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Development Planning Conversation Guide

The current forecast is that most of us will have five different careers and up to seventeen jobs in our lifetime. Depending on how long you’ve been in the workforce, that can put learning—and sometimes wholesale reinvention—high up on the list of your personal priorities. If not for you, then it certainly will for your younger people.

The current forecast is that most of us will have five different careers and up to seventeen jobs in our lifetime. Depending on how long you’ve been in the workforce, that can put learning—and sometimes wholesale reinvention—high up on the list of your personal priorities. If not for you, then it certainly will for your younger people. According to a 2020 report by McKinsey, between 30 and 40 percent of those of us living in developed countries may need either to change our occupation or upgrade our skills significantly within the next ten years. From an organization viewpoint, this means investing in learning is a powerful way to attract and then retain great people. It also gives companies a crucial competitive edge, fast-forwarding engagement and innovation.

Typically, there are three main types of development planning discussion:

  • Development to help each person achieve their current goals
  • Development to build each person’s longer-term career
  • Development to support succession planning

Development to help each person achieve their current goals

It’s likely that everyone will need extra skills or knowledge to deliver their existing goals. Keep in mind that this includes junior and senior people. As one board member once put it, “To be world class you still need to do the basics, just in ever-increasingly stressful situations.” Before you hold the conversation, set aside time to:

  • Analyze performance targets for the year ahead
    What capabilities does the team member need to succeed?
    Where do they have strengths that can be leveraged / gaps that need to be closed?
  • Review the feedback they have received
    What areas have been highlighted for attention by key stakeholders?
    Is there any feedback available from, for instance, development centers, questionnaires, milestone events?
    What are the most recent industry trends in their area?
  • Review their skill profile
    What development actions have they already undertaken?
    How well are these working?
    Where might they occasionally be required to cover for another person?

Development to build each person’s longer-term career

One of the best possible ways to motivate your people is to help them take a step towards their future. Not everyone wants to move further, but for those who do, having a plan will have a significant impact on their energy and effort, even if that plan is only a vague one. Useful areas to consider are:

  • What might be a helpful career step?
    This will vary from person to person, and you’ll need to ask. We all have different ideas about what we value depending on a combination of our capabilities, motives, and values. This can range from detailed ten-year trajectories to a focus on the here and now. “Age and stage” can also be a factor. It’s important not to stereotype, but in general younger people often concentrate on development activities that increase their knowledge, while people near the end of their working life may be looking for goals that give back to society or leave a legacy. Other drivers may be to:
    • Increase professional/functional competence
    • Increase supervisory or managerial competence
    • Achieve greater autonomy or independence
    • Maintain security or stability
    • Use entrepreneurial or creative capability
    • Undertake an area of challenge
    • Achieve a reward
    • Create or maintain a certain lifestyle.
  • What longer-term path may be open to them?
    This doesn’t need to be a long or frequent discussion, once a year is probably more than enough, but it can make a real difference to people’s motivation. Keep it realistic, of course, and consult with your HR team in advance: enthusiasm about what’s possible will need to be matched with a clear understanding of what can actually be offered, or you may have some disappointed people on your hands. If a team member is keen to be promoted, you’ll need to explain the business case, the criteria for selection, and what level of competition they’re likely to face. It can also be important to help each person explore how to enrich their role laterally. Broader experience can open new doors, especially when promotion opportunities are scarce.

Development to support succession planning

Changes in your team’s line-up are inevitable, whether that’s because people are promoted, have gone elsewhere, or have taken retirement, so it’s always good management practice to consider who might replace whom. It’s also your responsibility to train up your own successor. This might seem as if you’re doing yourself out of a job, but if you need to train your successor, so too does your boss. If no one’s ready to take your role, you might not be released to move up.

A final thought

Don’t forget to follow up regularly. Your ongoing support for development goals will make all the difference to people’s success. Your team members will be weighing up whether it’s worthwhile prioritizing that investment over the many other demands on their time, and your attention is often the signal they need.

Downloads

Development Planning Conversation Guide for managers
Development Planning Conversation Guide for team members
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