The two keys to success when it comes to running an effective business are money and people. Organizations tend to recognize that money is important to running a successful business, but often times they fail to focus on the people side of the equation. Unfortunately when companies do consider the people side they often get it wrong. They use informal assessment techniques and often focus on the wrong characteristics when identifying and developing talent. Political and social skills tend to get people noticed, but most jobs require much more than that in order to be a successful performer. In addition, jobs are rapidly changing and what’s required for success at Time 1 may differ from what’s needed at Time 2. As such, it is critical that organizations understand what candidates bring to the table to understand where their development needs lie based on the future job context. The good news is developing employees can be an easy process, so long as you use the proper techniques and assessments to understand people.
The first step to developing employees is to understand their core values. By starting out with a validated assessment that measures an employee’s values you can understand what motivates their behavior, what type of environments will be a good fit, and the culture the employee will create if they are leading a team or project. A quality values assessment uncovers how a person’s decisions are influenced by his or her values. With a greater understanding of an employee’s values, it’s easier for a coach or manager to link developmental plans back to the core motivators of the employee.
The second step to developing employees is to help them understand how they approach decision-making and how they respond to feedback about their decisions. High potential employees and leaders are responsible for critical decisions facing a business. These decisions must be made in real time with limited information; the reality, however, is the first plan or decision is rarely the best option. Often times, what separates “good” from “great” employees comes down to the quality of the decisions they make and how quickly they can adapt their decisions based on feedback. Once you’ve considered the underlying motivators of an employee, you can start to look at how this influences their decision-making process. A quality decision-making assessment tells you how people prefer to process information (e.g., quantitative vs qualitative), their pre-decision tendencies (e.g., risk averse vs reward seeking), and their post-decision reactions (e.g., accepting feedback vs denying feedback). It is at this stage where you can link decision making back to values to drive strategic self-awareness.
The final step to developing employees is to help them gain a better understanding of their reputations in the workplace. The values we hold and our approach to decision-making help mold our personalities and ultimately shapes our reputations at work. Everyone has two components of their personality: a bright side and a dark side. The bright side of our reputation is on display when we are self-monitoring. This is the side of ourselves that most people see on a day-to-day basis. On the other hand, when we stop self-monitoring (e.g., when under stress) is when the dark side of our reputation emerges. This is when we let our emotions get the best of us, or when we overplay our natural strengths. These dark-side tendencies are often what lead to career derailment. Considering both bright- and dark-side components can help employees uncover blind spots, tap hidden potential, and prevent strengths from turning into areas of weakness.
Focusing on these three steps provides the awareness employees need to develop their careers. Adding rigor into the assessment process and implementing a structured approach to employee development can help organizations harness areas of strength and identify areas of opportunity as it relates to their human capital.