 areas. Help the employee pick 1-2 competencies to develop over the next review period. Having too many goals tends to block progress; it is better to focus on very few development goals if you want to encourage real growth.

4. Tie development goals to work goals. That is, how will growth in a competency such as stronger project management skills support the employee in achieving set work objectives?

5. Concrete plan. Once a development goal is set, get commitment to real steps to achieve that goal. Templates with columns for dates, actions taken, resources, and who will support the employee each should be completed and referred to frequently.

6. Provide resources for employees to access when creating their personal development plan; that is, booklets such as the Rapid Skill-Builder series that are short, work-oriented and include checklists and templates. These self-study resources support other development options such as courses, workshops, online research, learning from others and on-the-job activities.

7. Diversify. Encourage the employee to construct a development plan that includes different avenues of learning: self-study or reading booklets or books, learning from others such as shadowing or interviewing experts in the competency, on-the-job activities to build strength and outside pursuits.

8. Share the plan. Encourage the employee to share his/her development plan with peers, family and other significant others to get frequent feedback on progress from multiple sources.

9. Find an accountability coach. Check in with the employee regularly (perhaps monthly) or assign an “accountability coach” who will do this to keep the person on track and meeting developmental milestones.

10. Reward progress whenever you see it. For example, if the employee is working on improving his/her communications skills and you hear or see new and positive behaviors, tell him or her as soon as possible to reinforce improvement.

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About Anne Sandberg

With a degree in Experimental Psychology and a masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Anne Sandberg has 25+ years of experience in the human resources, training and management consulting arenas. Anne is President of ReadyToManage, Inc. and can be contacted at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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