The Criticality of Employee Development Planning


recent Gallup survey showed that lack of career advancement opportunities was the most common reason for employee leaving organizations, being cited by 32% of respondents. So if you want to motivate engage and develop your top performers you must engage in good quality career development, the basis of which is a properly executed employee development plan.

A nimble organization needs an approach to talent management that can be fluid and responsive. This level of organizational agility requires that employees be able to better themselves. Offering a sophisticated individual improvement process is one of the most effective ways to accomplish that.

Most individual improvement plans, however tend to have a  “fix-it” development approach which is rarely the most effective or efficient route to improvement. Discovering and curtailing weaknesses can work, but focusing exclusively on one’s shortcomings can be challenging and discouraging. It is important to also concentrate on the individual’s strengths and help him leverage those to his benefit in achieving organization goals and career success.

What is an employee development plan?

In general an Employee Development Plan can be a paper or electronic record which sets out the following:

  • an employee’s development needs,
  • the actions to be taken to address these needs (e.g. training)
  • when this action will occur,
  • and what support the employer must give,
  • And what action the employee must take.

There will be two elements to an employee development plan; these are ‘Personal’ and ‘Career’ development. The difference between the two is important to note. The Personal Development Plan: This looks at the employee’s weaknesses as identified in the review process in relation to their current job and seeks to address these weaknesses with training. The Career Development Plan: In larger companies this may be linked to the succession planning process. Typically, this plan looks to the future and looks to develop skills within employees which they will need to progress into a future leader or to simply advance and reach their career goals.

How to create these development plans?

Having communicated the areas for development to the employee in the review discussions, you can begin to address those weaknesses, item by item. You can do this by completing the development plan and the structure of the document should guide you through the development planning process. There are many variations of development plans available, but a good development plan must have the following 5 components.

  1. Area for developments
  2. Interventions, e.g. training
  3. Date when it will happen
  4. Manager’s actions
  5. Employee’s action.

Employees are bound to have a range of developmental needs and fortunately there are a range of developmental initiatives available to managers that can be applied to employees to help them develop skills. Some of the development initiatives which can be taken are as below :

  • Stretch Assignments; this is where employees are given projects, roles or assignments for a temporary period which push them out of their comfort zone, hopefully forcing them to acquire new skills.
  • They are very popular within the Fortune 500.
  • Job Rotation
  • Structured Training Courses
  • Self-Guided learning
  • Mentorship programs
  • Attending Conferences

Each development plan is likely to include more than one of these development activities.

Development plans are a core part of the management process as they can improve staff engagement and retention levels through the provision of opportunities for personal and career development and staff growth.


Conducting Effective One-on-Ones

One of the fundamentals of effective leadership is being able to identify and create frequent and open communication forums with their employees. The general wisdom is that managers can best accomplish this by holding regular one-on-one meetings with direct reports. This simple sounding activity is often the most overlooked aspect in managers job and employees fret about it being either ineffective or worse not happening at all.

Keeping a track of your one-on-ones by following these simple rules can make them more productive and useful for both the manager as well as the employee.

    1. Regular – make it weekly or fortnightly, don’t miss it
    2. Focus – Focus should be on the team member, let him/her do the most of the talking.
    3. Make notes and follow up – Create a tracking form to capture updates
    4. Have one-on-one with each direct report
    5. Be prepared for the meeting
  2. WHERE
    1. Not in Public
    2. Office cubicle/ cabin with closed doors
    3. Any neutral space
    1. Ideally 30 mins – this can differ according to the employee needs
    2. Structure these 30 mins – 10 min for him/her, 10 min for manager/ 10 min for wrap up/ action plan/last meeting review
    1. How has been your week like?
    2. Family/ Weekend/ Hobbies
    3. Project/ Initiatives you are working on
    4. What challenges were faced?
    5. On track to meet deadlines?
    6. Any suggestions for improvement?
    7. Any questions about the project?
    8. Where can I help?
    9. What are your thoughts on changes suggested by me?
    10. How are you going to approach this challenge?
    11. How can we do this better?
    12. What are your future goals for this area?
    13. What is your plan to get their?
    14. What do you plan to do differently next time?
    15. What have you learned from this project?
    1. Eye Contact – Pay undivided attention to your employee
    2. Open/ relaxed posture, no crossing arms, legs
    3. Evaluate employee’s body language – the success of the one-on-one can be evaluated by watching the employees energy, enthusiasm and motivation at the end of the session.


Are you making the best of your meetings?


Amit is sitting in one of the weekly review meetings with his team mates and boss. He does not understand the point of wasting time in this meeting. There seems to be no specific agenda, no real outcome.. he waits desperately for his phone to ring so that he has a reason to walk out of the meeting and excuse himself for a few moments to check his mail and make important phone calls.


Does this setting seem familiar? If we were to do a study of the amount of managerial time wasted in meetings with no specific agenda, we would realise that freeing precious managerial time by conducting crisper and focused meetings would in itself bring in efficiencies which could significantly enhance productivity and profitability.

Here are a few practical pointers on how to conduct effective meetings –

    • Determine if the meeting is necessary -The fact that you’ve always had a Monday morning meeting does not mean it is essential. Maybe a fortnightly meeting is all that is required and other meetings can be set up if something urgent comes up.
    • Set your objectives – Prepare an agenda and set objectives for the meeting. Share this information with the other attendees well in advance and invite them to add agenda items in the days or weeks before the meeting. I Provide an approximate time frame for each point on the agenda.
  • Allow only a minute for the minutes – If there are minutes from the last meeting, distribute them in advance. Too many meetings get derailed when the previous meeting’s decisions are recapped for those who did not attend and the discussion is reopened.


  • Stay on track – Start on time, and do not repeat everything for latecomers unless it is absolutely essential. Use a flip chart or white board to write important points.


  • Create a standard meeting protocol – This could include general rules like “Don’t Interrupt, Stay on the Topic,” “Be Respectful and Polite” and “Be Brief.”


  • Allow people to opt out – No one should feel imprisoned in a meeting. If you only need Mr X from admin team for one item on the agenda, offer him the option of arriving late and leaving early.


  • Watch the time – Appoint a timekeeper if you will be discussing contentious issues that historically have caused lengthy debates. If a couple of participants engage in a discussion that could be better resolved outside the confines of the meeting, suggest that they take it off-line, discuss it later and report the results by e-mail or at the next meeting.


  • Maintain control – If heated arguments break out, reinforce your role as the meeting leader. Remember that someone needs veto power to cut through debates and bring back order, and that responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders.


  • Engage the participants– If you want to encourage active participation, give participants an opportunity to share their ideas and opinions, within the available time constraints.


  • Brainstorming will not likely be productive in a rush meeting, so only do this if is necessary.
  • When there are a number of issues to discuss and the assembled group is large, consider having breakout sessions. You’ll find the entire exercise goes faster and your meeting is much more productive.
  • Having listed concerns, causes and possible solutions, each group can present their findings for further discussion and strategic planning.
  • Recap -At the close of any meeting, ensure that you briefly repeat the major decisions reached and the next steps planned. Confirm the date and time of the next meeting, if one is necessary. Follow up with a brief written recap and a copy of the action plan, notice of the next meeting and a request for additional agenda items.



Retaining and Growing Women Leaders

Recently, the Confederation of Indian Industry released a report indicating that women comprise only 16 percent of junior managers, four percent of middle and senior managers and a mere one percent of organizational leaders. Thus, while women are adequately represented in the Indian workforce at large, they remain barely present in managerial positions. This is inspite of ‘diversity in workforce’ being the buzz word of a number of corporates in the recent past.

There is no denying that women bring a lot of value to table especially in today’s world of collaboration and innovation. Many studies have indicated that women prefer a collaborative and inclusive decision making process, they are more flexible and empathetic and have better interpersonal skills compared to men. They also are great at multi-tasking and masters of opportunity management, making them valuable resources especially at the top.  Then why is it that women hit the ‘glass ceiling’? And what would it take to  retain them in the long run?

It is a popularly held misconception that a flexible and supportive work environment is enough to keep a woman employee engaged and loyal. While there is no denying that flexibility is critical to help her hang on to a job, to keep her engaged and drive performance would require much more.

Constant challenges and an opportunity to learn is a critical factor. Women typically tend to excel in fields that interest them from within and challenges their latent creativity and problem solving ability.

An open work culture which allows women to express ideas and question norms is another critical factor. Women love to explore and reinvent and a non-threatening work environment allows them to prosper.

Lastly, a participative team environment which allows them to indulge their nurturing self and build consensus allows them to be at their best. Women are excellent networkers and work cultures that value this skill tends to motivate them more.

The Battle of 2014: The Story of HOPE!

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”

– Martin Luther King

What explains the unprecedented results of Indian election May 2014? One important thread which ran across multiple sections, religions and faiths of people is the rise of ‘HOPE’. People of world’s largest democracy were united by the feeling of ‘collective desperation’ which permeated the rule of earlier government. Hence, when an aggressive, confident and highly expressive leader approached them with a promise of ‘good days ahead’, people once again could ‘HOPE’. They could again hope for fulfilling their aspirations and realizing their dreams.

The power of HOPE has been narrated in many anecdotes and struggles. Whenever despondency had eclipsed the mankind, hope emerged as powerful weapon to fight against all odds and establish a new rule. One such story goes like this…. When the king of Scotland, Robert the Bruce was defeated by the king of England six times in a row, Robert and his army were driven into flight and scattered in the woods. Robert hid in a cave, tired, sick at heart and ready to give up all hope. Then he noticed a spider over his head trying to weave a web. The spider failed many times but finally after many attempts, he was successful. The king was fascinated and decided to try one more time. He gathered his men and they fought with bravery to get their kingdom back. To this very day, victory and independence of Scotland is attributed to the spider which inspired the king.


Hope has also been played upon by various institutions like corporates, religious institutions, influential leaders etc. to push forward their idea, product or opinion. What works almost like a magic is the ability of the leader to connect with the pulse of the people and help them show the vision of what they want. When people are able to think, feel, see and hear about what they want, the mind gradually starts believing into the idea, thought. Some examples of such leaders are Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King who were able to create a vision of change and mobilize millions of people towards it. There are also many examples of failures that were led by misplaced faith based on wrong assumptions and fallacious grounds. Such examples include the rise and fall of Hitler who also connected with the aspirations of people but based it on retribution, resentment and hatred.

This has some important implications on the leaders to understand human mind. Anyone in the role of influencing others needs to be able to engage all mental faculties of their audience to be able to  arouse emotions and feelings and give them ‘HOPE’ about desired possibilities. For the hope to survive in the long run, it is must that the leader devotes himself to the needs and aspirations of the people. This would definitely help bring about ‘good days ahead’ for a nation ready to take on the path of progress.

Will a leader like Modi work for a democracy like India?

authoritative leader
The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they ought to be.
– Henry Kissinger

The stage at which India as a nation is poised, the question of ‘where we ought to be’ is a moot one. Irrespective of the current state of affairs w.r.t literacy, health and sanitation and globalization, India continues to be one of the most high-potential economies of the world. However, for all its potential, it is also a nation of multiple complexities – with multiple ethnic groups, a challenging set of neighbours, a legacy of not-so-wise economic policies and so on.
At this very critical juncture in its life-cycle as a nation , India was poised with a very important question about a month back – what kind of leadership is needed to guide this nation to ‘where it ought to be’. The nation very decisively chose a leader widely perceived as ‘authoritarian’. Is it a good decision? Only time will tell.. but there is merit in evaluating why the electorate thought as it did.
As per Lewin’s definition of ‘authoritarian leadership’, such a leader is one who believes in taking all the important decisions himself. It is the leader who decides how the work has to be done and by whom. The subordinates simply carry on with the work assigned to them. They are not allowed to give any input regarding how they should do their work or conduct daily activities. Every detail is pre-decided by the leader himself. This kind of leadership usually works well if the leader is competent and knowledgeable enough to decide about each and everything. Authoritarian (or autocratic) is considered one of the most effective leadership styles in case there is some emergency and quick decisions need to be taken. Such examples can be found in the real world in people like Bill Gates and John F. Kennedy. And more closely in the Indian political system, was Indira Gandhi.
Lewin also found that it is more difficult to move from an authoritarian style to a democratic style than vice versa. Abuse of this style is usually viewed as controlling, bossy, and dictatorial.
The Hay Group, however, too has studied leadership styles in detail and has come up with an alternative view of leadership where there is a clear segregation between a ‘coercive’ style and a ‘authoritative’ style. The difference lies not merely in the semantics but also in the entire approach that the leader takes. While a coercive leader tells the staff what is to be done and expects them to toe the line without any questions (much the same as an Lewin’s authoritarian leader), the authoritative leader is focused on communicating the long term vision and purpose and ensuring that everyone is aligned to and motivated by ‘the big picture’. He wins people over by convincing them that they want to do the job. He gives feedback to people about where they are vis-à-vis their goals and creates a positive climate. People under him too toe the line, but willingly and enthusiastically because they know what they need to do, why they need to do it and why their role is important.
It is early days to comment on Modi’s leadership style. A look at his past record presents a hazy picture. While by some he is viewed as a ‘change agent’ who made the right decisions and pushed them assertively through layers of inefficiency in Gujarat to create prosperity, by others he is viewed as dictatorial and self-centered in his leadership style. At the juncture that India is (emerging from the shadow of a lax government which made no decisive actions), what India needs for sure is a leader who is not afraid of making tough decisions and is ready to embrace the responsibility and accountability of taking his decisions to conclusion.

Delegation: What Every Manager Needs to Know


Delegation is a gift. It empowers others. When done properly, it strengthens the execution and leadership muscles of individual contributors, enables project teams to thrive, and permits leaders to stop micromanaging and start contributing where they’re needed most.

Just about anyone who is successful is highly engaged in delegating tasks, otherwise they would never be able to become as big as they have become. Delegation skills, much like many other soft skills, can come to define an individual’s success and can prove to be much more important than focusing on certain technical skills.

The 5M model described below is one of the ways which can be adopted by organizations to drive effective delegation.

Measuring Progress – of the tasks and activities identified for delegation to ensure that agreed milestones/results are being met timely by the employee

Managing Problems – by anticipating and helping remove possible roadblocks for the employee in the delegated tasks so that he/she feels amply supported and also gains confidence in doing the tasks independently

Monitoring Systems – by establishing a mutually agreed review mechanism  between manager and employee to facilitate routine evaluation and feedback.

Success should be applauded and failures analyzed  to turn them into learning opportunities

Maintaining Responsibility – by clearly defining the accountabilities of the employee on the delegated tasks so that he/she has complete ownership  on the tasks assigned

Mentoring Development –  by coaching and guiding the employee through the delegated tasks to help them perform at their peak and enable them to grow while completing the delegated tasks.

Successful delegation is the hallmark of successful managers. They do not view delegation as an abdication of responsibility, rather  as a powerful tool for empowering and developing their subordinates.