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STRATEGY: 11 Bold Strategies for Employee Development in 2011

Let’s face it; the economic slowdown has had an effect on the US workforce that we have yet to fully comprehend.  The decision to extend unemployment benefits to 99 weeks is a tangible reminder of how desperate the employment situation is for so many people.  Those with newly minted college degrees are facing over 14% unemployment and minorities over 17% unemployment.  What effect does this reality have on people who are working?  Many tell me that they are tolerating their employment situations because there’s nowhere else to go.  They stay “under the radar,” taking little job risk and declining to speak up about problems.  They say “yes” to tasks because to say “no” could mean job suicide.  It’s an employer’s market for the time being, giving employers a false sense of security that employees will always be there.  However, it appears that we’re beginning to see improvements in the economy and that means it’s time for employers to step up their efforts to retain their talent resources into the future.  Once the market becomes healthy and employees are mobile again, we risk losing the people assets so critical to our success.  Let’s look at 11 strategies for 2011 to “get ready.”

#1:  Trust is based on credibility.  We’ve just had three years of trust-busting behavior on the part of many employers.  People, who had every intention of retiring in their organizations, were forced into early retirement and now find themselves at fifty-something involuntarily without a career.  That situation doesn’t go unnoticed by the young ones, who are preferring to put their futures in a “backpack” that’s portable and independent of the employer.  If high trust organizations are 3 times more likely to outperform low trust ones*, our top employee development priority has to be rebuilding the employee-organization trust quotient. (Read The Effect of Trust on Speed and Cost)

#2:  We are leaving way too much talent on the table, untapped because we have compartmentalized the organizational structure into silos where people only contribute what is asked.    The developmental challenge is to uncover all that people can do and find a way to encourage them to contribute all of it. (Download a free Skill Scan template to uncover your employee’s talent)

#3:  Teamwork allows people to cross-train on other jobs and adds to their repertoire of skill sets.  Young workers don’t have to wait until they’re forty to try out some of the seniority positions.  Work can be structured to achieve the best result, with simpler, flatter, more flexible designs. (Read Teaming 3.0)

#4:  Because the employment market has favored the employer, leaders haven’t needed to compete and plan for their talent needs as they will need to in the future.  Last minute planning and crisis management (ready-fire-aim) wastes resources and frustrates employees.  Employees will want to work for companies that are successful by planning the work and working the plan, not those who specialize in wasteful fire-fighting. (Read Meeting Efficiency: Less Time, More Productivity, Bigger Returns)

#5:  GenX and GenY employees are used to working in teams and enjoy collaborative groups.  The old command-control, top-down model of leadership doesn’t appeal to them.  All employees need development in how to strengthen their collaborative capabilities, beginning with their communication skills. (Read Deb’s Top 10 Tips for Effective Communication)


#6:  Every organization is singing the “waste reduction” tune, but few know how to build the “fire in the belly” where employees drive their own continuous improvement efforts.  We need to wake up and see that India, China, Singapore and other developing nations are making giant leaps while we’re still arguing whether employees should have access to performance metrics.  Ten to thirty percent of operating expenses are typically quality costs and 60-75% of those quality costs are failure costs.  We need to start treating employees as adults with access to critical data, not children who need caretaker supervisors. (Read The Look, Tone and Feel of a High Performance Team)

#7:  We have four generations currently in the workforce – from the veteran (born in 1920-1945) to the Gen Y – ( dates ).  We’ve got to figure out what each generation can bring to the workplace and then capitalize on what they have to offer.  If we say to the Gen Yer, “You can’t play unless you’re willing to play by our rules,” we’re going to lose them to places that will let them play by their own rules.  Micro-managing a GenYer isn’t going to work, and truthfully is unnecessary.  (Read Maximizing Your Generation Potential and Millennials: How to Engage, Motivate and Retain the New Workforce)


#8:  Leaders need to be much more skilled in how to introduce and implement change.  There’s a difference between the actual change (automation, new process or initiative, or restructuring) and the management of that change.  Ask someone who is leading a change in your organization how much training they’ve received in managing change and most will tell you “next to none.”  No wonder, as John Kotter reports, 70% of change initiatives fail. (Read Thriving Through Change)


#9:  For some reason we have an aversion to gathering and using data to make decisions.  We’d rather guess or speculate about why a problem has occurred rather than track the data that will show root cause.  The question is always, “How do employees know that they did a good job today?”  If they don’t know the answer, how can they be held accountable?  Data needs to be our friend, the first question we ask when we start problem solving. (Read Customer and Client Surveying)


#10:  We need to do a much better job describing how employees can add value to the organization.  Does the administrative assistant know how to add value on the phone or when making appointments?  Does the project leader know how to add to the project beyond developing a GANTT chart?  Does the worker know how to add value for the customer?  Does the leader know how to add value for employees? (Read 8 Steps to Becoming Value-Added In Your Organization)


#11:  Feedback is critical to knowing whether we’re doing okay or not.  But it’s not enough to just get it; it’s knowing how to process the feedback and doing something with it.    Our experience with 360-feedback suggests that employees really want to know how they’re doing, but feedback needs to be a regular, ongoing process – not a once-a-year performance event.   (Gearing Up for Performance Reviews and 4 Key Factors to Motivate/Re-engage Your Staff in a Recession)

As we begin 2011, these eleven strategies will give you something to work toward with employees.  Pick one or two that resonate with you and develop your game plan for the coming year.  Good luck!

*The Speed of Trust

  • Great post. Very informative. Thank you for sharing these tips. I would keep these in mind. A leader should think of ways on how they could contribute to their employees’ career growth. They should provide opportunities on how to help their employees on developing their skills and learn something new.

  • Excellent advice– particularly on communication tips and working with different generation groups. Thanks for the post!

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