We develop products, why not people?

George Garrett
George Garrett, SPHR. SHRM-SCP is a founding member of Future Focus Group, LLC, based in Houston, TX. George has spent his entire career in human resources leadership and consulting. He has contributed to and written extensively for several publications in both the US and Europe. He is certified by both the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) as a senior practitioner. George also holds a certification in Employee Relations Law from the Institute for Applied Management and Law. He is a Distinguished Toastmaster through Toastmasters International and delivers powerful, engaging talks regarding the changing field of human resources. George is a Texas native and co-author of “Evolved…Engaging People, Enhancing Success”, released in late 2014.
George Garrett
George Garrett
George Garrett

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Every successful organization must innovate and continuously develop and improve products and services to remain competitive in today’s world. Their success is dependent on this. Yet, when it comes to development of their most important resource, people, they often fall short. In many organizations throughout the world, employee development is not placed on the same plane as product or service. Multiple surveys and studies reveal employee development is often neglected, not completed properly or poorly executed. This creates an ineffectual system of employee development and corresponding performance. Accordingly, people become disenchanted and…disengaged.

When used correctly, employee development can and should serve as a catalyst within the Performance Management process. Employee development, not appraisal, builds a pathway for an employee to develop skills, address areas needing improvement and position both the employee and the organization for future success. This is important in an era where skillsets are in demand and supplies of qualified labor are diminishing.

Developing one’s workforce is a win-win proposition. Businesses benefit from competent and engaged employees and employees benefit by being developed. They gain confidence and knowledge which enhances their future within a company.

In the previous century, Frederick Herzberg outlined factors that motivate people. His concept illustrated the need for development. In short, he stipulated employees (people) are intrinsically motivated by:

  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • Work itself
  • Responsibility
  • Promotion
  • Growth

These form the basis of every sound employee development plan. Yet, there are disconnects in today’s business world. For example, in one very recent study, the lack of career development and advancement opportunities was the chief and most common reason for people leaving their organization.

Turnover costs and this by itself should be reason enough to guide efforts in a new direction.

To inspire, engage and create excellent performance, organizations must work with employees in promoting solid career growth. And, when organization’s incorporate factors such as the ones outlined by Herzberg, an alignment is created that enables employees to transform into high performing individuals, enhancing their skill, and aiding the organization in its pursuit of business excellence. When handled properly employees are empowered to identify and acquire the skills they need to progress within their careers. This will become a vital necessity as skill shortages increase, based on changing demographics throughout the western world.

There is an even greater result which stems from development. By instituting sound individual development plans the typical employee performance appraisal may be rendered obsolete. Why sit in judgment when the performance can be managed through more effective means? Management of performance helps guide a part of a system that drives so many other inter-related areas and processes. It thus becomes a value added proposition to the organization.

This is 21st century leadership.

However, we must be cognizant that not all people learn at the same speed or in the same way. Since development occurs through learning, leaders must recognize the basic three ways individuals learn and use this understanding effectively when designing each individual’s growth plan. Adult learning requires a broader approach and multiple levels of techniques.

Different jobs also require different competencies. And, as jobs shift, so do competencies, assuring they are in line with the future of the organization. Learning occurs when competencies are known by both the manager and employee. Once again, growth motivates people, so does achievement as well as the work itself.

A typical 21st century knowledge worker would have a set of universal competencies such as the following.

  • Intellectual
  • Interpersonal
  • Leadership
  • Organization
  • Self-management

Based on an individual’s level of attainment of each competency a simple yet effective development plan is created. We favor a process whereby the leader (regardless of whether they are a supervisor or manager), has dialogue with the employee to establish a meaningful and understandable development path. This plan incorporates elements of (1) internal training, (2) external training and (3) special projects.


Rather than focusing on the behaviors side of performance, efforts are directed at the performance side of performance. Competency attainment adds value to the organization now and well into the future.

One different approach to development is found in the following flow. While unique in some respects, the uniqueness may be its simplicity. This straightforward approach works well in the fast moving world of today and irrespective of organization size. This pathway is a highly effective way to bring learning and improvement into the modern workforce.

This is development. This is engagement.