Leadership Management

Why Employee Development is Hard. And What to Do About It

Companies are always trying to attempt new and innovative takes on employee development. And yet, it remains one of the most elusive (and divisive) subjects in corporate management.

As management essentially boils down to expectations and motivations, managers are almost always trying to find a balance between their company’s goals, and those of the people that work in it. Yep, that’s way easier said than done!

But companies also have to pay a hefty price for ignoring employee development in the form of losing their best talent to the competition. For all the tools, KPIs, gamification and incentives, employee development initiatives just never seems to deliver the fruits that it promises.

Take a look on what you’ll find on this article about employee development:


So, what gives?

Opinions on the reason behind such a failure rate range from micromanagement to too many KPIs, wrong focus, misplaced expectations and lack of trust. Of course, the truth here will either be a combination of such factors or very specific ones that a company culture is experiencing.

Here are a few ideas on how to use your performance management system to help your employees achieve their best…

What is Performance Management?

At the face of it, performance management seems like a fairly straightforward thing. Assign tasks, track them from start to finish, find inefficiencies, fix them in the next repetition, rinse and repeat until no faults are found. Simple enough, right? Only, it’s nowhere as easy in practice.

Performance management is a set of practices that helps an organization achieve goals by focussing on the organization, department, team and individual levels. Furthermore, it also attempts to find how different parts of a company interact and use the data to fine-tune performance throughout it.

A company can utilize various tools to affect its performance management system, such as…

  • Goal setting and tracking
  • Staff feedback
  • Manager oversight
  • Performance review
  • Reward programs
  • Loyalty programs

Obviously, a company’s performance management system is the ideal place to start an employee development program. While in the past, annual performance appraisals where managers reported to higher ups, who then decided on a course of action were the norm, the methodology is woefully inadequate in today’s highly mobile and democratized workforce.

Failure can result from many reasons. For instance, a company may achieve growth, but also have a high turnover rate due to bad working conditions. On the other hand, employees may be satisfied, but the company keeps struggling to hit its targets.

Or, the company may end up with a highly competitive culture where employees put their own goals above their organization’s. Finally, employee dissatisfaction can skyrocket in an environment where their personal growth is stunted, their views are not respected and they are simply expected to follow orders, thereby increasing turnover rates.

It can be argued that while some of the tools of performance management are still adequate, the way they are being implemented has become obsolete. Indeed, the role of managers has become even more crucial as employees have begun to demand better workplace conditions and greater liberties.

Since innovation is clearly a competitive advantage, companies need to find ways to take their employee development initiatives to the next level. And, while they may already have the tools in place, a very particular type of manager can help implement them very successfully.

How do the best managers keep their team’s spirits up? Employee motivation is indeed a fine art, but something you can learn with a little practice!

The Rise of the Connector Manager

Managers typically come in three flavors…

Teacher Manager: Is essentially the team’s counsellor who offers wisdom and advice to his/her team members. Such managers are defined by their insight and knowledge which they freely share.

Always-On Manager: The hyperactive manager who is always monitoring his/her team and continually provides feedback. While looked upon as great coaches, the always-on manager can also drive up stress through micro-management and way too much oversight.

The Cheerleader Manager: The “you can do it” manager is always rooting for his/her team members and is usually pretty popular. However, they may sometimes lack assertiveness which can cause confusion or lack of direction.

While most mid to large organizations will have at least one if not more of such managers, there is another variety that is fast becoming the favorite – the connector manager. These managers are best looked on as realists. A common problem with managers is that they often feel compelled to provide feedback, even when they have very little experience or knowledge on the matter. The result if favorable, is usually claimed by the manager however, failures also quickly become the employee’s fault who is blamed for not following directions properly. Yes, this circles back to the infamous boss vs leader debate.

The connector manager realises the futility of going beyond one’s scope and only offers feedback where he/she truly believes they can offer value. For matters beyond their knowledge base, they “connect” the employee with an authority on the matter instead. In a 2019 HR survey, connector managers were found to increase employee engagement by upto 40% over their peers.

Connector managers are very adept at digging to the core of an issue by asking the right questions and guide the employee to the best possible answers either through their own insight, or through another’s.

In doing so, the connector manager is also invariably an ace-networker. They often possess a large, high quality network that can help them deliver results. A powerful network can easily facilitate an organization’s employee development program by connecting employees with the right insights as and when needed, too.

The reason why connector managers are ideal for employee development is quite obvious. Firstly, they recognize the importance of timely relevant data. The information they share is spot-on and immediately actionable. Employees will also gravitate towards such managers as they can expect real solutions and honesty from them rather than just pointless directions and instructions that basically throws the ball back into the employee’s court.

Simply put, while most managers chose to sell their fish, thereby keeping their subordinates always dependant, the connector manager teaches his/her subordinates how to fish and makes them independent. By reducing an employee’s dependency on managers, they can seek out help from both within and without their organization and learn to stand on their own feet. In doing so they can create their own network that can help their company.

Furthermore, the connector manager will also teach their teams the value of being real and not go beyond one’s area of expertise just for want of bravado. If their approach successfully becomes part of the culture, the company can expect an independent, thriving workforce that uses knowledge and leverage effectively to drive growth.

Interested in learning more on how to create a more engaged workforce? We have a few more tips on employee engagement right here.

Concluding Thoughts on Employee Development

In retrospect, employee development seems to have been misinterpreted as a top-down strategy where an employee is automatically assumed incapable and one who needs instructions from a manager to work. The paradigm we’re moving to today rubishes such assumptions and asserts that employees are far more capable of making sound decisions than management philosophies of the yester-years have taken for granted. The modern worker is exceedingly dynamic, sensitive and creative and responds positively to quality feedback.

Cloud based tools are playing an increasingly larger role in this new work paradigm. Moving forward we can expect greater decentralization and remote work based corporate systems. Managers will not only have to shed their cultural assumptions, but learn new ways to communicate with workers based in different countries.

In such a fast paced, disparate work environment, cloud based productivity tools such as Runrun.it can help companies affect better employee development systems by providing feedback on specific jobs and track progress intuitively.

We offer a free trial, so go ahead and give Runrun.it a whirl. Also, feel free to give us a shoutout if you have any questions. We will be glad to help.


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