Central to the goal of employee growth is the development plan. After all, growth is accomplished more efficiently when tackled in a systematic, professional fashion. But who should steer the development planning process, the employee or their supervisor?
The truth is that there are reasons for both approaches, and most organizations have aspects of both in their development plan process. The stakes are high; if an employee feels as if their employer is not a partner in their career development, they are more likely to find one that is. This leads to considerable recruiting and onboarding costs that could have been avoided with a relatively cheap conversation and process.
Here are the reasons why both sides of the coin are crucial in a comprehensive employee development strategy:
Employees are often asked about their strengths and weaknesses early in the conversation, before the supervisor has a chance to weigh in with their insights. There is a reason for this: no one knows the successes and struggles of the employee better than the employee does themself.
Sugarcoating is an obvious concern (beware the employee that says they are good at almost everything except something comparatively non-important), but that’s why the development planning process should be an ongoing one rather than the typical year-in-review strategy. Keeping the pulse on employee performance can affect more honesty in these self-evaluations. The plan should be a living document.
But another reason for employee input is to give them an opportunity to voice their career aspirations. They often know how to move up in the company before you know how to move them up. They can tell you what they need to accomplish those goals and how you can help. If the supervisor is left to guess where the employee wants to go, the employee will often find his or her own path: usually out the door.
That being said, the supervisor or manager often knows things that the employee doesn’t, including upcoming opportunities that have not yet been publicized to the rank-and-file.
The goal of the supervisor-driven development process is to make sure employees will be prepared to meet the upcoming business goals of the organization. That might mean an imminent growth spurt (requiring more supervisors and managers, which equals leadership training), expansion into new and emerging markets (potentially requiring language learning), entering a new vertical, or helping the employee compete with those being absorbed in an upcoming merger or acquisition.
The goal is to find a balance between the employee’s wants and needs and those of the organization. That balance is crucial to retaining employees with great potential. It’s why the constructing of a working development plan requires insight from both.