Creating Development Paths: The Benefits, Obstacles, and Easy Ways to Implement

Are you having trouble making headway in creating career development paths for yourself or those on your team? You are not alone. In a recent reader survey that I conducted, the difficulty in establishing career development opportunities was cited several times. One person said that they struggle with finding time for their own development plan, much less the people who report to him! In this video, I’m addressing the importance and obstacles of development programs, along with easy ways to integrate this so it is a more realistic initiative for you and your team.


The Benefits of Career Development Plans

Let’s examine why career development plans are important. There are many reasons and if left unattended to, can create issues bigger than the absence of having development plans!

  1. Turnover is a huge expense to companies so when you start to recognize the correlation between the loss of employees and the how you are helping your employees plan for their future, you can save yourself a lot on your bottom line. Top notch employees want to continue to learn and hone their skills. If you avoid or ignore those wishes, they will go elsewhere. Why risk losing your best employees when you can avoid it so easily?
  2. When you create a culture of learning, your organization benefits. Systems and initiatives will stay fresh and current, and your customers will realize that you are staying relevant. That means you have a workplace with enriched dynamics. Employees don’t get complacent in their jobs because they are always striving for more.
  3. It stimulates the work of employees, even when they remain in the same role for a long time. Even the smallest of development initiatives can jazz up mundane tasks, and can often create opportunities that no one imagined otherwise.

Obstacles to Consider When Creating your Career Development Plans

It’s important to keep these benefits in mind so that you aren’t as likely to let them fall off your radar, but there are some obstacles. I want to acknowledge four of those briefly.

  1. Everyone is busy in the day-to-day work. You and your team have a ton of things to do just to keep up with current projects, much less think about next week, next month, or next year. That’s one of the most common pitfalls of creating development plans, it’s just hard to fit in something in that doesn’t have immediate results when you are pressed for other work.
  2. Moving a development plan ahead often takes someone outside their comfort zone. While learning new skills can be invigorating, it can also be stressful and uncomfortable, which means it’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll do that tomorrow when I have more time.” And of course, the demands of your time will be no different tomorrow than they are today.
  3. Development programs take resources, a financial and/or time commitment, which is not always easy to justify to others who are approving budgets.
  4. Another common, but unspoken obstacle is caused because managers won’t broach the subject if they feel that no career opportunities exist within the company. But it certainly could be the case that growth opportunities are limited, especially for smaller organizations. I recommend that you address this directly and not use it as an excuse. Motivated individuals will pursue their career path regardless of your involvement. Help the person develop as best as you and the organization can and recognize then it’s not possible to do more. You don’t want to hold someone back just with the illusion that will stay in the job that you want them in. Eventually, they will resent that and performance will suffer.

If you are holding back for any of these reasons, you only need to think back on the benefits to get you moving on this! So now let’s talk about some easy ways to integrate that into your everyday work.

Where to Start

You should build development programs into existing processes, both formal and informal. Take these ideas and mix, match, change them up to suit you and your organization. Approaching this from multiple angles is going to give you the best chance of making it happen.

  1. An obvious place to start is with performance evaluations. At this time, you create a plan but also a system to hold everyone accountable. You may have seen where these are not effective, me, too! In order to make these goals stick, they need to be created with both parties buy-in to the importance of these goals. And you should really limit the number of goals. When you are looking at a year as the scope, it feels like a long time, but it will go fast, with many other projects and distractions along the way.
  2. Create an environment where every day learning is encouraged and rewarded. At regular meetings, you already have, both individually and by department or team, put a standing agenda item that emphasizes learning. Ask, “What did you do this week that was new?” “What did you learn today?” “what risks did you take?” Force the conversation if no one can think of anything. Put a quarterly meeting on the calendar to monitor progress on the annual development plans.Make it easy for yourself to set up accountability systems.
  3. Create a visible reward system when someone accomplishes a step toward their development plan.You should make sure to include yourself! When you take active steps for your own development, it signals your permission and commitment for others to do it, too.

Give it a Try

Let’s make sure you take action. Here’s your challenge. Take a few minutes right now and think about the career development plan that you’ve established for yourself and those on your team. If you have a current development plan, great! Think about you can enrich it or continue to move it forward.  If not, take the next few minutes and think about how you want to approach this. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; the main thing is to keep moving it forward.

Career development programs help everyone, including the organization, by keeping people and processes fresh and current. And that creates success for all.

Check out other videos in the Learning Resource Center, available to you as a member. Here’s to your Graceful Leadership!


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