Developing people is one of the important ways in which managers add value, but the process must be focused.

Specifically, what combination of skills and experience does your operation need to fulfil its objectives? By now you’ll have a clear picture of your objectives and the job descriptions required to carry them out.

You’ll be able to derive the skills and experience base you need from those descriptions. What combination do you currently have? Where are the gaps?

This exercise will reveal your operation’s objective needs, but you’ll also need to take into account the subjective expectations your people have of their own development. To what extent do they match?

It may take you some time to carry out the counselling that will include finding out what their expectations are.

You now have the information you need to build your people development plan. In relation to the important things your operation does, where do the skills and experience available to you fall short of your requirements?

For how long can you tolerate which shortfalls?

Within the periods you define, will those currently filling the job descriptions in question be able to absorb the training they need?

If you judge that they won’t, can you bring in appropriate experience and move the present incumbents elsewhere?

You’ll want to make every effort to train rather than change, but your first responsibility is to fulfil your objectives.

If you do move people, counsel them about the reasons. It’s important to ensure they can identify with the personal development plan you agree with them.

In relation to the less important things your operation does, you’ll almost certainly be able to train rather than change.

During the training process, you must decide how you are going to adapt to the skill or experience deficit, because you can’t ignore it.

You’ll probably need to consider the degree of delegation you use and any additional monitoring you feel is necessary.

People development is a continuous process and one that you should record for each of your people, based on the paragraphs above.

Select relevant headings such as personal skills, technical skills and on-the-job experience, and create personal development plans for them, relating to the content to their job level and their ability.

Share your intentions with each individual but only if you’re sure you will stick to your plan. There’s nothing worse for morale than building up expectations and then failing to carry them out.

Each heading will need a follow-up section, because you won’t know if an element of development has been successful, until you have discussed it with the individual and observed it in operation, will you?

Your organisation may have its own training and development function. Evaluate the material it offers, relevant to your operation’s needs, to determine its strengths and weaknesses.

If it scores highly, use it. If it scores poorly, consider using an external source.

You may be obliged to use the services of the internal function. If so, add your own contribution and emphasis, after your trainee returns to your operation.

Don’t express reservations beforehand – you may confuse your trainee, who may also express your views indiscreetly.

Take great care in selecting external courses for your people to attend. There are many organisations out there whose livelihood comes from selling training. Whether it’s any good or not is another matter.

Ask for recommendations from colleagues whose judgement you respect.

Contact training organisations and ask to talk about the courses you are considering. If you can’t speak to a training professional or you have any doubts, give them a miss.

Any course is going to cost your organisation money and the time of your staff. You’re entitled to be as sure as you can be that it’s going to add value.

Measure the success of internal and external training courses in the same way as you do for on-the-job development - by discussion with the individual and observation.

Suggestions about Developing People

- Be clear about your operation’s objectives.
- Ensure your job descriptions reflect accurately those objectives.
- Assess the skills and experience base currently available to you.
- Assess what can be trained and what has to be changed.
- Consult Counselling, Delegation and Monitoring.
- Check out training courses thoroughly.

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Author's Bio: 

This article draws its inspiration from the wide-ranging experience of a successful practitioner who has done the management job, from section leader, to CEO and company chairman.
An Economics honours graduate of London University, Chris Gent became a manager in IBM by the time he was twenty-four and later went on to revitalise and lead Teachers, a highly regarded mutual financial services group.

He has also acted as chairman of a number of companies in the business services sector.
With his colleagues, he developed and ran innovative team-building courses in the Welsh mountains.

Now he divides his time between consultancy work and a continuing enthusiasm for improving the working life of managers.